21 September 2009 by Published in: Battlefield stomping 12 comments

One of the posters on my Civil War forum boards wrote a post today that indicated his interest in the Civil War is waning, and wondering if there was something wrong with him.

I responded. I made the point that I grow through intensive Civil War burnout regularly.

Keep in mind that in some ways, this is a second job for me. Consequently, I can’t even remember the last time that I just went to Gettysburg to go to Gettysburg and have fun, as opposed to going there for some event, to lead some tour, etc. Honestly, I don’t even remember when that was. I’ve been there twice so far this year, and on both instances, I ended up working–leading tours–nearly ever waking minute I was there. At some point, it ceases to be fun and becomes just another chore. As much as I loved seeing everyone at the CWDG Muster this spring, I worked the whole time I was there. It was neither relaxing nor was it fun in a lot of ways. It was work. And work is tiring.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Last year, I auctioned off a two-day tour of cavalry battlefield sites in Central Virginia as a fundraiser for battlefield preservation, and this June, it was time to deliver the goods. I drove the 6.5 hours to Culpeper on Friday, arriving there about 3 in the afternoon. I checked into the hotel and then spent two hours frantically driving around, taking GPS coordinates for a driving tour for my forthcoming Brandy Station book. I ate dinner alone at the hotel, and then spent a big chunk of the evening drafting a contract for a client. I spent the entire next day (a solid 8 hours) taking a dozen people around Kelly’s Ford and Brandy Station. I went to dinner with a friend that night, and then the next day, drive down to Trevilian Station, led the tour, then drove nearly 500 miles home, arriving about 8:30 PM. The next day, Monday, I had to get up and go to work. Sound relaxing? Hardly. Sound like fun? It was nice to have the camaraderie and to be on the fields, but no, fun is not a word that I would describe the experience. It was absolutely exhausting, I got paid nothing for it, and the expenses were out of my own pocket. And, just for good measure, I brought home a nasty case of poison ivy that took nearly a month to go away completely.

Likewise, in the last three years, I can think of one instance where I went to see a Civil War battlefield just for fun, and that was a one-day trip to Perryville with three friends in August of last year. In May 2008, I got a partial day visit to the Rev War battlefield at Guilford Court House. That’s it since 2006.

I get tired of it. I get frustrated with it. I get very burned out with it. I’m actually in one of those phases right now. I don’t feel like writing and I don’t feel like doing much digging. When I’m doing “pleasure reading”–as opposed to stuff that pertains to either my daytime job or to my research and writing–I almost never read Civil War stuff any more. I just finished an interesting book about the how the Israelis hunted down and captured Eichmann and then brought him back to Israel for trial. I finished that last week, so last night I started a book on the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

What I really need is to take some time and just go visit a battlefield–without leading tours and without researching or doing something pertinent to my work–and simply enjoy it for the sake of enjoying it and for no other reason. That usually recharges my batteries and gets me back into the mode again. However, I’ve already been gone too much this year, I have another event coming up next month–another tour to lead–that will require me to be away from the office again, and I simply don’t have the time to be away right now, as my professional responsibilities will get in the way.

I miss the days when I could just go and enjoy being another visitor to a battlefield with no demands on my time or attention. I fear those days are gone forever, which I can accept. However, I really need to find some time to just go and enjoy being on a battlefield without any demands on my time to get my mojo back.

Scridb filter


  1. Chris Evans
    Mon 21st Sep 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Great post. I don’t usually burnout but I will read on different subjects to keep things fresh so I am not just Civil War all the time. I will read novels or especially about other periods of military history that interest me. When I am not reading ACW I especially like reading about the American Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, and World War II. I have also been interested in reading about the different American presidents through the years and all kinds of different political history.

    Reading on different subjects helps me expand my knowledge and put the Civil War in a context of American and World history.

    It would be nice if you were able to go to a battlefield without having stuff hanging over your head and you could enjoy it more.


