The Blog Lebowski

16 11 2008

I’ve been thinking about some recent discussions bouncing around on several blogs regarding the form “information compilation” blogs should take.  Whenever we start speaking in terms of should instead of could I get a little nervous.  Now, I believe that certain basic tenets need to be followed when dealing with history, including digital history - proper citation and attribution especially.  But when I hear some suggest that there necessarily be interpretation and analysis, I have to wonder.  Of course, narrative form history requires an interpretive framework that is the product of the author’s analysis (see here).  But do we want to constrain ourselves with the narrative format when we don’t have to?

im-a-lebowskiIn a comment I made to this post, I mentioned that I think of the digital history portion of this blog, the Bull Run Resources, as being like the Buddha: not the moon, but the finger pointing at the moon.  Now, I didn’t come up with that on my own – I don’t know much about philosophy (about all I learned from the one philosophy course I took in college was the very valuable lesson that it’s less important to provide a correct answer than it is to provide the answer the instructor wants).  No, I got the Buddha thing from none other than The Dude, or His Dudeness, or The Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.  That is, the actor who made The Dude famous, Jeff Bridges.  In the foreword to the book I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski: Life,The Big Lebowski, and What-Have-You, the actor wrote [emphasis and brackets mine]:

“I often take these little walks in the evening at sunset and listen to different things.  Recently I played some Alan Watts [a British philosopher], and it reminded me of my conversation with Bernie [Glassman, founder of Zen Peacemakers] and how Zen relates to Lebowski.  Watts says, ‘The whole art of poetry is to say what can’t be said.’  I suppose that’s true for any art, including filmmaking.  He goes on to say that ‘Every poet, every artist feels when he gets to the end of his work, that there is something absolutely essential that was left out, so Zen has always described itself as a finger pointing at the moon.’  The Big Lebowski is a lot like that.

“The guys who wrote this book say the Coens [the writers, director and producer of The Big Lebowski] have kept clear of them entirely, and that tickles me.  Like all of you reading this, I’d be interested to know what the Coen brothers think, but it’s kind of beautiful that they don’t want to say anything definitive.  Let ‘em be the pointing finger.”

So that’s kind of how I view Bull Runnings.  I’ll give my opinion and analysis on the blog part of this site.  But for now let the Bull Run Resources section serve as a pointing finger.  Depending on who explores the data, why, how, and in what order, the story will be different.  To me, that’s what really distinguishes digital history from traditional narrative.  And perhaps what makes it more like real life.

More on poetry and digital history later.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine





Old Bull Run Report of Fourteenth Found

15 11 2008

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 17, 1901, Page 6 (see here)

Old Bull Run Report of Fourteenth Found.

———————

Turned Over to War Veterans’ Association After Nearly Forty Years.

———————

Written By Colonel Fowler

Describes Part the Regiment Took in the First Great Battle of the Civil War.

———————

Colonel Fowler’s report to Colonel Porter of the part taken by the Fourteenth Regiment in the first battle of Bull Run, which has been lost for nearly forty years, has been found and turned over to the Wasr Veterans’ Association.  Several weeks ago it was learned that this report and a number of other papers were in a packet which had been picked up near Arlington, Va., in 1861, and could be had for the asking.  The finder, it was said, had put them away with other souvenirs of the war and only lately had learned that the survivors of the Red Legged Devils would like to have them.

The writing is as clear and distinct as though done yesterday.  Colonel Wood was wounded and captured in the battle and Lieutenant Colonel Fowler took command.  Colonel Porter was the regular Army officer in command of the brigade to which the Fourteenth was assigned.  The report reads as follows:

Report Text

The other papers were a consolidated report of the morning of July 19, ahile the regiment was on its way to the battlefield, and showing that its strength was 843 officers and men; an order from General McClellan, dated August 4, and assigning the Fourteenth, with the Twenty-second and Thirtieth New York Volunteers, to Colonel Keyes’ brigade; an order from McClellan constituting Keyes’ and Wadsworth’s brigades a division to be commanded by Brigadier General Irwin McDowell, United States Army; an order from McDowell assigning the four regiments Keyes’, which was known as the Iron Brigade, to positions.  The Fourteenth and Twenty-second were left where they were.

The other two were ordered to take position on the line with the Twenty-second.  The morning report referred to above is signed by Colonel Wood and L. L. Laidlaw, a lieutenant in G. who was acting adjutant.  In the battle of Bull Run Wadsworth was an aid on McDowell’s staff, ranking as a major.  After Woods’ injury he stuck by the Fourteenth and was breveted a colonel on the field.  He was soon made a general and he always, so the vets say, took great interest in the Fourteenth.





