24 Dec 2010, by

Holiday Wishes

As tonight is Christmas Eve, I thought I would share a few holiday wishes, in no particular order:

To the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission: The wisdom to continue to make the correct decision and to again deny a casino license to LeVan and his crew in Gettysburg.

To the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association: Twenty pieces of silver, the price for selling your collective souls to the devil. Oh, wait. I forgot…you already are getting $250,000 per year from Dave LeVan for selling your souls by supporting the battlefield casino and have entirely abandoned any pretense of being a legitimate battlefield preservation and advocacy organization. Never mind.

To Civil War Sesquicentennial Commissions around the United States: Sufficient funding to do the job correctly and a rebirth of interest in the Civil War triggered by the events of the Sesquicentennial.

To Ed Bearss: Many more years of your amazing stamina and knowledge. You are an inspiration to me, and I cherish every chance I get to share a battlefield with you.

To the burgeoning neo-Confederate, nullification, and secessionist movements in this country: The ability and wisdom to understand that George Santayana was absolutely correct when he wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

To Kevin Levin: Keep fighting the good fight, Kevin.

To the Civil War Preservation Trust: Keep fighting the good fight, my friends. Nobody does it better than you do. It’s my honor and privilege to be associated with your efforts.

To the Brandy Station Foundation and the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation: Keep fighting the good fight.

To all of my fellow authors in the Civil War history community: LOTS of book sales in 2011.

To Ted Savas: Nobody does a better job of publishing and marketing high-quality Civil War books than you do, Ted. May 2011 be filled with many more (including one of mine).

To my friends in the National Park Service: That you continue to do a great job of shepherding, preserving, and interpreting our battlefields in the face of ever-shrinking budgets.

To Mike Peters: More bookshelves.

To me: More bookshelves.

To Susan Wittenberg: The patience to continue to put up with me all of these many years later.

To Michael Aubrecht: A healthy 2011 and seeing your signature on a publishing contract for You Stink!.

For Headless Billy: A new head and a new hand in 2011.

To Drew Wagenhoffer: Lots more of your excellent book reviews in 2011.

To Brooks Simpson: Nothing but success with your already excellent new blog.

To Bomber: A quick and complete recovery and many more years of happy battlefield romping.

To Dan Mallock: A chance to finally write that novel of yours and a job you love.

To Keith and Jill Toney: Health and the opportunity to spend more time in Gettysburg.

To Stan and Beverly O’Donnell: A good job in Gettysburg for Bev.

To Rick Allen and Christina Moon: Many years of happiness together.

To Mike Noirot, Tom Clemens, John Hoptak, Greg Biggs, Dan Mallock, Chris Stowe, Mike Peters, Brad Snyder, and John Benintendi: Lots more fun battlefield stomping together.

To Mark Snell: That 2011 is the year you finally take the plunge….you know what I mean….

To Ted Alexander: Having you get healthy and for you to be around for a lot more years, old friend.

To Mannie and Susan Gentile: Many years of wedded bliss.

To my brother J. D. Petruzzi: Healthy hands and wrists and many more years of productive collaboration.

And to all of you, my readers: I wish for you the knowledge of how much our irregular interactions mean to me, and how much I enjoy meeting you when the opportunity to do so presents itself. And I also wish each and every one of you a joyous Christmas and a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2011.

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This article by historian/analyst D. L. Adams is thought-provoking and worth reading. My antipathy toward Nathan Bedford Forrest is well-known and I need not repeat it here, particularly in light of his racist roots. I’m not 100% certain that I agree with Adams or his conclusions here, but they are worth considering. Since I assume that most of my readers are not familiar with Adams and his writings, much of his commentary has to do with the threat to national security posed by radical Islam, so read this article with that in mind.

See what you think and draw your own conclusions.

