Sunday, September 14, 2008

Loving The Civil War Network And Virtual Book Signing!

Here is a luxurious hour spent on a warm Sunday afternoon: stretched out on the floor with my head on two pillows, award-winning Rwandan coffee lovingly roasted by The Jess in my cup, and the first episode of The Civil War Network playing on a pair of brand new Bose speakers. To wrap up, a review of The Abraham Lincoln Bookstore's latest offerings on
To start, let's discuss the premiere episode of Francis Rose's brainchild, The Civil War Network. Right from the getgo, a most encouraging sign; excellent production and sound quality. This man clearly knows what he is doing. The audio was crisp even though the interviews are done over the phone, the editing is smooth, and he is a well-informed, engaging, and professional interviewer. All those combine for a great program and tons of promise for future episodes.
Mr. Rose introduced us to Jenine Culligan from the Huntington, WV Museum of Art. She spoke about the various exhibits of ACW photography and art they have available and I want to go! Next was a blogger and author named Harry Smeltzer who discussed his blog Bull Runnings, which is his attempt to digitize an entire Civil War battle, the First Battle of Bull Run. This is quite a story, he is self-motivated and working without compensation and is digitizing all pertinent records to do with the battle; ie orders of battle, casualty lists, medal citations, and the records of the hearings of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. He was asked if this is a project he will ever finish, and he answered a definitive "no". He's just plugging along, ensuring that this one piece of American history is recorded for posterity and for free.
Part three was a talk with Dr. Carroll Van West and a newly designed southern Tennessee Civil War driving trails guide called "Civil War Trails: Fighting for the Rails". His discussion of how the 47 points on the tour were selected was really amazing. First of all, large fields managed by the National Park Service (Shiloh, Missionary Ridge, Chattanooga) were excluded. Secondly, each spot was evaluated on whether it provided a "sense of place": did it capture and preserve the environs present nearly 150 years ago. Third was a quest for balance. These stops cover the war at the state and local level, addressing soldiers, women, children, slaves, Union and Confederacy. This is how to bring the Civil War home to us today, put us in the middle of it and give us a chance to understand face to face.
The fourth segment was a conversation with Civil War book collector Paul Taylor, keeper of the blog With Sword and Pen. This one was auditory bliss, being a Civil War bibliophile myself. He gave the three most important rules of collecting (condition, condition, condition) and also mentioned the importance of always buying books you want to read, but buying 1st editions if possible. I stick to buying books I want to read that I can afford, first edition or not, and sometimes let the condition go by the wayside. I ain't sellin' 'em, but sure wanna buy 'em.
The finale was certainly grand, being an interview with Pulitzer-Prize winning author of "Battle Cry of Freedom" James McPherson. He was discussing how he gives tours of famous battlefields, focusing primarily on Gettysburg. That being the only field I've visited, and that I read his book "Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg" cover-to-cover the night before The Jess and I walked the ground for ourselves, this was a tremendous interview. There is no one I would rather have as a tour guide on a Civil War battlefield, this interview tells you why. If you want more, here is an NPR interview with Dr. McPherson from 2003.
I'm a pretty enthusiastic guy, as my first post about this endeavor surely showed, and it was justified and more after listening to the first episode of The Civil War Network. The second episode is in development, and you'll know as soon as I do when it's released.
If this wasn't enough, had a program yesterday morning with two of the premier ACW authors. Unfortunately I wasn't able to watch the live broadcast and ask questions (working, always working), but the archived broadcast will be available soon. Though I missed out on the Q and A, my copies of each book will be in the mail this week. Dr. McPherson will be on in November discussing his new book about Abraham Lincoln. Again, oh yes, please.

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