Tag Archives: blogging

Civil War Memory Turns Three

Three years ago this weekend I started blogging at Civil War Memory.  At the time I had little sense of what I was doing or where it would lead.  Over time the place of blogging within my broader historical interests has become much more carefully defined.  It has led to writing projects, speaking invitations, and has put me in contact with some wonderful people in the National Park Service, academia, the Virginia State government and countless others who make Civil War Memory a part of their daily routine.  Thanks to all of you for reading and sharing your thoughts.  I haven't lost any steam even after 1,487 posts so you are stuck with for at least the near future.

With that in mind keep a lookout for some major changes to this site over the next few months. 

About Your Author

The other day I received a rather rude and obnoxious email from a reader who felt a need to point out that I misrepresented myself in a previous post.  It seems that my referencing of myself in the introduction to Peter Carmichael’s guest post as a “fellow historian” was deemed to be inappropriate.  The writer reminded me that I am just a high school teacher.  Of course, I didn’t publish the comment, and I thought it was somewhat suspicious that this was the only thing this particular reader had to say given that the post in question received just under 80 comments.  Still, given that this site continues to attract new readers I thought it might be an opportune time to introduce myself once again.

First and foremost I am a high school history teacher and I’ve been doing so since 1998.  This is what I am paid to do and it is my first love.  With the start of the new school year right around the corner you can once again anticipate more posts about my experiences in the classroom; in fact, one of the main reasons for this blog was to be able to share my teaching with a broader audience.  As to the self-referencing of myself as a Civil War historian in this blog’s subtitle, well, I will leave that to you to gauge.  Over the past few years I’ve published a couple of essay, presented talks at various conferences and roundtables and am at work on two book-lenght projects.  I recently set up a new Author Page for the blog and you can peruse my Curriculum Vitae for additional information.  I like to think of myself as a serious amateur historian.  Ultimately, I am not paid to do history and it almost always falls somewhere in the middle of my list of responsibilities.  I’ve toyed with the idea of going back to school for a PhD in history, but ultimately I am satisfied with my career as a professional high school teacher.  This is who I am.

As always I thank each and every one of you for making Civil War Memory a stop on your daily comings and goings.

Best Individual Blog, 2007

This morning I learned that Civil War Memory has won the 2007 Cliopatria Award for Best Individual Blog and I couldn’t be more pleased.  Congratulations to the other winners.  Thanks to Tim Lacy and Tim Abbott for  nominating this site and to the committee which made the final selection.  Any of the other blogs nominated are equally deserving of this award; most of them are part of my daily walk through the blogosphere.  Finally, thanks to all of you who make this site part of your daily routine.  Here is the citation:

Kevin Levin’s
Civil War Memory is an impressive individualblog, with a track record of several years. It commonly offers the best of both military history blogging and history blogging about the broader political, intellectual, and social context of regional conflict. This past year, for example, Civil War Memory has devoted considerable attention to the Lost Cause myth and the quest for Black Confederates.


The other day I was contacted by a publishing agent who was interested in purchasing space on my blog to advertise a work of Civil War fiction.  The book was written by a fellow blogger who I highly respect; however, after thinking it over I decided against it.  In this case, I felt uncomfortable agreeing to advertise a book that I have not read nor plan to read.  More to the point: I don’t read much Civil War fiction so why advertise it.  At the same time I find the idea of making a little extra cash attractive and I have to admit to thinking about contacting certain publishers to see if they are interested in purchasing space on my site.   These are, of course, publishers whose books I feel comfortable advertising even if I haven’t read every title or agreed with the arguments contained in those I have read.  One of the goals of this blog from the beginning has been to introduce more casual Civil War enthusiasts to more “scholarly” studies that take the reader beyond the battlefield.

A few weeks ago at the SHA in Richmond I ran the idea of selling space to certain publishers by a fellow historian who reads my blog  and who I highly respect.  He didn’t like the idea at all.  His concern was that by advertising I would loose my ability to judge books objectively.  While I do think this is a concern, I already have a policy which I make perfectly clear to publishers that ask me to review specific titles.  At the same time academic journals and other publications routinely include advertisements from publishers and there is no reason to think that the integrity of their book reviews are compromised.  In fact, from the perspective of the publisher it shouldn’t matter if one of their books receives a negative review since it will no doubt be linked to Amazon or one of the other book-selling outlets.  All that matters is that the book is mentioned and it is up to the reader to click on the link and make a decision as to whether to purchase it.

The last thing I want to do is clutter my blog with pointless advertisements that somehow relate to the Civil War.  Any thoughts, especially from those of you who do include online ads on your blogs, is appreciated.