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After being one of the founding members of the excellent Civil Warriors blog, my friend Prof. Brooks Simpson has struck out on his own and has begun his own solo blog, which is called Crossroads. It would not be appropriate to welcome Brooks to the blogosphere, as he’s hardly a newbie, but he is a newbie to having his own blog. I’ve added a link and will make Brooks’ blog a regular stop. And thanks very much for the kind words, Brooks. It’s always a pleasure.

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Today marks the fifth anniversary of this blog, and my 1082nd post here. There have only been 82 posts this year, largely because I took several months off from blogging entirely after averaging 250 posts per year for four years, and then because I decided to only post when I had something worthwhile to say instead of posting just for the sake of posting. I hope that you haven’t been disappointed by the relative paucity of posts this year, but I have found it more rewarding to post only when I have something worthy of saying.

I know that I say this every year, but it is true every year, and remains true…..

I started this blog as a little exercise in narcissism. I was surprised to find out how many of you read it regularly, I was surprised by the volume of traffic that it draws, and I remain astounded by how personally rewarding I find the interactions that I have with you, my readers, each and every day. I find the posts from descendants of the forgotten cavalrymen that I profile most rewarding of all, but I value each and every one of you and my interactions with you here. Thank you for enriching my life, and I hope you will continue on this journey with me.

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My friend Mike Block, who is a member of the board of trustees of the Brandy Station Foundation, and who is researching a book on the winter encampment of the Army of the Potomac during the winter of 1863-1864, has launched a new blog called Today at Brandy Station, which follows events that took place at Brandy Station on a day-by-day basis. There’s lots of interest here, so enjoy. I’ve added this blog to the blogroll.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Mike.

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Time for some periodic housekeeping on the blog roll.

Leaving us: Brian Dirck hasn’t had a new post since October 19. As much as I enjoy Brian’s insights, it appears that his blog has once more faded to black (for the second time now). Old friend Duane Siskey hasn’t posted since September 28. Those two blogs will be deleted from the blog roll. If they resume posting at some point, I will add them back into the blog roll.

Joining us: My friend Scott Patchan has launched a blog in support of his studies of Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, and old friend Tom Clemens has launched a blog on the 1862 Maryland Campaign in support of his work on the Ezra Carmen manuscript. Welcome to the blogosphere, guys. I’ve added you both to the blog roll and will be a regular reader.

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As I have announced here, I am branching out a bit into studying the Revolutionary War. So, too, has Michael Aubrecht. In fact, Michael has reconfigured his blog from a Civil War blog to a Revolutionary War blog called Blog or Die: A Historian’s Journey Through the Revolution. It will be interesting to see what Michael does with his reconfigured blog.

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30 Nov 2009, by

Making My Return

I’ve had about nine weeks of time off from the Civil War. I’ve done a few things, most of which were to fulfill commitments, but I’ve done almost nothing Civil War related since declaring my sabbatical in September, other than a fun day of visiting Kentucky battlefields with some friends last month and one of Ted Alexander’s programs in Chambersburg last month. It’s given me a chance to get my trial out of the way, rest, recharge my batteries, and regain my perspective.

My addiction to the Civil War had turned into Frankenstein’s monster. I realized that I had made 1000 posts on this blog–some of which clearly took on a life of their own–in four years. I had also written a couple of dozen articles (I will have one in the next issue of North & South, if it ever comes out, and one in the next issue of Blue & Gray, co-written with J.D. Petruzzi) and sixteen books in 13 years. It’s no wonder that I was tired and burned out. It had become like a second job–a second job that I loved, but which didn’t pay very well at all but was just as demanding as my first–I was beginning to resent it, and I was definitely very stressed out by all of it. I realized that I hadn’t had but a single day of visiting a battlefield just for the fun of it in several years, and I really resented that fact.

I needed to rest and think about all of it, and I have since regained some of my perspective. I have one more book under contract, and then I intend to dial it back. I’m going to remove the self-imposed pressure to produce from myself and do this more as a hobby than as a job. No longer will it be production just for the sake of production. I will definitely continue blogging, but I’m no longer going to feel compelled to find something to post about almost every day as I have in the past.

