The Power of the Blogosphere

Hosting the Grand Army Blog has been incredibly exciting for me thus far.  For quite some time, I  contemplated the launch of a blog, but only after some recent prodding from Kevin Levin did I decide to give it a try.   What ultimately convinced me was Kevin waxing eloquently about the role that blogging played in shaping his questions and testing the conclusions that he was reaching in his own scholarship.  Indeed, Kevin’s forthcoming book on the battle of the Crater and historical memory, which I eagerly await, may be the first academic monograph “written” on a blog.

After scarcely two weeks on the blog rolls, I now understand the power of this medium to inform scholarly work and historical research.  And I sincerely hope that other academic historians, who routinely lament the increasingly limited appeal of their work, will consider joining me in this enterprise. Ten posts have already generated nearly three-dozen comments from fellow students of Civil War history, including several source leads.  I have started a dialogue about the tension between veterans and civilians with a Ph.D. student in Pittsburgh that I likely would not have had otherwise.  And my work has reached readers as far away as Australia and the Philippines.

But the most meaningful exchange that I have had thus far is with Greg Taylor, a gentleman from California whose great-great grandfather saw action at the Crater, spent time in a rebel prison, wandered west after the war, became an alcoholic, and died in the San Francisco City Jail.

Greg has very generously shared with me several letters that his great-great grandfather wrote from San Francisco.  I not only plan on using these incredible sources in my dissertation, but I will be providing them here on the blog in the coming days.  I hope to contextualize the heartrending story of Greg’s ancestor and to share it with the wide audience that it deserves.  If I achieve nothing else here, I will have succeeded.

Thanks for following.

5 thoughts on “The Power of the Blogosphere

  1. Thanks for creating this blog. Your point about the ways blogging can shape your own questions in your research is one I wish more academics understood.

    Your early efforts show that you can engage with a popular audience while maintaining your scholarly standards. Please keep it up.

  2. Greg Taylor says:

    Brian, I share your enthusiasm for the power of the blogosphere. It has given me the opportunity to share the letters of my ancestor with literally billions of human beings and hopefully shed some light on the story of this Welsh immigrant who gave so much for his adopted country. I have many unanswered questions that lie between the lines of his letters. With the exposure of this blog and your interest in this story perhaps some answers will be forthcoming. It is an exciting prospect that would not present itself were it not for the blogosphere.

  3. edabney says:

    Thanks Brian for your work so far and obviously since I’m always giving tours at the Crater battlefield, I look forward to Mr. Taylor’s ancestors letters being shared through this medium.

    • Greg Taylor says:

      Please note that I currently have over 40 letters written by my g-g grandfather during his active service with the 2nd. Pennsylvania Heavy and Provisional Heavy Artillery. They are available to read on my website. These letters were written between August 1862 and July 20, 1864, just ten days prior to his capture at the Crater. In 2007 I visited the Crater and stood on the very ground where my ancestor’s regiment entered it. My research indicates that the 2nd. PA HA Provisional was the first regiment to enter the Crater following the mine explosion. Needless to say standing there was an extremely emotional moment for me.

      The letters can be read by following the link to my name at the top of this post.

      • edabney says:

        Thank you!

        Your ancestor in letters I’ve read so far displays wit and charm that makes me smile even though he is writing about bombardments and sharpshooters.

        Unfortunately it sounds as though his PoW experience drastically changed that which is (as Brian notes here) an often forgotten about aspect of the Civil War (and wars generally).

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