Interview: Terry Johnston, “Civil War Monitor”

21 09 2011

Terry Johnston and I have never met, but we’ve been corresponding and talking on the phone for at least a couple of years. Terry was instrumental in publishing my first ever Civil War writing to appear in print, a long letter to the editor that ran in an issue of North & South magazine a few years back. Over  a year ago Terry called me about an idea for a new American Civil War publication he was considering. At the time, it was nothing more than a vague notion – at least, it seemed that way to me. But after a few phone calls it started to flesh out. Terry didn’t just pick my brain – he talked to a lot of folks and you may have run across a few announcements to that effect already on the web (see here and here, for example). At long last, everything’s set to hit the fan. I received a copy of the new magazine last week, and it looks great. At left is the cover of the premier issue. But the project is more than a print magazine: Terry has integrated a strong web presence into the whole enterprise. Rather than tell you what I think it’s all about, I thought it better for you to hear from the source. In the interest of full disclosure, I appear on the masthead of the magazine as a digital history advisor, and will also contribute to the magazine’s website periodically.

BR: Terry, while I’m sure most of my readers are familiar with your work, can you tell them a little bit about yourself?

TJ: Well, I’m a native of New Jersey. I received my B.A. from Tufts University and my M.A. (history) from Clemson University. I’m also, at long last, nearing completion of my Ph.D. in history—my dissertation focuses on Irish immigrants who served in the Union army. I’ve written a few articles and one book, Him on the One Side and Me on the Other, an edited collection of the wartime letters of two Scottish-born brothers who fought on opposite sides [see extracts here]. I also spent eight years (between 1999 and 2007) on the editorial staff of North & South magazine, the last two as lead editor.

BR: What got you interested in Civil War history?

TJ: Basically, it was a children’s book on Abraham Lincoln. When I was a kid, my mother, a former high school English teacher, was so determined to get my sister and me to read that she’d excuse us from minor chores whenever we would sit down with a book. On one such occasion, the book I picked up was something called Meet Abraham Lincoln. And I was hooked. So, technically, it is true when I say that I became a Civil War enthusiast to avoid taking out the trash.

BR: So tell us about The Civil War Monitor.

TJ: In a nutshell, it’s a new quarterly magazine, the first issue of which will hit the newsstand toward the end of the month (9/27, to be specific). Our tag line is A New Look at America’s Greatest Conflict, which to us means we intend to provide our readers with well-written and engaging articles that either break new ground or cover well-known topics with a fresh slant. To help accomplish this, we’ve gathered together a terrific team of editorial advisors (with the exception, perhaps, of one fellow with the initials HS) and a battery of top authors, all of whom are well in tune with the latest avenues of Civil War scholarship.

BR: There are at least four other Civil War focused periodicals out there today. What will set CWM apart?

TJ: A number of things, we hope. For one, we’re excited about the magazine’s look. Our art director, Patrick Mitchell (www.plutomedia.com), a veteran designer of several nationally renowned publications, has brought his unique vision to the project. And frankly we’ve been blown away by the results, which I think stylistically might best be described as a perfect blend of old and new. Beyond appearance, we believe our content is of the kind you won’t find in the other Civil War magazines. This is not to say that everything we intend to do isn’t being done, in some fashion, in the other magazines—like footnoting articles, for instance. But in other respects, we will be offering—or delivering—content in ways our competitors do not. Take our book section, for example. We have no intention of publishing the cursory reviews that are regularly found elsewhere (you know, those 200-word appraisals of 600-page books that invariably conclude with some version of the sentence, “These faults aside, this is a book that should find its way onto the shelf of every Civil War buff”). Instead, our book section will consist of a rotating lineup of bookish columns. In our premier issue, these are: Russell McClintock’s take on the essential readings on the coming of the war; Robert K. Krick’s musings on recent battle books; and Steven H. Newton’s reflections on the various books that influenced his interest in, and writing on, the Civil War.

Another way in which we’ll be delivering content is through our website (www.civilwarmonitor.com), something we’re equally excited about. Visitors will find a variety of free material there, including regular photo essays and our two blogs: The Front Line (www.civilwarmonitor.com/front-line), where a diverse lineup of scholars, public historians, and talented buffs will post on a wide array of Civil War subjects; and The Bookshelf (www.civilwarmonitor.com/book-shelf), our blog devoted to author interviews and clear, insightful, and substantive reviews of recently released books (the kind we like). Lastly, we’re also producing a digital edition of the magazine for our subscribers, viewable at our website, so that they’ll be able to read The Civil War Monitor online whenever they’d like.

In short, we truly believe that our coverage—in breadth, depth, and style, both in the magazine and on our website—goes beyond what you can get from the other popular magazines.

BR: Two blogs? Hmmm…not sure how to feel about that! How else can we follow CWM?

TJ: Facebook (www.facebook.com/CivilWarMonitor) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/#!/civilwarmonitor), of course! Our social media guru, Laura Davis, is a grizzled veteran of both, and while I must admit I’ve been learning about it all as I go, I’m starting to see the possibilities they offer for presenting Civil War history to a new generation of enthusiasts.

As far as I’m concerned, we can never have too many outlets for good Civil War writing. From the looks of the first issue, Terry is off to a great start.





