Tag Archives: Peter Carmichael

Retreat From Gettysburg

Gettysburg Storm Damage

Earlier today I returned from five days in Gettysburg for the annual Civil War Institute. Like last year, I feel rejuvenated and utterly exhausted. I had an incredible experience interacting with the participants and catching up with many good friends. Thanks to Peter Carmichael and the rest of the CWI staff for all the hard work. I can’t imagine the logistical juggling that takes place beforehand, but they seem to do it so effortlessly and that they do it in the name of history education makes it that much sweeter.

I donned a couple of hats this year. On Sunday I spend 90 minutes with an incredible group of high school students to talk about Civil War memory. We compared and contrasted Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address with that of Wilson’s in 1913 with an eye on how memory evolves. That evening I hosted a small discussion over dinner about about the kidnapping of former slaves and free blacks by Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia during the Gettysburg Campaign. We used two chapters from Margaret Creigton’s The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History: Immigrants, Women, and African Americans in the Civil War’s Defining Battle to help frame our discussion. I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion and I want to thank Al Mackey and Mike Rodgers for taking part. Finally, I took part in the final evening’s panel on the war in 1863. The panel also included Scott Hartwig, Robert Sandow, Judkin Browning, Jaime Martinez, Chris Stowe, and Peter Carmichael. It will be broadcast on CSPAN at a later date. Continue reading

Military Executions in Stonewall Jackson’s Command

I thought we had run through all the talks and panels from the 2012 Civil War Institute, but it looks like I overlooked Peter Carmichael’s excellent talk on military executions in Stonewall Jackson’s command.  This talk is based on an essay that Pete published some time ago in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography some time ago.  It is well worth your time.

Mark Grimsley’s Twinkie

This weekend C-SPAN aired what I think is the final session from the 2012 Civil War Institute that took place this past June.  I skipped this session for a chance to run around the battlefield with Keith Harris.  What I missed was an entertaining and informative panel on Mark Grimsley’s landmark study, The Hard Hand of War, which was the official book of the conference.  Arguably, the highlight of the panel was Megan Kate Nelson’s characterization of the book’s continued popularity as on par with the half-life of a Twinkie.  She’s right.

The Hard Hand of War was one of the first Civil War books that I read roughly fifteen years ago.  Although it is not a memory study per se, it does force readers to step back and assess assumptions about the nature and scope of violence that took place in places like Georgia and the Carolinas in 1864-65.  I agree with the panelists who point to the book’s emphasis on understanding Sherman’s March (and broader Union policy) within a broader historical context that extends back to the Middle Ages as well as the ways in which Union soldiers embraced restraint during these final campaigns as constituting its strength.

Even though the book is not light reading I always managed to include a short excerpt for my students in my Civil War elective.  I could always count on having a fruitful discussion.  Those Twinkies are looking real good right now.

Authority in Blogging

I enjoyed re-visiting the panel discussion on Civil War blogging from this summer’s Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College.  A number of interesting issues were discussed including the question of whether Keith Harris, Brooks Simpson, and me occupy a position of authority in the blogosphere and whether that position comes with certain expectations about the kinds of issues discussed and who should be allowed to participate.

Peter Carmichael did a good job moderating this discussion and I appreciate his pushing this issue of authority, but his questions and comments point to the gulf between how the three of us see our blogging and an apparent lack of comfort with the range of subjects and voices that are embraced outside traditional channels.  We did our best to communicate our approach, but it is very difficult to do unless you’ve experienced the challenges and dynamics of blogging for yourself.

If I understand him, Pete seems to think that our respective credentials ought to translate into a privileged place in the blogosphere.  That is not an unreasonable assumption when looking at the blogosphere from the outside.  Professional historians operate under a certain set of rules related to publishing and advancement in the academy that are intended to maintain quality control.  I’ve experienced first hand the benefits of peer review as well as feedback on papers presented at academic conferences.  The point is that there are, at times, reasons to limit certain voices.  To be fair, Pete has spent a good deal of time thinking through the value of blogging for his students and for the history profession.  His organization of this panel is evidence enough of this. Continue reading

Preserving Civil War Memory at Gettysburg College

Calling all digital historians and archivists: If after reading this you have any suggestions please leave them in the comments section.  I will make sure they get passed on to the right people.  Thanks.

Imagine signing on as the Systems and Emerging Technologies Librarian and being told that the library recently purchased two blogs.  For Zach Coble of Gettysburg College the question now is what to do with Civil War Memory and Keith Harris’s Cosmic America.

This is an exciting project for Gettysburg College.  Although the Library of Congress is also archiving this site it’s nice to know that it will made available at Gettysburg as well.  I’ve suggested before that I think we have to begin to shift our understanding of historical memory in the digital/web2.o world.  Blogs and other social media tools have democratized the sharing of history  further than anyone could have imagined just a few short years ago and it also has made it possible for a much wider demographic to share their own understanding of the Civil War and its legacy.  As a result the categories that frame our understanding of the evolution of Civil War memory will need to be revised if not discarded entirely to make sense of the sesquicentennial years.  It is my hope that this site will function as a unique window into the world of Civil War memory at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

It looks like they found just the right person to take the lead on this project:.

It’s exciting to explore new forms of scholarship, but we’re not exactly sure what to do with the blogs. Although the blogs are currently active they will not always be, so we must determine how we want to preserve them. Since none of us are experts in digital preservation, we are trying to understand at a conceptual level how best to approach this project.

This initiative has required us to think of larger issues concerning the library’s role in digital curation. Should libraries even try to preserve blogs and other digital content? Are we equipped, in terms of technology and staffing, to take on this kind of work? Can’t we rely on the big names in the field like the Library of Congress and the Internet Archive to take care of this?

As an employee of a cultural institution, I’m biased to believe that libraries (as well as archives, museums, and others) have a responsibility to preserve cultural content as it fits within the mission, goals, and collection development policy of the organization. I also believe that institutions need to take responsibility and work to inform themselves so they can properly care for the digital materials in their own collections.

The agreement that I signed includes other resources (digital and hard copy) as well, but any discussion of that will have to wait until we sort out some of the details.  I will be sure to provide additional updates as this project evolves.