Fowler’s Report

14 11 2008

The after action report of E. B. Fowler of the 14th Brooklyn was printed in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on March 17th, 1901.  I was alerted to this by reader Linda Mott in a comment to this post.  For now, you can find the article here, but I will be posting the text separately since it’s an interesting story.





#33a – Lieut. Col. E. B. Fowler

14 11 2008

Report of Lieut. Col. E. B. Fowler

Brooklyn Eagle, March 17, 1901, p. 6

Arlington Heights

July 23, 1861

In accordance with regulations I submit the following of the action of the regiment in the late battle before Manassas, July 21, 1861.  We entered the field through the opening made for railroad and advanced on the field in line of battle to the road leading through the enemy’s lines, up which road we advanced by the right flank, and halted with our right resting near a brick house to the corner of a road leading to our left.  The enemy then placed a battery at the top of the hill commanding the road and poured upon us a terrible fire of shot and shell.  We then, by order of Colonel Porter, advanced up the road leading to our left.

When we arrived opposite the woods on the right of the road we received a severe and continued fore of musketry from a force in ambush in the woods, whom we could not see.  Our men returned partially the fire and retired behind the fence and reformed.  A mounted officer from Griffin’s battery then appealed to us to protect that battery, saying that if we did not give them our aid the battery would be lost.  We then formed in rear of the battery and it was withdrawn.  We then being under a heavy fire from the enemy and our men being exhausted, retired from the field for about ten minutes.  We then advanced in line and flanked the road leading into the enemy’s lines.  We then, by order of Colonel Porter, took position in front and below Griffin’s battery.  After remaining here some time under fire from the enemy’s battery, we then, by order of General McDowell, advanced in line up the hill on the right of the road leading through the enemy’s lines and met the Zouaves retreating in disorder.  We continued our advance within forty yards of the enemy’s infantry, who were then advancing up the ravine in column of division.  the fire of the battalion was directed on their leading division with terrible effect, the entire division being cut down.  They then deployed and delivered their fire on us, which, together with a cross fire from the bushes and the shot and shell from their battery, were so severe that we were compelled to retire.  We reformed near the road and advanced again to the top of the hill and were again compelled to retire, firing as we retreated.  On crossing the road a battery opened on us from the right, compelling us (with the example of others retreating) to retire from the field in disorder, the greater portion of the Army then being in rout.  About 300 men formed on the road, but in the panic again became separated and came straggling into camp.

I regret to say that in the last charge Colonel Wood was severely wounded.  He was carried several miles by the men and afterward placed in an ambulance.  The last account we had of him was in the ambulance near the Bull’s Run bridge when the retreating column was fired into.  Major Jourdan deserves especial praise for the bravery he displayed on the occasion and the officers and men generally displayed great courage and enthusiasm.  Our loss appears to be very severe, but will be probably by stragglers coming in.

Respectfully submitted,

Lieutenant Colonel E. B. Fowler

Commanding Fourteenth Regiment, N. Y. S. M.

Colonel Porter

Commanding First Brigade, Second Division, Army of Virginia





Hang in There!

12 11 2008

hang-in-there1I’ve been experiencing a spike in readership in November but work has me a little behind in my blog postings (and book reviews, and manuscript reviews). I’ll be back to writing in a day or two.  I’ve got a few draft posts written, so it’s not a question of the dreaded block.  Keep checking back!





Wiki!

9 11 2008

shebang

In case you’re missing it, there’s some very interesting discussion going on between some Civil War bloggers who are looking at the medium and its role in digital history in general and “information compilation” in particular.  The conversation has become a little unwieldy.  As a recap, you can find it spread over the following posts (listed oldest to newest on each blog):

Battlefield Wanderings

Bull Runnings:

Cenantua’s Blog

Crossed Sabers

Draw the Sword and Throw Away the Scabbard

To the Sound of the Guns

And now, Brian Downey of Antietam on the Web and Behind Antietam on the Web has helped us all out by setting up a Wiki for the whole shebang:

ACWDev Collaboration Wiki

Hey Brian: maybe one of the first things we should do is move all the comments from the above posts, and perhaps the posts themselves, to the Wiki?

This has been one of the most rewarding exchanges I’ve had with fellow bloggers.  It’s forced me to rethink some things (though I have to admit I’m irked that you guys who convinced me to use tags are now convincing me that I don’t need them!).  I think good things will come of it.





