So, why this blog, and why now? After all, my current job involves ton of writing, and I have a couple of kids on the way! (That’s right, you read that right, a “couple”.) For a few years now, I’ve read a blog here and there, and resisted the urge to embrace the trend. “What do I have to say that is so important?” I would ask myself. Or I wondered, “What would I write about?”
Well, late last year, and earlier this year, I re-discovered my interest in the American Civil War. I first became fascinated by that conflict as a little boy, when I opened Dad’s old American history text book to a picture of General Grant and a map of a divided United States, and for whatever reason, the Civil War took hold of this boy’s imagination. While some kids drew pictures of Star Wars characters, I was writing short stories about runaway slaves, buying Matthew Brady reproductions, and dreaming of authoring a book on foreign relations during the Civil War. By the time I entered high school, I had pretty much memorized the major battles and leaders, collected many books on the subject, and visited a few Eastern battlefields. (You can imagine how my kid sister enjoyed being dragged to Gettysburg and Manassas.)
I entered college to study international relations. My interest was still there, and I would buy a book or two, or would go to a re-enactment, but by and large, I neglected my Civil War hobby. After graduation, my time was spent on developing career, looking for a woman, living in France, and enjoying the best bars DC had to offer! Law school took away even more time from exploring the Civil War. It’s hard to read about battles when you’re briefing torts, contracts, and criminal law all night and editing law review. But at least I got to see the 54th Massachusetts sculpture on Beacon Hill!
Flash forward several years. Life is a lot more settled now. Career in DC. Marriage – following, of course, a bachelor party outing to Antietam National Battlefield. Suburbia. Seeing that I was “all grown up”, I began to think seriously about my interests. I grew a little nostalgic about my own childhood when thinking about the impending arrival of my own kids. Surfing on eBay around Thanksgiving, I bid on, and won, a first edition of Grant’s Memoirs. At Christmas, my father-in-law gave me a book on the Hunley. A colleague was reading Foote’s three-volume narrative, and we began to discuss the War Between the States when not gossiping about the workplace. I was hooked again, and threw myself wholeheartedly into being a faithful Civil War buff.
Since the start of the year, I have re-discovered Bruce Catton, who as a child could throw me right into the chaos of a battlefield and who can still do so today. I caught up on the battles of the Eastern Theater and the Western Theater. I visited some obscure local sites in Fairfax and Vienna. I attended a lecture on the Civil War defenses of Washington and began to learn about Northern Virginia’s role in the War. Timing couldn’t have been better as we prepare to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War!
This blog represents an attempt to elevate my life-long interest a notch or two. Writing at the start, I am not sure altogether what course my blog will take. At the moment, I plan to offer thoughts now and again on various issues in Civil War history, whether military, political, economic, legal, or social. I may draw my inspiration from what happened during the War on the given day that I write, or I may explain how what happened nearly 150 years ago is relevant to contemporary America. I’d also like to share with readers any interesting Civil War finds, whether books, websites, museum exhibits, or news articles. And finally, I hope to explore Civil War sites around my home, and further afield. Little-known landmarks are scattered across Northern Virginia between the subdivisions and the shopping malls; within driving distance sits much of America’s most hallowed terrain. So, welcome and stay tuned. I look forward to sharing with you!