Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ok, So Now What?

When I started this blog in 2010, I never intended to adopt a strict timeline-style format.  Instead, the posts would go wherever my interests in Northern Virginia Civil War history took me.  Of course, as 2011 got underway, how could I resist the siren song of the Sesquicentennial, luring me in with all the temptations of following the events of 1861-65 in "real time"?

As readers know, for the past year or so I have largely adhered to a timeline for 1861-62.  This period was a fascinating one for Northern Virginia.  The region went through the secession debate, the Union occupation of Alexandria, the concentration of the volunteer armies, the march to Manassas, and the Battle of Bull Run.  And that was just in the first half of 1861.  The second half brought the Confederates to within sight of the Capitol.  By October 1861, the two armies had settled in for the winter and stared at each other across a vast no-man's land.  The McLean area, where I live, played host to thousands of boys in blue.  Civilians suffered many hardships.  And don't forget my own particular obsessions, the "Battles" of Lewinsville and Dranesville.  As I wrote on Robert Moore's blog recently, there is just something so captivating about this time in local Civil War history.  Tensions and passions ran high, and no one was sure what would come next and how far away or achievable victory was.  A little engagement like Dranesville loomed large.

Alas, now the armies have largely moved to points farther south.  This naturally raises the question of what to do next.  I could stick to a weekly timeline, but without the activity of two major armies in Northern Virginia to sustain me, I may run out of topics really quickly.  There will be times when a return to the timeline will make perfect sense, as during the Second Manassas Campaign or Jubal Early's raid.  However, by and large, I am not looking to do a play-by-play on a weekly or daily basis of what was happening in my neck of the woods.

I also prefer to have a bit more freedom.  A timeline is often confining, and quite frankly, can become exhausting really, really fast.  (In March, I could barely keep up with the armies moving across Northern Virginia.  Given everything else going on right now in my life, it's pressure that I don't need!)  I'd like to do more posts on thematic elements that I shelved to stick to the timeline.  For example, I've long wanted to uncover the lives of local secessionists and Unionists caught in the war's cross-fire.  And that is just for starters.  There are also many more aspects of 1861-62 left to explore.  I didn't have the time to cover these topics the first time around, and I can't figure out why I shouldn't write about them even if the broader trend is to stick with the 150th timeline.  I'd also like to blog more about my hobby of collecting antique Civil War books and to offer readers more in the way of touring local sites in DC, Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria, and beyond. 

By no means am I saying I will abandon the Sesquicentennial timeline altogether.  The siren song is much too alluring.  But I hope readers will indulge me as I wander and explore without being wedded to a strict timeline.   This "alteration" in blog policy isn't much of a change at all.  I just see it as a return to what I set out to do in establishing  my blog nearly two years ago.  As always, thanks for reading!


Walk Forrest Walk said...

Ron, Good morning from Dewitt, Michigan. Reading your blog entries has become a must for this history buff. Let your pen and heart guide your writings. I enjoy whatever timeline you decide to focus on. Your blog followers surely will agree with me. Jim E.

Ron Baumgarten said...


Thanks so much for reading, and for your kind compliment! I look forward to sharing my future discoveries and thoughts with you and others.

Richard said...

The good news about being a blogger is that you have control and can write about anything you want, without anybody telling you what to do.

The bad news is that you don't have anybody telling you what to do and you are the one who must make the decisions.

At some point all of us feel the influence of an "all history is local" siren calling us,and it can be hard to escape that but it can be worth the effort.

People come to this blog for more than just timeline stories - it's the deep research and good writing that you exhibit. Use the same skills on any subject you like and readers will still enjoy it.

"With freedom, comes responsibility" - enjoy it :)

Ron Baumgarten said...


Thanks for the comment. You are far too kind! :)

You raise an excellent point about the inherent good news/bad news about blogging. That's why reader feedback is nice to receive whenever I am deciding on a certain direction with future posts.

I will often feature local angles. As you say, it is hard to escape them. But it is also rewarding to cast the net a little wider from time to time.

Thanks again, and keep up the great blogging on your end too.

Wolfshield said...

Very good stuff. I did succumb to the siren of a timeline. I wanted to feel, in real time, the sequence and spacing of events as they may have felt 150 years ago, so I post something almost every day: battles and events, but also bits of letters and journals, the culture and homefront. I you would like to add my rather rough blog to your list, it would be cool. It is The American Civil War 150 Years Ago Today, at

Ron Baumgarten said...

Thanks for the compliment. I don't know how you do it--you certainly are dedicated! As I noted, I will return to the timeline every so often, particularly later on this summer. I'll be sure to check out your blog, and will include a link.