I am collecting some basic statistics about Civil War Memory for my upcoming talk on Civil War blogging and thought I would share them with my readers. Compared to political blogs and other high-profile sites the number of visits and page views is trivial, but within the history blogosphere I assume it ranks somewhere in the middle. Right now this site attracts around 450 unique hits a day. As a military history blog (broadly defined) it ranks very near the top. This blog's Technorati ranking is 62, 589 with an Authority of 96, which measures the number of links from other blogs over the last six months. The smaller the number, the better.
One of the points that I hope to make is that the battle for Civil War memory or how we approach the history will be won or lost in cyberspace – including blogs, listservs, message boards, etc. – and not in books, conferences and other traditional forms of public outreach. This is a tough sell since my goal is not in any way to instill feelings of guilt in my audience. My purpose is not necessarily to convince one person in the audience to pick up blogging, but to share my experiences engaged on the front lines and how that experience reflects a changing public discourse about what it means to talk meaningfully about a crucial moment in this nation's past. The numbers speak for themselves. Of course, the numbers don't tell us anything about what readers have learned – if anything – or whether they will return at some point in the future. For me the numbers reflect the potential or promise of blogging. It's a powerful tool that can expand a historian's ability to reach out to fellow academics as well as, more importantly, to all corners of the general public.
Blogging has given me the opportunity to join public debates about some of the most controversial subjects within the Civil War community such as black Confederates. Hopefully, my posts have helped to clarify the complexity of the subject as well as the broader questions of memory that have come to shape our national and regional narratives. More importantly, I've heard from countless readers that the focus of this site on issues surrounding memory and public history – subjects that are typically discussed only in academic circles – have not only enriched their understanding of the Civil War, but of history in general.
With the Civil War Sesquicentennial right around the corner I think it is crucial that state commissions and other professional organizations think critically and imaginatively about how to use the Internet to educate the general public. The number of Americans who will attend a conference, museum exhibit or read a book between 2011 and 2015 will pale in comparison with the reach of various websites – much of them filled with myth and propaganda. Let's reach out.