Ann DeWitt Responds (well, sort of)

I was surprised to find a brief reference to this site over at Ann DeWitt’s black Confederate website (scroll down to bottom of page).  I’ve written quite a bit about the interpretive problems on her site as well as the complete lack of any reference to her qualifications to discuss this subject given her requests for money and hopes that the site will eventually be used by teachers and students.  This is her own understanding of her qualifications:

I believe being an American Citizen is credibility enough to create a website with links to the sources of Civil War documents and historian accounts.  Who owns American History?  We, The People.

Unfortunately, I have no idea what this vague reference is supposed to mean and it is apparent to me that Ms. DeWitt will continue to ignore legitimate questions about the content of her site that I have posted as well as others.  That’s fine.  I will continue to monitor the site and continue to point out the obvious problems.  Yes, everyone has the right to contribute to the Web, but responsibility for what you choose to post follows.

Blogging Resumes

I am sitting in the Philadelphia Airport waiting for my flight to C-Ville. My wife and I spent the past nine days in Boston and Bar Harbor, Maine. We had an amazing time. The food was wonderful and the weather in Maine was a nice relief from the heat and humidity of Virginia. Bar Harbor was a bit too touristy for my taste, but the beautiful walks in Acadia National Park more than made up for it. Best of all I got to spend quality time with my best friend.

I feel relaxed and ready to finish two small writing projects before heading back into the classroom. This has been a great summer all around.

Looking Forward

The manuscript is now on its way to the publisher and I couldn’t be more pleased.  I don’t really have a sense of how long the wait will be given that what I sent back today is a revised manuscript.  My guess is that the publisher will send it out to one of the reviewers before making a decision.  Regardless of what decision is made it is nice to bring this phase of my research to a close.  The timing was perfect.  Back in January I decided to order a new bass from Sadowsky Guitars.  Roger Sadowsky has been making basses for some of the top players since the 1970s and his preamps totally rock.  It was an expensive investment, but with a 6-month waiting time (mid-June/July) I thought it might be a nice gift to myself on the completion of the manuscript.  Well, don’t you know the bass took longer than expected to complete as did my manuscript.  As if things couldn’t get any better, today the company forwarded me a couple of pics of my new Ultra-Vintage ’70s Metro.  I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

As you might expect I am going to take a little break from blogging for about ten days.  To be honest, I don’t want to read or think about the Civil War during that time.  I am hoping to begin the next book, which I’ve tentatively titled, Searching for Black Confederates in History and Memory, very soon.  The first thing I am going to do is begin work on the article about Silas Chandler with his great granddaughter.  This is going to be the perfect jumping off point for the larger project.  Our goal is not to use the Chandler story to debunk the kinds of claims that are all too prevalent Online, but to demonstrate that these stories are much more complicated and interesting than what is typically asserted.  We have a wealth of documentation about Chandler and it shows that almost nothing that you’ve read is accurate.  If, however, we succeed in throwing light on the quality of research that goes into just about every example through a close look at Chandler then so be it.

Since I won’t be posting for two weeks I thought I might issue a little challenge.  I would like you to share any references you may have come across in archival collections or printed wartime sources authored by Confederate soldiers discussing their black comrades in arms.  Please don’t waste my time with pension records and other postwar sources.  I’ve been reading accounts for close to 10 years and I’ve never come across an example where a soldier refers to a black comrade.  For those of you convinced that I am out to destroy all things sacred this is your chance to stick it to me and teach me something new.  And in the process you will help me write a better book on the subject.  Remember, I am not looking for accounts that reference laborers or servants.  We’re talking about legitimate black Confederate soldiers.  Good luck.

Not Important You Say?

Every once in a while my blogging buddy, Richard Williams, reminds his readers not to take me seriously and not to exaggerate my importance within the blogosphere and beyond.  I appreciate that advice as it helps me to keep my ego in check.  The only problem is that Richard has the strangest way of showing it.  My WordPress dashboard contains ten of the most recent links to my blog, six of which can be traced back to Richard’s site.   Let’s see, today he took me to task for some comments I made about a book concerning black Confederates.  Last Thursday Richard expressed his disapproval of some comments I made in an interview with the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star.  Last week I was the beneficiary of an extensive critique for a short post I did concerning a talk I heard by James Robertson.  And to round it out, check out these two posts from last month.  [See here and here]

If I didn’t no any better I would venture to suggest that Richard Williams is my biggest fan.

Moving Toward a Plugin-less Blog

You may have noticed that I’ve made a few changes to the look of Civil War Memory.  Actually, these changes go beyond simply moving back to a full-width framework and a transition to Arial as the main content font.  Over the past few weeks I’ve slowly stripped the site of just about every plugin.  While WordPress plugins add a great deal of functionality to your site the downside is quite often a slow load time, especially those associated with social networking sites.  Another problem that I’ve encountered is that plugin authors are often slow to update their code with new versions of WordPress.  Essentially, the installation of a plugin increases the number of external sites that your blog must rely on to load properly and quickly.  I noticed this with DISQUS, which added a great deal of functionality to comments and allowed readers increased access to one another.  Unfortunately, any problems on their end directly impacted the user experience, which is simply unacceptable.  It sometimes felt like my blog was being held hostage.

I am now committed to locating as much of my blog’s functionality locally.  I’ve gone from 20 to 6 plugins over the past few weeks, the remainder of which include: Akismet (spam), Get Recent Comments, Popular Posts, Post-Plugin Library, Recent Posts, and Subscribe to Comments.  Functionality related to SEO is built into Thesis Theme, which is my theme of choice and ought to be yours as well.  As you can see I’ve ditched those plugins that expand the blog’s social networking reach.  The Share This plugin is gone as is Follow Me which was hidden away on the right side of the screen.  In addition, I’ve nixed all of the code for such sites as FriendFeed and LibraryThing.  This has forced me to learn a bit of php and css language, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.  If you’ve experienced very brief downtime over the past few weeks that’s me crashing the site with some idiotic mistake with the code.  Luckily, it’s very easy to correct.  I still need to figure out a way to bring back the Facebook Community badge as well as a Twitter feed.  Again, the only way I will do it is without a plugin.

Continue reading “Moving Toward a Plugin-less Blog”