Do We Still Care About the Civil War: Chris Mackowski

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The cover story of the newest issue of Civil War Times asks, “Do we still care about the Civil War?” ECW is pleased to partner with Civil War Times to extend the conversation here on the blog. Today, we conclude our series.

As we wrap up our series on interest in the Civil War, it’s worth noting (again) that this entire discussion—here and in Civil War Times—came about following a May 25, 2019, article in the Wall Street Journal. The article made a fundamental mistake in its approach: it equated visitation at Civil War sites, primarily National Battlefields, with interest in the war. Readers of that article, and the countless folks who shared and retweeted it, compounded the mistake by buying into the original premise in the first place.

Examining battlefield attendance numbers is but one metric for measuring interest. John Hennessey, in a widely circulated Facebook page at the time reprinted in the current Civil War Times, explained those flaws. “The NPS had no systematic way of counting visitors prior to the mid-1980s, and even today, various parks count visitors in different ways,” he said.

The Sesquicentennial also demonstrated the flaws in counting heads as the sole measurement of interest. Hopefuls looking for the Sesquicentennial to boost attendance similar to the boost inspired by Ken Burns documentary found themselves disappointed. Attendance, while healthy, did not blossom. As Nick Sacco pointed out here, programs were generally well attended, but beneath the surface of those numbers, a core group of buffs traveled from place to place and event to event. That speaks well to their devotion, but it also means attendance numbers included a lot of repeat enthusiasts rather than fresh audiences.

Were I to design a more comprehensive study to gauge public interest in the Civil War, I would indeed look at visitations numbers, but there are a number of other things I would look at, too. Continue reading

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Week In Review: October 6-13, 2019

This week we’re continuing the focused discussion and different perspectives for the blog series “Do We Still Care About The Civil War?” And there’s also some other highlights about photo sleuthing and Civil War history hiding in the Pacific Northwest… Continue reading

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John Brown’s Raid 160th: An Introduction

One hundred and sixty years ago this month (October 2019), twenty-two men embarked on a mission that shocked the nation and accelerated the rush toward Civil War. The event is now popularly called “John Brown’s Raid” and is viewed as one of the key events leading to the Civil War. Continue reading

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Do We Still Care About the Civil War: Kevin Pawlak

 

The cover story of the newest issue of Civil War Times asks, “Do we still care about the Civil War?” ECW is pleased to partner with Civil War Times to extend the conversation here on the blog.

The above question is perhaps the most common question asked among people with an interest in the Civil War these days, maybe more so than any of the great what-ifs of the Civil War. But, it’s an important one to ask. And my answer to it is very simple: yes, people do still care about the Civil War.

The Civil War is one of the greatest tales in American history. Its scale, its destruction, its stories, and its aftermath that laid the foundation for the United States we live in today. With a story so vast, elements of the war that have previously been understudied are popping up to the surface, making the Civil War era more accessible to countless groups of people that, until recently, had no reason to care about it. This includes an increased focus on stories of African Americans, immigrant contributions, women, and the overall effect of the war on society, among others. As public historians, this has increased the reach of our umbrella to bring people under and make the Civil War relevant to them. Continue reading

Posted in Battlefields & Historic Places, Ties to the War | Tagged | 4 Comments

ECW Weekender – Civil War History in the Pacific Northwest: The Pickett House

When my wife Asha and I pulled up to the Pickett House, we didn’t know what to expect. I scheduled an 11:00 a.m. tour of the museum and national historic site with Edradine Hovde, vice-president of Whatcom Chapter No. 5 of the Daughters of the Pioneers of Washington. The Pickett House, built shortly after Captain George E. Pickett and 68 men of the Ninth Infantry arrived in August 1856, is Washington’s oldest home on its original foundation. It turned out that touring the Pickett House and meeting Edradine was the highlight of our vacation to the Pacific Northwest. Continue reading

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Do We Still Care About the Civil War: Dana Shoaf

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The cover story of the newest issue of Civil War Times asks, “Do we still care about the Civil War?” ECW is pleased to partner with Civil War Times to extend the conversation here on the blog. Today, we welcome the editor of Civil War Times, Dana Shoaf.

