Today I received the latest issue of the journal, Civil War History, which includes a roundtable discussion about the First Battle of Bull Run. The panelists include John Hennessy, Ethan Rafuse, and fellow blogger, Harry Smeltzer. [I should point out that both Rafuse and Hennessy manage blogs, but they have published on the battle while it is his blog that singles Harry out as an authority.] Lesley Gordon’s vision for the journal is beginning to take shape and I couldn’t be more pleased that she is inviting folks from outside the community of academic historians to take part. The choice to include Harry, whose blog is about First Bull Run, suggests that blogging has the potential to open new doors for those who demonstrate competency in their preferred subject area. I don’t think it would be a stretch to suggest that what we have before us is an example of peer review.
Most Civil War bloggers do a good job of expressing their passion for the subject. Very few actually add to our understanding of the Civil War and this is just fine. The beauty of the format is that one can blog for any reason whatsoever, but it is always nice to see when the hard work leads to new opportunities.
Hopefully this can help explain my reluctance to call myself a historian:
Kevin: Thanks for mentioning Civil War History here. We were pleased to have Harry Smeltzer participate, as well as John Hennessy and Ethan Rafuse. The “Historians’ Forum” is one of the new features we will be introducing in the coming months to mix in with our regular peer-reviewed articles and book reviews.
BTW, I do consider Harry a historian. I’m not sure why he refuses to label himself one! He possesses a great deal of knowledge about not only Bull Run, but the War itself. And his blog is a wonderful educational resource. Harry can attest to how much he has helped me with my own research, and I’m sure that I’m not alone.
Nice to hear from you. I couldn’t agree more re: Harry. BTW, I heard Brian Jordan give a version of his essay back in March at a conference in North Carolina. He is definitely someone to watch out for.
It would be great if Civil War History would become a bridge to the larger Civil War community. We need that bridge. We are very lucky to have such a large, and well-informed, non-academic community interested in the CW.
I would love to see the Society for Civil War Historians make more of an effort in this regard. The organization has expressed an interest in reaching out, but I haven’t seen much of anything. They could start with their website, which is much too static. At this stage a static website is little better than no website at all. Most importantly, I would like to see the SCWH get involved in history education.
Thanks Kevin. 2011 has been a good year for me publication-wise, but I realize that once July 21 has passed so too will a lot of the interest in Bull Run. Lesley stuck her neck out by including an unlettered guy like me in a “historians'” forum, though I’m by no means the first to appear in the journal. I’m looking forward to what she does with CWH.