Four Years Blogging

2 11 2010

Bull Running’s first post was made this day in 2006.  Titled Patience, it asked everyone for a little time to get things up and running, explaining that the project was a work in progress.  That still applies, by the way.

I won’t belabor my stats.  They are up considerably from the prior 12 month period.  A lot of that increase was due to a strange occurrence regarding my son’s essay An 11-Year-Old on Abraham Lincoln.  The photo that accompanied that post was for two months the number one Google image search result for Abraham Lincoln!  Therefore I had about a 150% increase in viewership over that period, and my son’s post is now the number one most viewed page all time on this site.  Exclusive of that, it looks like I’m up about 10%.

This blog has been a really wonderful thing for me.  In addition to the outlet it provides, I believe my professional writing opportunities are a direct result of Bull Runnings; my four speaking engagements coming up in 2011 wouldn’t have happened without it; I’ve had the opportunity to virtually meet some fine folks via the comments feature, emails, and the general Civil War blogging “community”; I continue to learn more about First Bull Run in particular and the Civil War in general; and I think my writing is getting more better gooder.

So thanks for stopping by to see what I have to say.  With any luck next year will see me get back on track posting to the resources section of the site.  I hope you’ll stick with me for year #5!





Thinking About a New Theme

11 08 2010

No, not a theme on why I deserve an Official Red Ryder 200 Shot Carbine Action Range Model Air Rifle with a Compass in the Stock and this Thing which Tells Time for Christmas (and for which Miss Shields would certainly have awarded me an A++++).  I’m talking about a new theme for this blog – that is, the template that makes this page appear as it does.  Unlike most blogs of similar vintage, in nearly four years I’ve only had two themes for Bull Runnings.  But at the suggestions of WordPress.com and fellow blogger Craig Swain, I’m considering a switch.  The Coraline theme offers some pretty cool options,  In fact, it looks a lot like my current theme (Freshy), but it’s more flexible with regards to colors and widgets (those little items that appear in the right hand column of this page) and other blogger-geek things.  If any of you have seen this theme in use or used it yourself, I’d love to hear from you.  And while we’re at it, if you have any recommendations for this blog regarding appearance or navigation, let me hear them.





Space Age Blog Post

5 07 2010

I received a notification from WordPress the other day about a new feature:

It’s happened to all of us. The night starts off innocently enough with a little gin and tonic, maybe a mojito, then next thing you know you’re doing tequila shots with the bartender and the girl from Brazil and you find yourself thinking it would be a treMENdous idea to call up your ex and see how they’re doing and perhaps impress them with your newfound wit.

We’ve got the cure. Now, instead of drunk dialing random friends, lovers, and acquaintances one at a time, what if you could dial your blog and talk to the whole world at once? It’d be like something out of Star Trek.

The future is now, folks. You can now go to your My Blogs tab, enable Post by Voice, and get a special number and code to call your blog. After you’re done, the audio file from your phone call will be posted to your blog for all to listen to and enjoy. (And added to your RSS feed for podcast support.)

I’m trying to figure out the implications for Bull Runnings.  Any thoughts?

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A Big Pile of…Papers

2 09 2009

As described here, about a month ago my friend Dave Powell forwarded to me a big binder full of Bull Run material that was part of a purchase he made from Brent Nosworthy, author of Roll Call to Destiny.  Brent was looking to downsize his files, passed the word along to a discussion group to which we both belong, and Dave decided to take a little risk and make the buy.  Beforehand, he and I worked it out that I would purchase the Bull Run material from Dave, and that’s what we did.  So for the past month or more, this binder that is literally overflowing with stuff has been sitting in my family room.  It’s not organized in any way that makes sense to me, though it probably makes plenty of sense to Mr. Nosworthy.  I’ve been afraid to attempt to organize it, overwhelmed a bit by the volume.  I just now poked my head in the binder: there are photocopies of unpublished, handwritten letters, published memoirs and regimental histories, at least one dissertation, and dozens of newspaper articles.  There’s a long collection of typewritten letters from what appears to be members of Hampton’s Legion, but it starts in the middle of a paragraph and I’m not sure from where it originates.  The long and short of it is that this is a big job, but once I get it done I’ll have lots of stuff to put in the resources section.  Just be patient – work has picked up, which is a good thing for my bank and bills, but not so good for time to spend on Bull Runnings.





