Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010: A Review

2010 was a good year for My Civil War Obsession. I made almost 100 posts, easily meeting my goal of one per week. In 2009, as I first entered the blogosphere,  I made a couple entries just to say I had posted something or to take up space, but that did not happen in  2010, which strikes me as a sign of progress.  I now have a much better idea of how I want to operate this blog and what I should publish.

With some of the additional tools Blogger provided, I redesigned the blog's look twice, and really do like how it appears now. I did just lighten up the background picture a couple of days ago, so the text should be easier to see and read, but I really like how the main page looks when I first arrive at it.

I finally got back into the research end of things, concentrating on local cemeteries and headstones of Civil War veterans. I even started a new blog on that subject. Not only has it lead me to walk through the various cemeteries, but I've also finally returned to the library, looking through rolls of microfilm, and have found new websites that help provide good information. It has been fun getting back to that activity and I hope I will continue to find interesting new material for both blogs.

One of the interesting side-effects of writing this blog has been my luck in finding some wonderful blogs to follow. There are some outstanding bloggers out there, and sometimes I wonder if I'm really qualified to try to follow in their footsteps. I've learned quite a bit from their blogs - some about the war itself, but perhaps even more about how to study the war, and how to take new perspectives about what I'm studying. I hope to apply some of these lessons and explore them going forward.

My book reading this year wasn't quite as extensive as I had hoped it would be, for a couple reasons that no longer matter. The books I did finish, however, were very interesting and informative, so I will re-list them here.  If you you use the search option, you can find my full reviews for each of these.

Dixie Betrayed: How the South Really Lost the Civil War by David Eicher. The "how the South Really Lost" part is not an accurate description of the book's results, but it was an enjoyable book and nicely illustrated some of the struggles the Confederacy and its leadership faced, especially among its own politicians and their hopes and plans.

Baseball's First Inning: A History of the National Pastime Through the Civil War by William Ryczek is not a Civil War book, but the book I'm reading now mentions base ball a few times as a popular camp activity. Base ball (two words at the time) was certainly a growing sport during this era of the nation's history and soldiers would have been very familiar with it, even with different versions or rules.

Andersonvilles of the North: The Myths and Realities of Northern Treatment of Civil War Confederate Prisoners by James Gillispie. I enjoyed this perspective and analysis of northern prisons and how the Union treated prisoners in its care. It makes a case that the stereotypical thoughts - i.e. the Union could have done more, but intentionally mistreated its prisoners as a way to get revenge for perceived mistreatment of Northern soldiers by Southern captors - may not be as true as often believed.

Lincoln's Labels: America's Best Known Brands and the Civil War by James Schmidt was a really different and informative look at the country during this era and some of the companies that actually benefited from the opportunities war provided. I really enjoyed it and found it to be very readable and well-written, with information about several companies that modern Americans recognize and know.

West Pointers and the Civil War: The Old Army in War and Peace by Wayne Wei-Siang Hsieh was very informative and a good analysis of how the old army's culture influenced both sides in the Civil War, particularly with is conservative nature and desire to avoid politics as much as possible. 

Patriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of America by Evan Carton was a good narrative and interesting look at Brown's life, combining information from sources along with Carton's own interprtations of how Brown may have reacted and spoke in various situations.

General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse by Joseph Glatthaar - I enjoyed this book, which is basically a biography of the Army of Northern Virginia, with an impressive amount of demographic data Glatthaar compiled. It is a very readable book, with a lot of information in it.

The Men Stood Like Iron: How the Iron Brigade Won its Name by Lance J Herdegen did a good job describing the formative years of this famed Union unit, especially battles at Brawner Farm, 2nd Bull Run and South Mountain. I wish it had extended a bit further time-wise, perhaps through Gettysburg, but it was still an enjoyable read.

Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers, another work by Joseph Glatthaar is an excellent book and does a great job of describing the formation of African-American units in the Union Army, including the recruitment of the men and the processes of finding and appointing officers for these units.

Firebrand of Liberty: The Story of Two Black Regiments that Changed the Course of the Civil War by Stephen Ash tells the story of two units of African Americans formed in the Sea Islands off South Carolina. With much of the account taken from the writing of their colonel, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, this book describes their voyage to the mainland and their capture of Jacksonville, Florida, in what Higginson and his superior had hoped would start a war on slavery in the region. It's very well-written and pleasant to read.

Like Men of War: Black Troops in the Civil War 1862-1865 by Noah Andre Trudeau does a fine job of describing the combat experiences of African American soldiers in the Union army in both theaters of the war. It relies on accounts written by many of these soldiers to show how they proved their military worth over and over.

Overall, I am happy with how this blog developed in my first full year of trying this experiment and look forward to another fine year. I have purchased my own domain name, in the hopes that it helps make this blog easier to find, and I hope I can continue to find new and interesting stories, thoughts, and questions to ponder and discuss.

Happy New Year to all!


  1. Richard - First - congrats on a successful year of blogging! I really enjoy following yours and some of your great finds, esp. as pertain to medicine, are definite KEEPERS for me. Second, I can;t tell you how humbled and pleased I am by your words about my book above, and - especially - for including it in your list of "Some favorites" - that is some good company to be in. If I make any changes to my own blog, it will be to includ ethe "Tabs" feature you have for yours. Best wishes for another year! Jim

  2. Thanks for the kind words. Blogging has been quite a fun experience. One of the neatest, yet most frustrating things I've found is the many options blogger provides - it's hard for me to stop tinkering, but I do like the current look.

    Happy New Year to you and your family


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