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Blogging

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

Milestones

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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A reader left me a comment today, and I figured I would answer his question. Reader Robert Alton left this comment:

Mr. Wittenberg, you have a very nice blog site. I like the template & graphics layout you are using. Very well done. I am interested in starting my own and was wondering if you could give me a synopsis/101 on how you got started, cost, etc… VR/Robert

First, thank you for the kind words, Robert. I just changed the template last week. I do so periodically when I get bored with the existing one, and after about a year, it was time for a change.

Now, to the substance of your question.

The answer is that it’s possible to blog without paying a dime. Now, I have my own domain for this blog, so I pay for web hosting for it, at the tune of $9.95 per month because of the volume of traffic that this site receives. I also pay about $10 per year for the domain registration. Those are the costs. The Word Press blogging software that I use is free. It’s also relatively user friendly, although I still have not figured out how to insert images. My wife usually does it for me.

I also maintain a Philadelphia sports blog on Blog Spot. Blog Spot is completely free, so it costs you nothing to maintain a blog there. It’s also very easy to use–even I know how to insert images there. There are also a couple of other similar options out there, and I suggest that you check them out and see which one you like. Pick a name for you blog, and off you go.

On Word Press, you can categorize your posts. I chose categories that seemed most logical to the topc that I blog about, but I have added new ones from time to time over the years. I have yet to figure out how to do the same thing on the Blogger software, and frankly, that’s the thing that I like the least about the Blogger platform.

The challenge, quite candidly, is in (a) finding the self-discipline and time to make regular posts, and (b) finding things to post about. Fortunately, there is enough going on in my world that I rarely find myself without something interesting to write about. Tons of people start blogging and do well for a while, but quickly run out of gas. This blog has been around since September 2005, and I am closing in on 1000 posts. It you had asked me whether I would still be doing this nearly four years and nearly 1000 posts later, I would have told you that you were insane, but blogging–and maintaining the realtionships with my readers–has become an important part of my daily routine. Those relationships–many of them purely virtual–mean a great deal to me.

All I can say is that if you think you will enjoy blogging, then by all means, dip your toe in the water and see if you like it. If you don’t, then nothing ventured, nothing gained. If you do like it, hopefully, you will take the pleasure from it that I take.

Good luck, and happy blogging.

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I hereby nominate this new blog for the 2009 Most Irritating Civil War Blogger Award. This guy insists on wasting other people’s bandwidth to announce his every blog post, and then he does so by referring to himself in the third person. Here’s a prime example of what I’m talking about here. Now, I’m all for shameless self-promotion, and I’ve certainly done more than my fair share of it. However, I have never once referred to myself in the third person in doing so.

The blog’s content is okay but pretty pedestrian. Although there’s nothing outstanding there, but he nevertheless feels compelled to tell the world whenever he posts, as if it’s announcing the publication of a new book. I can’t even begin to describe how annoying that is. Consequently, I have made a policy decision that including him in my blogroll would only encourage the behavior. Therefore, as long as he persists in such boorish behavior, I will never, ever include him in this blog’s blogroll.

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