History Carnival LV: A Shopper’s Guide to Creative History Blogging

Welcome to the History Carnival and to Civil War Memory.  This month’s submissions – as usual – reflect a wide range of interests.  As I made my way through the submissions I couldn’t help but notice the number of entries that ask the reader to rethink assumptions about a certain aspect of the past or to reconsider how history is presented in various public settings such as museums and the classroom.  Such a theme resonates with me given the goal of my own blog which focuses specifically on uncovering the assumptions that guide and shape our thinking about the American Civil War that often go unnoticed and unchallenged.  Perhaps the blogging format provides just the right setting for such an approach as authors are free to take chances in testing new ideas on a canvas that can be continually updated and revised.  The results are often entertaining, original, occasionally brilliant and with just a hint of the subversive.  So, without further delay I present this month’s crop of posts.

What better way to begin than with Charles Modiano’s History’s Hit Job on Thomas Paine posted at CLEAN OUR HOUSE! – Killing the Bigotry in all of US.   Modiano suggests that Paine’s outspokenness on issues such as religion and slavery cost him a seat on the short list of American Revolutionary heroes.

In the spirit of James Loewen The Sapient Sutler explores Lies and the Lying Teachers Who Teach Them.  The Sapient Sutler asks, “Would a teacher who taught the truth about Texan statehood or Lewis and Clark be reprimanded, or fired?”  Read and find out.

Just down the hallway History Is Elementary reflects on the importance of storytelling in Oh, I Love to Tell the Story… Why are they so important?: “Teaching students to evaluate the actions of historical characters is just one step towards developing citizens that can analyze events as their life unfolds—events that effect taxes, waging war, and most importantly elections.”

Rob MacDougall analyzes Madness and Civilization III which is posted at Old is the New New.  He argues that computer games are not effective tools for teaching history and then suggests how they could be.  Along the way the reader learns that “Civilization’s game play erases its own historical content.”

For some reason I can’t get that last phrase out of my head.

Finally Mark A. Rayner at the skwib presents The Lost PowerPoint Slides (Storming the Bastille Edition).  The PowerPoint is written as if it was being presented by Emmanuel Joseph “Radicabbot” Sieyes.  I love it!

A number of entries reveal long-lost stories that provoke questions of memory/historical amnesia as well as curiosity. David Mills presents Attack of the GIANT NEGROES!! posted at Undercover Black Man.  No, this is not the title of a low-budget movie, but a reference to numerous articles in the New York Times and other major newspapers which referenced the physical dimensions of African-American men in the reporting of various crimes.  Strangely enough The Virtual Stoa posted a similar item on the physical measurements of prominent European leaders in European Head Lines: “As Europe drifted towards war in the Summer of 1939, the Chicago Sunday Tribune was asking the questions that matter: just how tall were the men guiding their nations’ destinies?”  From the heights of men to a height of 30,000 feet we find Philobiblon’s Natalie Bennett and a review of Kathleen M. Barry’s book, Femininity in Flight: A History of Flight Attendants.

The recent passing of Lady Bird Johnson 1912-2007 provided an opportunity over at Al Wiesel’s Rebel Without a Cause – Live Fast, Die Young to examine the former first lady’s influence on her husband’s decision-making.  According to Wiesel: “Walter Jenkins was one of Johnson’s closest aides and when he was arrested for a gay liaison in a YMCA bathroom on the eve of the 1964 election. Lyndon Johnson was afraid that it would have an impact on the campaign. Lady Bird was more concerned about doing the right thing.”

Oh how I yearn for those days when the biggest news coming out of the White House was a sex scandal.

Also in the remembrance category is Penny Richards who blogs at Disability Studies, Temple U. The occasion is the 140th anniversary of the birth of the music-hall entertainer, Harry Relph (1867-1928).

Check out Gordon Taylor’s “The Pasha and the Gypsy” by Gordon Taylor posted at ProgressiveHistorians – Front Page.  This is a six-part series about the unlikely liaison between Zsa Zsa Gabor and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in the 1930′s. Taylor has “turned up some startling new information about the event.”

Alfa King presents Small Steps… Giant Leaps… « Alfa King Memories posted at Alfa King Memories.  King remembers the July 20th anniversaries of both the birth of Sir Edmund Hillary who became the first person to climb Mount Everest and the 1969 moon landing.  Speaking of moon landings Tour marm presents I Saw a Man Walk on the Moon posted at The Educational Tour Marm, which offers a very personal take on family and personal remembrance.

JohnC presents GRU training program – part 1 posted at Dagger and Cloak, which explores information the Soviet Union/Russian Federation Main Intelligence Directorate’s training techniques.

Sammy Benoit presents When Britain Put Jews on Slave Ships posted at YID With LID.

For those of you in need of a Victorian fix check out Kristan Tetens who presents Staying On Track posted at The Victorian Peeper, which looks at her favorite Victorian and railway guide compiler, George Bradshaw. Next, The Little Professor explores the physical nature of Victorian, and pre-Victorian fiction in The Material Interests of the Victorian Novel.  Just in case you would like to know what is going on in the states at this time head on over to The Vapour Trail for Medicine Shows, or, the Promiscuity of Popular Theatrical Forms.

