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.
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.
This last week has been pretty busy around here since the governor of Virginia announced his Confederate History Month Proclamation. The number of visitors went through the roof owing to some key hyperlinks from a number of very popular news outlets. To those of you who are new to Civil War Memory I encourage you to take a few minutes to look around. Click here for some background about me and a brief description of the scope of this blog. You can also explore my list of publications and research interests. As for the blog itself you may want to check out the list of Popular Posts in the sidebar as well as the Archives and Categories list. My most popular subjects include “black Confederates,” the Civil War Sesquicentennial, and my ongoing research on William Mahone and the battle of the Crater. Enjoy and welcome.
My focus on the controversy surrounding Confederate History Month resulted in two writing assignments. Today I finished a short editorial for Civil War Times that will appear in the next issue along with contributions from roughly ten others. I’ve also been asked to write a critical review of an essay for The Wilson Quarterly. The essay is titled, “America’s Changeable Civil War” by Christopher Clausen and is right up my alley. How cool is that?
By now many of you have noticed that I’ve disabled the plugin for Disqus. It is unlikely that I will activate again, but than again anything is possible. Let me be clear that I actually think the service is very useful for moderating comments and promoting community and I appreciate the control it gives users over their comments throughout the blogosphere. On top of that the customer service is first rate. I highly recommend Disqus to those of you who are looking for advanced comment moderation features. The one problem that persisted and that I could not get over is the problem that I have with all WordPress plugins: Plugins place the blogger in a dependency relationship with a third-party site. I am willing to wager that the downtime with Disqus is no more frequent than with most plugins, but when it comes to comments I want an instant response. Readers should not have to wonder whether a blog’s comment system is working properly on any given visit. Perhaps I am overreacting, but I have a suspicion that a bad experience or even a few bad experiences, will turn off a reader from commenting in the future.
The other change to the site is the inclusion of a widget for Civil War Memory’s Facebook page, which you can join if you are on FB. Once in a while it acts up, but for now I am willing to deal with it. I am using it to communicate with “fans” of the blog and to share information that will not make it to the blog. I am pleased that the number of fans continues to grow. Please feel free to post your own notes, which will then appear in the feed on my blog. You can post news items, events, and even your own Civil War related blog posts if you so desire. All I ask is that your links loosely relate to the content of my blog. Of course, I reserve the right to control the feed as well as membership.
You gotta love these commemorative events that on the surface seem to be about the Civil War, but are little more than forums for folks to complain about what they perceive to be our own oppressive government. They always seem to bring together a true cast of characters. In this case there is John Eidsmoe, Professor Emeritus of Constitutional Law Emeritus at the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law, who goes on and on about the compact theory of government and states rights as an explanation for Alabama’s secession without ever mentioning slavery, as well as a woman who wears a t-shirt with Frederick Douglass, who she believes was an advocate for limited government. All of them were brought together as a result of one Patricia Godwin who believes that the decision on the part of Confederate forces to fire on Fort Sumter was carried out because “Lincoln bin laden had fortified the fort with arms and supplies.” By the way, you won’t find one black person in the audience. I guess they don’t remember secession as a crucial moment of freedom from an oppressive government. The best part of this video is the end when a few of the participants are asked what would have happened if the southern states had never seceded. Their responses are priceless. I guess I just find it funny that people who believe in limited government would identify so closely with the Confederacy. They must not know their history.
WHEREAS, the election of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin to the offices of President and Vice-President of the United States of America, by a sectional party, avowedly hostile to the domestic institutions and to the peace and security of the people of the State of Alabama, preceded by many and dangerous infractions of the Constitution of the United States by many of the States and people of the northern section, is a political wrong of so insulting and menacing a character as to justify the people of the State of Alabama in the adoption of prompt and decided measures for their future peace and security; therefore,
Be it declared and ordained by the people of the State of Alabama in Convention assembled , That the State of Alabama now withdraws, and is hereby withdrawn from the Union known as “the United States of America”, and henceforth ceases to be one of said United States, and is, and of right ought to be, a Sovereign and Independent State.