Davies Court of Inquiry

6 11 2008

red-tape

I mentioned here the request of Col. Thomas Davies for a court of inquiry regarding McDowell’s report and the description of Davies’s brigade therein.  I contacted my friend David at NARA and asked if he could find any info.  Today I received this from David:

One of our reference archivists checked the Court-Martial Name Index that covers RG 153, Entry 15, Court-Martial Case Files, which includes military commissions and courts of inquiry. He was unable to identify a file for Colonel Thomas Davies.

So it looks like Davies’s request for a court of inquiry was a dead end (unless it’s in some unlabled or mis-filed, red-taped stack of papers somewhere).





Sausage Making

5 11 2008

sausage-makingRecently I was asked by a publisher to contribute to one of his projects by reviewing the manuscript of a book to be published in 2009.  I consider it an honor to be asked, and I’m finding the experience fascinating.  While I’ve reviewed friends’ manuscripts before, as the publisher describes it, I am now learning “how sausage is made”, the book publishing process from the inside.  The manuscript pages are sent to me as Word documents and I’m supposed to “mark them up”.  Nowadays that means using a word processing feature that allows the reader to quickly identify the changes.  But I’m old fashioned: I actually print out the pages and use something called a “red pen” to make corrections or suggestions or ask questions.  My intention is to compose another Word document with my suggested changes in a clear narrative.  I feel uncomfortable actually changing someone else’s text, as I think it imposes my voice over the author’s and I don’t want to do that.  One of the challenges is to make my suggestions in such a way that the author won’t feel defensive about his work.  Not because I’m worried about offending him, but because I want him to take my suggestions!  In the meantime, the author, publisher and I have been exchanging emails and clearing some things up as we go.  Unfortunately, I’ve been busy with work and teaching and my son’s flag football, so while I’ve finished my initial pass on the part of the manuscript I’ve been sent, I haven’t had time to organize my thoughts on paper.

This is fun!





New Blog Category

4 11 2008

If you’ve been following the conversation here, you already know that Robert and I have added a new blog category to our sites, Civil War “Information Compilation” Blogs.  This is to identify those Civil War websites that, like Bull Runnings, use blog platforms to also serve as a repository for data.  Not all the same types of data, not all in the same ways.  For instance, you’ll find my stuff listed under Bull Run Resources over to the right and in the header, with pages set up for indexing.  It’s not perfect, but so far it works.  Some of the blogs I’ve listed in this category don’t organize by pages (though I think they should, of course!).  I’m hoping – and I think Robert’s hoping too – that this may help bring other similar blogs out in the open, and more importantly help us like minded folks to make our projects more user friendly and organized, and to more fully realize potentials.  If you have a similar blog and think you should be listed, or if you know of anyone you think should be listed, let me know.





Two Years Blogging

2 11 2008

I made my first post on Bull Runnings on November 2, 2006.  It’s been a fun two years, and I’m hoping for a few more (at least), the Good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise.  By way of a recap on the digital history part of this site, I’ve posted all of the Official Reports (After Action Reports) for Bull Run proper, at least all of those included in the Official Records; citations for all Bull Run MOH awardees; Orders of Battle for both armies; a few biographical sketches; links to beau coup digital books; one previously unpublished contemporary letter from a prominent participant; transcripts of one witness’ testimony before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War; and three photo galleries.  Lots of miles to go yet.

Bull Runnings has been featured in one print magazine, and I was interviewed for an Internet Civil War radio program.  One series of posts was included in the 14th Military History Carnival.

Bull Runnings remains ad free.

Blog stats.  I’ve written 463 posts in 36 different categories, and received 940 comments (a useless stat since it includes links between articles).  I’ve also received (and blocked thanks to Akismet) 10,798 spam comments. At the suggestions of Craig and Robert, I’ve started using something called “Tags”.  I don’t understand the difference between tags and categories, but I’ve created 25 of the former in the past couple of days.  I haven’t decided yet if I’ll go back and tag every old post, but may do so as I revisit them for whatever reason.

As of right now, my pages have been viewed 72,551 times.  For the 2 months I was up in 2006, I averaged 63 pageviews per day; 73/day for all of 2007; and 137/day so far in 2008.  Right around 90 different computers visit Bull Runnings each day.

Not very impressive numbers, I realize.  But I’m OK with it if you are.  I know of a few sure-fire ways to increase traffic, but writing about such things would violate the few very simple rules I established when I first set out, and I’m not willing to make that sacrifice.

Thanks to each and every one of you who read my stuff – even you who come here via Google searches for striated glutes.  Thanks to you who have provided great information that has helped make the Bull Run Resources on this site a meaningful tool.  Thanks to all my fellow bloggers who have been so helpful over these past two years.  And last, thanks to my wife and son who have had to ask distracted dad the same questions or give him the same instructions repeatedly while he taps away on this keyboard.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 773 other followers