This month’s carnival includes a number of After-Action-type reports:  We begin with Shimshon Ayzenberg who examines The Second Lebanon War: Lessons Learned the Hard Way over at Post-Blogity.  Michael Aubrecht reflects on his visits to Civil War Battlefields in Then vs.. Now which can be found at Pinstripe Press.  According to Michael “it is far too easy for us to become caught up in the romance of these picturesque landscapes and forget what horrible events transpired on them.” Indeed.  Mark Grimsley shares a guest post by LTC Bob Bateman titled Mother and Motherf***er from Blog Them Out of the Stone Age. Last year Bateman reported on the brutal murder of Mayada Salihi, an Iraqi mother of two who worked as a translator for the U.S. Army and with whom he became friends during his tour in Baghdad.  This is a reprint of that report which appeared in Altercations.  Check out Investigation of a Dog’s use of Google Maps to locate where Lance Corporal William Wenham, 1/5th Lincolnshire Regiment, was wounded and captured by the Germans (77th Reserve Infantry Regiment) on 6th December 1916.

Tim Abbott presents a very different kind of After-Action report in “We’ve Got a Panic on Our Hands on the Fourth of July”: The New Jersey Shark Attacks of 1916 posted at Walking the Berkshires.  Abbott recalls saying the Matawan Man-eater 91 years later.  This is essential reading for those of you planning a last-minute summer vacation to the Jersey shore.  It may have been 91 years ago, but I seem to recall in one of the Jaws movies that the sharks were motivated by revenge.

Four museums/history exhibits are reviewed this month.  Sheila Scarborough presents George Washington Fought Here: Yorktown posted at Family Travel: See The World With Your Kids.  I remember being dragged by my parents to the Yorktown Victory Center in Virginia when I was ten-years old.  Now I can’t step foot on a battlefield without getting lost in thoughts about how it was commemorated and remembered.  Steven Cartwright reviews the The Russian Air Force Museum at Monino (pt. 2) posted at Dictatorship of the Air.  This is part of a series on the Russian Air Force Museum at Monino. It’s a “field guide” to the museum containing good photos, excellent background on some of the planes and up to date information on the Museum.  If that doesn’t interest you than perhaps you should head on over to the Musee National du Moyen Age Exhibition and its Trésors de la Peste noire (Treasures of the Black Death) which is reviewed at My Paris, Your Paris.  Finally, John Hawks points out a recent controversy at the Houston Museum of Natural History surrounding the politics of the “Lucy” Exhibit.

Kristan Tetens examines in Agony at Sea Simon Schama’s claim that JMW Turner’s Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On [1840]) is the greatest painting of the nineteenth century.  The painting is housed in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Our final category finds us at the intersection of history, the relevancy of that history to our lives, and current affairs. Laurie Bluedorn reviews the book, Ancient History from Primary Sources: A Literary Timeline in Trivium Pursuit » Blog Archive » Evaluating Ancient Authors.  She breaks down the selections along the lines of appropriateness for children of various ages.  Tim Lacy presents Follow-up: The Eastern Michigan University Rape And Murder Story posted at History and Education: Past and Present.  Lacy examines the recent EMU rape/murder in addition to a bit of the recent history on the subject of campus security.  David Derrick thoughtful analysis of the ways in which Sharia law absorbed and responded to various cultures during its earliest period of expansion is just the kind of insight we need in trying to understand the Islamic world.  His post Stony ground: Roman law and Sharia can be found at The Toynbee convector.

Finally, just in case you are operating under the assumption that modern technology will preserve the historical record in ways that will render our lives more transparent to future generations of historians consider Timothy Burke’s Ubiquitous information and history which was posted at Cliopatria in response to Charles Stross.  I leave you with some thoughts from Burke’s post which serves to remind us of just how difficult it is to do this thing we call history.  Peter Novick summed it up when he suggested that it is like trying to “nail jelly to the wall.”  According to Burke:

“It may be that 23rd Century historians of everyday life will be in a dramatically better situation when they study the 21st Century: they won’t have to guess about what we ate, about what our sex lives were like, about everything we did and thought. Or maybe not. Right now I know that many people watch “The Simpsons”. I can only guess about what they think about “The Simpsons” when they watch it, whether they get all the jokes that I get and in the ways in which I get them. Knowing what people do doesn’t relieve you of the extraordinary difficulties involved in knowing what it means that they do it. Even asking people directly, “What does that mean to you?” doesn’t relieve you of that burden, in part because meaning doesn’t have a final resolution. Consciousness is not part of the datasphere of the 21st Century, at least, not yet.”

That concludes this edition of the History Carnival. The next Carnival will be hosted by Timothy Abbott at Walking the Berkshires on or about September 1.  Submit your blog article to the next edition of history carnival using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Thanks for dropping by and I hope you enjoyed it.

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