My object is to have this be fun once more. So, to that end, I appreciate everyone who has been patient with me. Your patience has been rewarded, because I’m back. However, please don’t expect daily posts from me as I did in the past. Now, I will post when I have something worth saying, not because I feel compelled to post something.

Thank you for all of the words of encouragement that I received during my dark days, and thank you for hanging in there with me.

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23 Sep 2009, by


This is the 1000th post on this blog, made on the fourth anniversary of the first post. It hardly seems possible that something I started on a whim continues to be an important part of my life. Posting here has become an important part of my life, and so has the interaction with those of you who come here and read my rantings and leave comments. Were it to end, I would miss it a great deal.

I am grateful to each and every one of you who comes here, and to each and every one of you who indulges my rantings.

At the same time, I have never taken an extended break from posting. I’ve averaged 250 posts per year for four years now, in addition to my professional responsibilities and my research and writing. As I mentioned the other day, I am feeling burned out. I’m constantly tired, I have a very negative perspective, I’m angry, I’m bitter, I’m frustrated, little things that shouldn’t bother me do, and I’m in a dark place right now. It’s really no wonder that I’m tired–I’ve written 16 books in 12 years, plus about two dozen articles, and 1000 blog posts. That’s a LOT of words. And all while practicing law full time.

All of that has caused me to react to situations in an inappropriate way, and has likewise caused me to say things to people who are important to me that are inappropriate and hurtful. I had an inappropriate reaction to something on Monday that caused me to respond in an inappropriate fashion that caused harm to someone who means a lot to me and whose friendship and support has been an underpinning of my work and success for a long time. My inappropriate response needlessly caused this person pain and may well have destroyed a relationship that ultimately means more to me than nearly any other. I have nobody to blame for that but myself, and words fail to describe how much I regret my own stupidity and pigheadedness.

I now realize that I need to take some time, have an unblinking look in the mirror, figure out what’s wrong, do something about it, and also deal with the consequences of my actions Monday. That means that I’m going to take a break from this blog for a while until I can get myself right and regain my mojo.

Fear not. I won’t be gone forever. I will be back, and probably soon. I just need to step back and regain my perspective.

In the meantime, please know that I value each and every one of you and that I will miss the interactions that occur here. Be well, think good thoughts for me, and be patient. I will be back.

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16 Aug 2009, by

Back Home Again

We’re back home after 8 wonderful days in California. As I said before we left, there was no Civil War this trip. Instead, the trip was all about family and relaxing, which I desperately needed.

We flew Southwest. For those of you unfamiliar with Southwest, it’s kind of like the Greyhound of the sky. There is no assigned seating, and there are typically multiple stops on every flight. Our flight on the way home started somewhere else, had its first stop in San Jose, where we got on, went to Burbank, to Las Vegas (where we got off), San Antonio, and then on to Philadelphia, where it ended.

We changed planes in Las Vegas and flew home to Columbus from there. The flight crew that we had from San Jose to Las Vegas also changed planes and ended up on our same flight. Along the way, we had made friends with one of the flight attendants, who lives in York, PA, and whose husband is ex-military and is interested in Civil War history. She asked for a card with the name of Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg written on it.

When we got into Columbus, the flight attendant not only gave us a shout-out for having been with them all day, she gave my historical work a shout-out, too. I was shocked by it, and was also incredibly embarrassed by it. That has to rank in my top five embarrassing incidents. At the same time, it was incredibly flattering, and it was very thoughtful of her to do that.

That was pretty much the full extent of the Civil War stuff for the entire trip, except for my finishing up an article for Dana Shoaf for one of his magazines. It’s nice to be home, and it was really nice to get a break from both life and from my historical work.

Tomorrow, this blog will get back to its regular business. I hope you’ve enjoyed your break from my rantings. I know I did. 🙂

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