At one point during my visit to Professor Blight’s Civil War Memory seminar at Yale I looked over at Brian Jordan and suggested that he should start a blog. The next day I logged on for the first time to his new weblog, Grand Army Blog. Now, I am not going to take full credit for this as it is likely that Brian had been playing around with this idea for quite some time.
So, why am I so excited about Brian’s blog? First and foremost, Brian is a rising star in the field. He has already published one book on South Mountain and historical memory as well as a number of journal articles. I first met Brian last year at North Carolina State University, where the two of us served on a panel on public history and memory. He is also an incredibly nice guy, but this is not why I am excited about Brian’s blog.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard stories of young scholars who are discouraged from embracing the world of social media, including blogging. I suspect that this can be explained, in part, by a certain level of anxiety from those individuals who feel alienated and left behind. Others have expressed legitimate concerns about the value of such endeavors in an academic culture that continues to struggle assigning objective value for purposes of hiring and promotion. Thankfully, this attitude is beginning to change.
As far as I know, Brian’s is the first blog written by a current graduate student with a focus in Civil War history. His dissertation is tentatively titled When Billy Came Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War and will address a number of questions related to the challenges that veterans faced in keeping the nation focused on their sacrifice and accomplishments. Brian’s research has the potential to reach a very broad audience. We are likely to get an insider’s account as Brian explores and analyzes archival collections, relevant secondary sources, and the more abstract considerations that come with conceptual analysis. We need more of this.
If he keeps at it, Brian is likely to find that what at first glance appears to be a rather narrow/academic project will resonate among a very broad audience. His readers will not only be introduced to new primary and secondary sources, but new questions and methods for interrogating the past. Brian’s published work will be read and debated by academics and history enthusiasts alike. Most importantly, a vibrant blog site that reaches out and welcomes readers from diverse backgrounds will transform what it means to educate. I wish Brian all the best with his new digital project and I hope it encourages other young scholars in the field to matter more.