At about this time every year I begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel that is summer vacation. Ideally speaking that means three months of research and writing. I am hoping that this year will be more productive than last year, which included a trip to Europe for a funeral and an overall malaise. It is very difficult to balance the demands of teaching and research; obviously the former takes priority for me. I still don’t see how Jeff Wert was able to remain so productive as a high school teacher, though I understand he hired out much of the archival research. Now that’s a great idea and I might be tempted to do it if I had the finances. I say "tempted" because I actually enjoy snooping around in the archives. As disturbing as it sounds I enjoy the smell of old documents. I still remember researching Col. John Bowie Magruder of the 57th Virginia at the University of Virginia back in 2001. Magruder wrote a letter home just after the battle of Fredericksburg describing the cold temperature and the fire that he was sitting next to as he wrote. You can see the the little burn marks from the fire.
So here is what is on tap. First, I am finishing a chapter for an edited volume on the Petersburg Campaign. Most of you probably know what series I am referring to, but I don’t want to be specific until the paper has been submitted and approved. The paper is pulled from my Crater manuscript and focuses on the memory of black Union soldiers between 1864 and 1937. I am close to finishing this project. I am also close to finishing the journal article on Confederate military executions. This project has been the albatross of my existence for the past two years; however, my recent talk on the topic has reignited my determination to see it through to completion Over the summer I am going to try to finish my edited project on Capt. John C. Winsmith. The letters are transcribed and all that needs to be done is the editing and an introduction. This is a big project.
This summer I will also be working with my former advisor Robert Kenzer on an analytical essay on Ken Burns’s Civil War documentary. We are going to analyze a large amount of data pulled from the series in hopes of placing it within a larger historiographical context as well as to see whether criticisms of the series hold up. There is a chance that this essay will turn into an interesting book. Stay tuned. Finally, I’ve been asked to contribute to the online journal at the Ambrose Bierce Project, which is edited by Craig Warren. This will be a special issue to be published in December 2007 that will focus on Bierce and memory. I am excited about this project as I don’t know that much about Bierce other than the few stories that I’ve read.
Sometimes it is helpful to write things down in order to get a clearer perspective on what it will take to complete all of your commitments. Now that I’ve done so I think I will go to the beach for three months.