New Tag Line

1 09 2011

“Dulce Bellum Inexpertis” has been Bull Runnings’ tag line for four years now – you can find it at the top of the column over to the right. Basically it means “War is delightful to those who have never experienced it.” I explain why I use it in more detail here.

You’ll notice a new quote below it that I just posted today. It is the close to this letter printed in a Charleston paper in August 1861 and attributed to a Chaplain W. L. I. of Hampton’s Legion. The author’s identity is problematic: no one with those initials appears on any roster of the Legion (UPDATE: Reader Dave D points out that “W. L. I. ” probably stands for “Washington Light Infantry.” Doh!). But it’s a good letter nonetheless, and the quote captures the essence of what I’m trying to do here in the Resources section.

“I am sending you these little incidents as I hear them well authenticated. They form, to the friends of the parties, part of the history of the glorious 21st. More anon.”





Back

21 08 2011

I tell ya – I go away for a week and this place goes to hell! Hits counter tells me Bull Runnings has been a ghost town in my absence.

Well, I’m back and hope to get to regular postings very soon. In the mean time, John Hennessy has this very interesting post that brings into some question the Benson-Rice story I wrote about here.

Also see part 3 of Gettysburg Daily’s coverage of the Bull Run sesqui events (links to the first two parts are also provided therein).

And Craig swain has this Bull Run post over at To the Sound of the Guns.

And check out this series of illustrated maps and paintings of Bull Run by commenter Brian Kammerer – remeniscent of the American Heritage Golden Book of the Civil War (hat tip to John Hennessy).





Too Much Information Running Through My Brain…

22 07 2011

…Too much information, driving me insane.

My apologies to The Police. But the past few days, as demonstrated on Bull Runnings’ Twitter account and Facebook page, have seen an overwhelming amount of information on the battle and the anniversary commemoration. I did my best to keep up.

I will attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff and provide links to some of the more interesting items concerning the history of the battle. Keep an eye out for that.





I Get By With a Little Help

21 07 2011

As noted in this post, John Hennessy of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP is going through his personal Bull Run archives and will be posting tidbits on his revamped blog Remembering: Musings on Fredericksburg and Manassas. I received an email from John the other day in which he offered to pass along things as he finds them – by things I mean material for the Bull Run Resources section of this site. Of course I couldn’t say YES fast enough. I haven’t been doing a very good job this past year or so as far as primary source postings go, but I hope to correct that going forward – I have lots and lots of stuff to put up. So later today I’ll start with a civilian account of Bull Run that John sent along with his kind offer.





And Yet Another

20 07 2011

And here’s another piece on a letter to a newspaper from a Bull Run participant, this time from John Ellis of the 71st New York and on Scott Patchan’s blog. I’ll get this one from the 8/20/61 San Francisco Bulletin transcribed ASAP.

I intend to include all the letters and newspaper accounts coming to light now in the resources section of Bull Runnings, but in order to do so I must have as much information as possible. Ellis is a good example of enough information. Full metadata, or as far as I’m concerned an image of the source document, is best. If it’s published, I need to have all the information that would be included in a footnote. Snippets of letters without dates or citation info, which is what many bloggers post, won’t be included here.





Virtual Tour of Cannons at Bull Run

20 07 2011

Craig Swain has this very cool bit giving a virtual tour of the critical gun positions at Bull Run. Check it out!





Letter From the Fire Zouaves

20 07 2011

Here are two accounts from a member of the 11th New York Infantry, Lieutenant Edward Burgin Knox (that’s him on the left in the image on the left, when he was with the 44th NY, Ellsworth’s Avengers). Both are provided by Ron Coddington, the first in a New York Times Opinionator piece, and the second on Ron’s blog, Faces of War. Knox’s writing appeared in the Wisconsin Patriot on August 3, 1861. Ron generously provided the photo here and also has sent me a transcription of Knox’s account, which I’ll post to the Resources section soon.





Thornberry Kids

18 07 2011

John Hennessy has this great post up at Remembering: Musings on Fredericksburg and Manassas, in which he dissects this famous image of Sudley Springs Ford in March, 1862. See other photos from this collection here.

With the anniversary fast approaching, there are lots of blog posts and newspaper articles popping up every day that concern First Bull Run. I don’t announce them all here, but I do try to keep up with them on Facebook and Twitter. Use the links I’ve embedded in their names to follow Bull Runnings there and keep up with the latest Bull Run news.

I’m still getting inquiries regarding whether or not I will be at the ceremonies and events at the battlefield this week. I have no official role there. I may head down that way on Thursday or over the weekend just to check out what’s going on, but I’m not sure just yet. If you go, please be sure to take lots of water and drink it regularly, before you get thirsty. The plains of Manassas is a very hot place indeed in the summer. I mean, really, really hot. If you see me there, please say hello.





More Bull Run Research & Commentary Coming Soon…

12 07 2011

John Hennessy of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP has graciously notified me of his intent to discuss some First Bull Run topics on the newly rechristened blog Remembering: Musings on Fredericksburg and Manassas. Far from detracting from what I do here at Bull Runnings, this is great news for anyone interested in the single most important event in the history of this or any other planet. John has authored important studies of both battles on the Plains of Manassas. I can only imagine what this walk through his files will turn up, and expect really, really good stuff.








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