Reader Contributions

27 08 2009

Thanks to Jim Schmidt for transcribing this letter from Surgeon Frank Hamilton of the 31st NY and published in the American Medical Times in 1861.  And thanks to him for allowing me to post it to the resources here in its entirety.  As a rule I don’t regurgitate here  items that appear on other sites (specifically original content articles), but this qualifies as a resource and I don’t like to rely on another site being around in a month let alone 20 years, so I like to get the material on-site.  Jim intends to cull his and on-line collections of medical journals for more First Bull Run material and transcribe it when time permits, which can only be good for Bull Runnings.





Burnham’s Report

23 08 2009

You won’t find Colonel George S. Burnham’s name listed as commander of the 1st Connecticut Volunteers on most First Bull Run orders of battle: not R. M. Johnston’s, not John Hennessy’s, not Ed Bearss’, not Joanna McDonald’s, not even online OOBs like the NPS and Wikipedia.  I suspect the reasons behind these works listing Lt. Col. John Speidel at the head of the regiment that day are the result of two factors: the lack of an official report for the regiment; and the failure of Col. E. M. Keyes to name Burnham in his report, which recognizes the other regimental commanders in Keyes’s brigade and mentions Speidel, though not as commanding the 1st CT.  But Burnham wrote this history of the regiment’s brief existence for the Connecticut Adjutant General, and NPS Ranger Jim Burgess pointed me to a couple of contemporary newspaper articles which state that Burnham was on the field with the regiment during the battle:

It is a fact that our Connecticut troops stormed a battery before which the regulars had previously been repulsed.  The Third Regiment suffered most severely.  The enemy fought chiefly from behind masked batteries, and when one was taken they had another concealed which commanded it.  Three, however, were taken by great bravery in succession.  Col. Burnham, of the Connecticut First, distinguished himself for his coolness and courage. – “Return Home of the First Regiment”, Hartford, The Daily Courant, July 27, 1861

We kept on fighting, Gen. Tyler assuring us we had won the day.  He acted Bravely; so did Col. Keyes and Col. Spiedel; Col. Burnham stood by his regiment.- “Capt. Fitzgibbon’s Statement”, Hartford, The Daily Courant, July 29, 1861

This was enough for me to show Burnham as in command of the regiment on my order of battle for McDowell’s army.  A few weeks ago, I happened upon a website maintained by paleontologist William Parker, which I described in this post.  An exchange of emails with Mr. Parker, a descendant of a member of the 1st CT, informed me of the existence of an after action report written within days of the battle by Col. Burnham.  The report, Mr. Parker informed me, resides at the Connecticut State Library in Hartford.  It just so happens that, at the time I learned this, Facebook friend and Bull Runnings reader Dr. Lesley Gordon was in Hartford at the State Library doing research on her upcoming book on the 16th CT.  While I didn’t get in touch with her in time for her to copy the document, Dr. Gordon did put me in contact with Mel Smith, a librarian with the History and Genealogy Unit at the Library.  About two weeks later, at a cost of $5.22, I received a photocopy of the handwritten Official Report of Colonel George S. Burnham of the Battle of Bull Run, dated July 24, 1861, which I transcribed and posted here.  I inserted a few words or interpreted words of questionable legibility in brackets, and made a few paragraph breaks, but otherwise the report was transcribed as written.

I think in the absence of any positive evidence to the contrary, we have to accept that Col. George S. Burnham was indeed in command of the 1st CT Volunteers on July 21, 1861.  Thanks to Jim Burgess, William Parker, Lesley Gordon and Mel Smith for all your help.