    PS: Great choice for the Franco Prussian War by Howard. I also have enjoyed Wawro’s book on the subject and Alistair Horne’s wonderful book on the Fall of Paris and the rise of the Commune.

  2. Phil LeDuc
    Mon 21st Sep 2009 at 9:27 pm


    I’m just writing to second Chris’s comments on Howard’s book – a first-rate book by one of the best and most influential military historians. Nice choice of reading. The Wawro volume is also excellent, and was recommended by Bob Krick at an event I attended.

  3. R A McDonald
    Mon 21st Sep 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Hi Eric,
    I for one really appreciate all you have done to better inform people such as me on Civil War topics. I enjoy attending your tour and presentations, in fact I am coming down to the event next month just to attend your tour. I would just like to say “thank you Eric’. I know this will little to help your-burn out, but know your work is appreciated.
    Take some time for yourself.. life is too short.

  4. dan
    Tue 22nd Sep 2009 at 12:34 am

    I never “burn out” on CW material.
    All my heroes are CW folks.
    I apply their example to my life every day.
    These folks in blue and gray inspire me.
    Marse Robert said that “history gives us hope”.
    I believe this.
    That is why I study Civil War history. I want to live up to the example of the heroes of blue and gray.
    My Civil War heroes are my models.
    I want them to be proud.

  5. Mike Peters
    Tue 22nd Sep 2009 at 10:53 am

    “Likewise, in the last three years, I can think of one instance where I went to see a Civil War battlefield just for fun, and that was a one-day trip to Perryville with three friends in August of last year.”


    How about another “fun” trip? Maybe to another battlefield? Let me know. I’ll work on setting it up.

    However, I don’t think I can get the llama to come along. 🙂 He only does Perryville.

    Thanks for all you do for the CW community.

    Mike Peters

  6. Ken Noe
    Tue 22nd Sep 2009 at 1:12 pm

    Eric and Mike: Go back to Perryville early in November. Then you can have the llamas and the sheepdog trials too. I’ll warn you though, the shepherdess doesn’t take kindly to tourists when the dogs are running. Trust me.

    I told my wife just the other day how much I miss the wonder of reading Catton for the first time, or my first serious battlefield forays. Having finished a big project, I spent the rest of the summer reading fiction, watching baseball, and turning down appearances in 2010. The break must be working, as I read the new Lincoln-themed Journal of American History yesterday and actually enjoyed it. — Ken

  7. Tue 22nd Sep 2009 at 3:30 pm


    I’d love to, but finding a time is going to be a challenge. The next month is shaking out as being VERY busy…..


  8. Rick Allen
    Tue 22nd Sep 2009 at 9:07 pm

    You can still do all that relaxing stuff Eric. (You know when) in November, and if you show, the first few pints are on me. Just take a walk……..nothing you have to do at all……..nice time of year……..maybe the rustle of leaves will do your mind good when you dont have to talk about anything……just walk a bit. You know you have the biggest invite of all………..I hope you can make it.

  9. Randy Sauls
    Tue 22nd Sep 2009 at 10:48 pm

    I’ve never really experienced burn out, but I did go through a period where girls, guitars, college and law school took center stage. For the past few years though I’m back full bore; leading tours, researching, writing, speaking and working on battlefield development and preservation. Lately my CW experience has been nearly totally consuming, and I just enjoy it so very much. Making up for those high school/college/law school days I guess! My advice: take a trip to a battlefield, perhaps a new one for you, and preferably in the off season. Don’t lead or even go on a tour. Don’t think in terms of books or writing. Don’t even get too involved with tactics or strategy. Take a deep breath and just enjoy yourself. Just reconnect with whatever it was that led you into this world of interest in the first place. Happy stomping!


  10. Wed 23rd Sep 2009 at 9:38 am

    Sit back, relax, watch some sports and put the damn keyboard down.

  11. Mike Peters
    Wed 23rd Sep 2009 at 5:43 pm


    Just let me know when your schedule allows. You know I’m game. Maybe Ken can join us? We can talk baseball, drink some cold beverages & just relax.


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