Once in a blue moon (and no, tonight isn’t really a blue moon, but you get the point…), I like to point out what this blog is about.
Generally, it focuses on a relatively small range (really!) of topics, dealing primarily with what might (to some) be considered “alternative history” of the Shenandoah Valley in the Civil War… and yes, I know to some, “alternative” rings like some dirty little word, mostly because it generally alludes to running “against the grain”. In fact, I call it “alternative” because the history that I bring out dares to branch out beyond the standard, rather stubborn, and unyielding history (the Valley was part of Virginia, and therefore, eagerly embraced the Confederacy) that seems to smother the more complete story of the Valley in that war, almost completely “forgetting”, conveniently or not, that there were those in the Valley who did not completely embrace the ideas behind the Confederacy, and preferred simply to be left alone, or continued to cling tightly to the “old flag”. Their story is just as important, and, as a matter of fact (at least for those who can read it and accept the diversity of beliefs represented in it), serves as a “grounding rod”, of sorts, when we consider the population of the Valley as a whole. They, too, were people of the Valley, and their roots were often just as deep here, as those who supported those who wore gray… and oftentimes, they shared the same roots, but differed in perspectives.
Blog posts may also reflect my interests in Southern Unionists beyond the Valley, reaching, for example, down into northern Alabama, Mississippi.
I also branch out, from time to time, across the Potomac, and into a portion of the Cumberland Valley… usually the area between Hagerstown and Clear Spring (and don’t be surprised if I even head into Cumberland County, PA. on occasion).
And, no, it’s not all about the Civil War here, all of the time. I have a tendency to stray, once in a while, forward to WW1 (and sometimes WW2), and backward to both the colonial and antebellum eras. I promised, almost this same time last year (see “Why ‘Cenantua’?”), that I’d write more about the Valley before the Civil War, and given the time to put fingers on the keys of my keyboard, I’ll get there, eventually.
The common thread in all of this is that this land, and the people who called this land their home, stir my interest, intensely, mostly because the story of these places and people is part of my story… of my family before me.
Yes, I regularly remind people that I am a direct descendant of eight Confederate veterans (especially when I’m referred to by those lacking an ability to get their head around things, a “Yankee”. My roots are Southern, from Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky, complemented with a tasty dab of Pennsylvanian in there too) … some of them volunteers, others being not so spirited in the idea of wearing gray… and even those who eagerly embraced (at least it appears so) the Confederacy continue to engage my interest. Yet, their story has been plowed over time and time again, usually with the same results… nothing new, other than adding to that “imagination” (often tainted with, for example, “oh, Robert E. Lee did this because…, and therefore my ancestor must have done the same, for the same reasons). For these people… my people… in lieu of embellishing their story to make it “richer” or more flavorful, I prefer to look at the remnants that they have left behind. What, for example, did they not say… and why is it not there in any of the remnants of the stories, whether vocalized or embedded in the documents left behind? In most cases, there are few certainties, but many possibilities left in their wake. In most cases, we are left not knowing what they felt or why they did what they did.
Why do I write, and who do I write for?
First, I write for myself, as I feel I need to put thoughts in print… more so electronically, in more recent years, than in ink. I also write for those in general who just want to read, having, perhaps, found some “hook” in the topics that I present. Of course, I also write for family… more so than I mention… hoping that, through what I write, I have preserved some family treasures that might otherwise be forgotten and lost.
I write as a historian (academic, “pop”, and yes, speaking about “against the grain”, even a little folklore raises its head, here and there), a genealogist, and as one who just likes to write, and lay out thoughts on a “tablet” of sorts, upon which I, and/or others, can reflect. I’m also incredibly consumed with theories of writing in the electronic workspace (this comes from my most recent experience in academia), and may, from time to time, approach topics using different methods… more so as a writer in the electronic space than as a historian.
In many ways, this is my canvas.
I welcome those who wish to view it, and even those who wish to add to it, through thoughtful, thought-provoking, and constructive commentary.