This past week I received an email from a reader expressing concern about what he perceived to be a decrease in the frequency of new blog posts here at Civil War Memory. Here is the deal.
I have indeed spent less time blogging, but that has little to do with burnout or a belief that blogging is no longer a valuable social media platform. As you might imagine my black Confederates book project has taken up a good deal of time in recent months. In fact, the final manuscript will be sent to the publisher by the end of the work week. My next book project on Confederate monuments, which I am co-editing with Dr. Hilary Green, is now in the works, and I am also getting ready to teach a brand new course this coming school year on the history of disability in America.
But the other factor that has impacted my blogging is Twitter. Like others, I have found Twitter to be a very easy and quick way to share thoughts about any number of topics related to Civil War history/memory and history education. Topics that may have made for a thoughtful and/or entertaining blog post now get discussed elsewhere.
For example, yesterday I read the article in The New York Times about the decline of Civil War reenacting. That would have made for a short blog post, but I decided to post and comment about it on Twitter:
If you want to accurately and fairly reenact the battle of Gettysburg, there needs to be an acknowledgment of the Brian family and other African Americans, who were forced to flee in the face of the Confederate invasion. https://t.co/G5EbYGdtvU
— Kevin M. Levin (@KevinLevin) July 28, 2018
So, if you enjoy my commentary about history and historical memory I recommend following me on Twitter @kevinlevin.
And just to be clear, I have no intention of abandoning blogging. It is still my preferred place to share my thoughts about the topics that mean the most to me.
“If you want to accurately and fairly reenact the battle of Gettysburg, there needs to be an acknowledgment of the Brian family and other African Americans, who were forced to flee in the face of the Confederate invasion.”
Reenacting isn’t a complete history nor do I expect it to address those sorts of issues. Civil War reenactors (and by that I mean soldiers) are demonstrating some semblance of the battle experience and the soldiers lives.
How the armies affected civilians isn’t part of Civil War (military) reenacting; it’s (civilian) living history. It’s a related issue but not one that interests everyone.
“way for white Americans to play Civil War soldier without having to face the tough questions about slavery and race that both led to and followed the war.”
History has many facets – military, politics, social/cultural, etc. Many people are interested in only some facets of a particular conflict or other subject. Your attitude in the two Twitter posts comes off as very dismissive of those without the same historical interests as yourself.
Is this written somewhere?
Will you be in DC this Saturday???
Darn, there is a small re-enactor event in Arlington Saturday.
Keep blogging. I check it nearly everyday, and speaking as a teacher, I find it very useful, and as a student of the CW, thought provoking.
That is all.
Correction: Their obligation to presenting the public with historical information about Gettysburg is hit or miss and are an NOT priority.
I don’t twitter, bleep or twitch so can’t follow you via those mode. Although I miss your previous habit of blogging, I appreciate that you have a life and have other things in the fire. I’m okay if I hear thoughtful insights occasionally via this blog which appear in my good old fashioned email box.
I’ve read the New York Times article about the decline of re-enacting. It’s been a constant topic among my circuit for the last ten years. The demise of these type of mega-battlefeasts might be a good thing. I follow the National Association for Interpretation standards and use the living history model. Events like Gettysburg as depicted in the article drive me to the brink of insanity. The failure of participants to include “messy bits” in their interpretations (or, as they would say, “impressions”), and the abundant anachronisms are elements that cause me to avoid these type of events. These are hobbyist who are having a huge camp-out which involves a battle. Their obligation to presenting the public with historical information about Gettysburg is hit or miss and are a priority. Unfortunately, those dedicated to presenting the history were not featured. I know they exist amongst the hoopla of Gettysburg but their voices were not heard in that article. They are/were people in their 20s and 30s doing these really good interpretation of the Battle of Gettysburg. There was a group who portrayed the exodus of Gettysburg’s African American community. The same had been done with post-battle interpretation. I don’t know if any of that was done this year as the article mostly focused on the mega-battle and it’s unique characteristics.
I think living history is one component for educating the public about historical events. Civil War era living history can include battles, garrisons, enlistments/recruitments, political, homefront, post battle etc scenarios based on actual regional history. Unfortunately, many historical sites and sponsors of Civil War focused events think battles, only, are essential to their investment to engaging the public.
Speaking specifically in regards to my core group, it’s not the quantity of events but the quality of event that attracts the diehards who have been involved in living history for more than a decade. Scenarios that are based on primary resources are key elements to drawing participants who are commented to educating the public about the Civil War. Civil War events which include battles with no historical bases and have rows and rows of civilian tent cities, and vendors selling flea market stuff and junk, balls and booze are no longer attractive to my core group. Some have relented to local events with fictional battle scenarios thinking that they would be saviors, but had unsatisfying experiences. So the mega events are dying but those small living history events are continuing with us old-timers. It’s very difficult to get young men involved given the expense and competing with the techno world.
So, thanks for bring the article to my attention. Overall, the article just repeats what has been said before. Let’s move on….
Their obligation to presenting the public with historical information about Gettysburg is hit or miss and are NOT a priority.
And not to nitpick, but Civil War reenacting was born in the 1890s, if not earlier, with Grand Army Day sham battles organized by veterans themselves and witnessed by tens of thousands of spectators. I’m sure the social dynamics and meaning of those events would be a fascinating topic in Civil War memory that has yet to be explored(?).
You are right, but as you note they were very different types of events that often included the veterans themselves as well as local militia units. There was a recent dissertation written by a student at UCLA on the subject, but it has yet to be published.
Good to know — I’m glad someone is looking into this topic. Thanks!
Thanks, Kevin. I figured both of those factors were in play. I would have been saddened if you shut this blog down, considering that it appears that the Islanders fan in Arizona hasn’t posted anything on his blog in so long.
Just to understand the current social media landscape, are the any sites that you could share where academic Civil War history (broadly defined) is being discussed in a meaningful way (e.g., Mark Grimsley 10+ years ago) besides your blog? As someone who wishes a second life to pursue a PhD in history, I’d certainly enjoy learning from and participating in such conversations but don’t really know of any now.
Kevin Levin>>> The birth of reenacting during the Civil War centennial was another way for white Americans to play Civil War soldier without having to face the tough questions about slavery and race that both led to and followed the war.” My response to this wanna be snowflake liberal idiot>>> You’re a liar, coward and pathetic excuse for anyone attempting to portray American History, without any substantial proof other than personal ignorance derived from ignorant sources..
Dear Mr. Hubbard,
Thank you for taking the time to comment.
Haters got to hate. I always love it when people disagree with historians. Those people just object to historians using facts and challenging beliefs and assumptions.
The best part of this is that Mr. Hubbard has shown this isn’t about history at all. It’s about his modern political ideology. Isn’t it interesting how so many people have to prop up their modern political ideology with an extremely distorted historical interpretation? When that interpretation gets challenged, it’s like the supports for their modern political ideology are being threatened.
I think that shows why history is such an important subject in schools. One’s modern political ideology should rest on a firm and accurate historical foundation, and not one where simple facts prove that foundation to be fake.