Thanks, Emerging Civil War, for running this series of blog posts that extend the conversation begun in Civil War Times. I had hoped that the article in the magazine would percolate to as large an audience as possible, and of course, it was not possible to ask as many people as I would have liked too about the matter. Your blog has allowed other important voices to be heard.

The article was a chance for the Civil War community to judge itself, instead of being judged by reporters from a variety of publications who were venturing opinions about the decline of interest in Civil War history. When I read their articles, they felt incomplete because they were primarily using one example, the decline of reenacting, as evidence interest in the conflict was waning. Continue reading

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Do We Still Care About the Civil War: Meg Groeling

 

The cover story of the newest issue of Civil War Times asks, “Do we still care about the Civil War?” ECW is pleased to partner with Civil War Times to extend the conversation here on the blog.

Do we still care about the Civil War? The lead story in the December 2019 Civil War Times attacks this question straight on, with many points of view represented in the answers. The stalwart editors of our own Emerging Civil War then asked their writers to add their opinions to those expressed in CWT. Here is my response:

Of course, it matters! Why would I be writing this if it didn’t? Why would you be reading this? It matters now more than ever.

Continue reading

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Civil War Photo Sleuth Uses Facial Recognition Software to ID Portraits

Luther, KurtBy ECW Correspondent Joe Giglio

A stroke of luck at a Civil War exhibit in Pittsburgh in 2013 allowed Kurt Luther to find a photo of his great-great-uncle Oliver Croxton. “It was an incredible moment,” recalls Luther. “First of all, it was so unlikely. Photos of Civil War generals and colonels are pretty easy to come by, but as you move down the ranks, the odds of finding a surviving portrait drop dramatically.”

An infantryman from Pennsylvania’s 134th volunteer regiment, Croxton was a low-ranked soldier of modest means, and the portrait Luther discovered was likely one of the few—if not the only—photographs taken of the man during his life. Even if Croxton had the means or desire to have a multitude of photos taken of himself, there’s no guarantee Luther’s search would have been any easier. “The photos would have to avoid being damaged or lost for 150 years,” he explained. “And even then, only 10-20% of Civil War portraits are identified.” Continue reading

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Do We Still Care About the Civil War: Theodore P. Savas

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The cover story of the newest issue of Civil War Times asks, “Do we still care about the Civil War?” ECW is pleased to partner with Civil War Times to extend the conversation here on the blog. Today, we are pleased to hear from publisher Ted Savas of Savas Beatie, LLC.

When someone discovers I publish military and general history books for a living, and my focus is the American Civil War, the conversation invariably narrows to some variant of the question about which I was asked to write: “Does the Civil War still matter?” If time (and the interest of the interrogator) remains, the discussion moves to the inevitable question, “Do people still read Civil War books?”

The answer to the both questions is, of course, yes. The Civil War still matters for a legion of reasons I will leave for others to explore. Since I have a rather specialized view of the subject, I thought it best to delve a bit more deeply into the second question (which, of course, relates to the first.) Continue reading

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ECW on C-SPAN: Wilson’s Creek

Pawlak, Kristen copy.jpgC-SPAN 3’s coverage of the Sixth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge continues this weekend. Kristen Pawlak’s talk on Wilson’s Creekdebuts Saturday night on C-SPAN 3 at 6 p.m. ET and re-airs Sunday morning at 4:50 a.m. ET.

After the program airs, you can watch it on C-SPAN’s website:

https://www.c-span.org/video/?463175-3/battle-wilsons-creek

Also, Jon-Erik Gilot’s talk on the Battle of Philippi re-airs Sunday at 10:05 a.m. ET on C-SPAN 3. You can watch that on the C-SPAN website, too:

https://www.c-span.org/video/?463239-4/1861-battle-philippi

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