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Biographical Sketches

28 07 2009

I think I need to go back and change some things.  My resources section is supposed to be free of interpretation, but some of my biographical sketches include little lead-ins to the meat and potatoes part.  This has been nagging at the far reaches of my noggin for awhile.  It has nothing to do with the poor, one star rating someone recently gave to my sketch of William T. Sherman, by the way.  So I’ll be going back and removing these background pieces, but I’ll re-post those parts as separate articles.





Time Line

31 05 2009

I’ve added a Time Line of the campaign in the Bull Run Resources section.  I wanted to do this for awhile, but wasn’t sure how to go about it.  I want the Resources section to be free of modern interpretation, so I was a little leery of putting up something that was a reflection of modern opinion.  But Ted Ballard’s Chronology from his U. S. Army Center of Military History Staff Ride Guide for the Battle of First Bull Run seems to be pretty neutral.  As a government publication, I think it’s OK to reproduce it here under fair use (thanks to Craig Swain for the legal opinion).





Branding Bull Runnings

14 05 2009

OK, I admit it: I have an MBA.  I got it 20 years ago from the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh.  And while I did pretty well academically – I even earned membership in a national honors fraternity called Bata Gamma Sigma – I can’t say that my degree actually did me any good in my conventional career in business (which ended ingloriously about 17 years ago when I got into appraising).  But I did put my marketing concentration to use when I set out with this blog.  I had a definite, if general, idea of what I did and did not want Bull Runnings to be.  And I’ve pretty much stayed within the parameters I set at the beginning.

One of the things I wanted to do was stay on-topic, and I think I’ve done that.  Not that every single post here has been about Bull Run, but I think they’ve been related to my project (if sometimes tenuously).  They include topics on digital history, how other blogs handle things, doings of the National Park Service, stories about participants, my Civil War related travels, the art of history in general, etc…  In particular, I didn’t want modern politics discussed here.  Not that I’m unconcerned with certain situations in our world: I just don’t want this blog to become a forum for bitching or pontificating, at least not about modern politics.  Sticking to this guideline has been my most satisfying decision.   In one respect this has evolved as my outside writing projects have become greater in scope.  I even decided to stay away from certain Civil War topics (like Black Confederates, causes of the war and the legality of secession) unless they relate to First Bull Run and its participants, but sometimes I come across Civil War themed stories, like the Kilpatrick Family Ties thread, that I just can’t resist.

I once wrote in reponse to a comment thread that was developing here that I want Bull Runnings to be more like Switzerland and less like Belgium and France.  That doesn’t mean that I ban heated discussions and disagreements; it just means that I don’t want commenters to bring baggage and personal history here.  Familiarity breeds contempt, and that’s very apparent in online discussion forums.  I get my share of kooks commenting here – hopefully, because of the rules I’ve set for myself and the blog, I get less than my share.  You don’t see their comments, because I delete them.  No fanfare, no explanation.

When I first set out, I didn’t anticipate the Resources section of the blog.  That was supposed to be a separate, database website.  But I’m pleased with how it’s worked out, and how easily the paging features of WordPress have accommodated the project.

In no way is this a criticism of bloggers who don’t have similar guidelines.  A blog can and should be whatever the blogger desires it to be.  My only advice to new bloggers is to have a good idea of what that is.

All of this is done with a reason.  I want returning readers to have a general idea of what to expect when they click in to Bull Runnings.  I hope I’m succeeding, but your input is always welcome.  And as always, thanks for stopping by.





Southern Historical Society Papers

7 04 2009

I’ve set up this page as an index for Bull Run related articles in the Southern Historical Society Papers.  As I post the articles here I’ll link them to the index, as well as to the OOBs.

I don’t have hard copies of the SHSP, so I won’t be able to check the articles that I pull from disc for accuracy (typos, etc…).  So if you see any mistakes, please don’t hesitate to let me know via the comments feature on each post.








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