A Note on Blogs – This One, Anyway

16 07 2009

Heart-Rate

Yesterday I had heart rate problems.  For a number of reasons I won’t go into, my resting heart rate is usually somewhere in the mid to low 50’s.  But yesterday as I sat at my computer it was hovering 25-30 bpm faster.  This was due to an email I received from the author of a book mentioned in a couple of my posts, which resulted in my writing this post.  This guy was irate regarding “gross deficiencies” in my post, which was one in a series.  It became obvious after an exchange of emails that he had not read all the posts in the series, had not read them in order after learning of them, and did not understand the focus of the posts – nor did he care.  I’m pretty sure he was most upset with the fact that I never contacted him about his book (the existence of which I only learned of in the process of writing the series that ended with the receipt of the book), although he also didn’t like my characterization of his footnotes as “uneven” and a cautionary statement about regimental histories and biographies written by descendants in general, a concern shared by just about every historian and student of history I know.  I only read a page or two of the book that dealt with the topic in question, and offered no review or qualitative comments about the book specifically.

Look, this blog is not a linear narrative – it’s not a book.  Books don’t have hyperlinks – when I place a link in a post (such as see here), I expect the reader will click on that link.  It’s part of the post.  Other than links to Amazon or other sources for purchase information, those links aren’t put there for giggles.

In addition, blog posts are usually pretty focused and brief.  Topics are generally narrow.  In what is still my favorite series of posts, the Kilpatrick Family Ties series, I did not write much about Kilpatrick’s military career.  So you see no mention of, say, Monroe’s Crossroads.  That’s not because of poor research, but because the “story” in that case was his family.

I held these truths to be self evident.  I guess I shouldn’t have.  But I definitely shouldn’t have let it get to me like it did.  It’s times like these I wish I’d spent a few years in an ashram, or taken up TM.  Ohmmmm…ohmmmm…

UPDATE:  Today this guy has sent even more insulting and rude emails.  He steadfastly refuses to identify what he calls “misinformation” spread by my “blithering” blog, and keeps repeating the same nonsense.  I’m quite willing to correct any mistakes I’ve made in my posts, and have done so on more than one occasion when they have been pointed out to me.  I’m tempted to reproduce his emails here in their entirety, but that would be quite embarrassing to the individual and maybe there’s more to his story than I know.  Hopefully I’ve heard the last from him.

Sorry about this.  I don’t use my blog to vent, and hopefully this will be a one-time thing.





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.





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.





A Scythe of Fire

26 09 2008

Image of 8th GA colors used at Bull Run from this site on 9/26/2008.

I’ve finished reading A Scythe of Fire, a Warren Wilkinson and Steven Woodworth collaboration on the 8th GA infantry regiment put together after the former’s untimely death.  I was encouraged to read it based on Wilkinson’s classic (if that word can be applied to such a recent book) Mother May You Never See The Sights I Have Seen.  While Scythe is a nice read, with some good stuff on First Bull Run and an officer’s roster for that battle I’ll use in my Confederate OOB, I found it disappointing on a few levels.  The book builds to its climax at Gettysburg, but then quickly moves through the nearly two years remaining in the war in pitifully few pages, and pretty much ignores the survivors after Appomattox.  Most disturbing was the obvious disdain for some folks exhibited by (I’m assuming) Woodworth, especially for Joe Johnston.  The same old saws are hauled out – afraid to fight, protective of his reputation, yada yada yada – in the form of unsupported opinion presented as fact.  And of course this had to be reinforced in every sentence and paragraph that used Johnston’s name.  God, that stuff is so tired.  It irks me.  It’s irksome.  But there was worthwhile content, including some surprising things about late war desertions that, as far as the 8th Georgia goes at least, fly in the face of conventional wisdom.  Given that most of those leaving the ranks did so by deserting to the enemy, the theory that they wanted to go home to care for their loved ones falls apart.  Sorry if that bit of moonlight wilts your magnolias.

Right now I’m taking some time of from my ACW reading to brush up on the Gilded Age, with Devil in the White City and American Eve.  The latter will help me in expanding on my Kilpatrick Family Ties material which I hope to turn into a round table presentation (any takers?), and both books will help when I tackle the later life of a Bull Run personality.  Until I’m finished with them, the picture of Scythe of Fire will remain at the bottom of the right hand column of this page.





Top of the World, Ma!!!

10 09 2008

Bull Runnings and its not so humble host have made the big time with this notice of my upcoming program at Sharpsburg Heritage Days posted on the NPS website for Antietam National Battlefield.  I know it’s not much, but it’s pretty cool to me!  Let’s just hope things turn out better for me than they did for Cody Jarret.

I was going to work up a program based on the Kilpartrick Family Ties series, but now that both the NPS and the festival’s website have advertised that I will be doing my Bull Run Threads presentation I guess I’ll stick to that – an amended version of my last roundtable talk, which may include some stuff I was not able to get to in Columbus.  I think I’ll still work up a program on Kilpatrick, so if any of you are interested in that presentation, contact me through the comments section of this post or the Speaking Dates page to the right.

If you’re in town Saturday, please stop by for the SHAF lecture series, which also features Antietam authorities John Schildt and Tom Clemens.  Their programs are at 1:00 and 2:00 PM respectively, and I go on at 3:00.  All lectures are at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Sharpsburg, and are free to the public.  And be sure to say hi!





14th Military History Carnival

15 05 2008

Brett Schulte of TOCWOC nominated my recent series of posts (see here, here, and here) on the Family Ties of Hugh Judson Kilpatrick for inclusion in the 14th Military History Carnival.  I see from an incoming link that he was successful and I have been included.  You can find the Carnival at Investigations of a Dog, hosted by Gavin Robinson.  Thanks to Brett and Gavin.








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