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Monday, 10 August 2009

As many of you know, I am the Vice-Chairman of the National Civil War Life Foundation. Today I am VERY pleased to share the following announcment:

The National Civil War Life Foundation Awarded Prestigious Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services

August 10, 2009: Fredericksburg, VA  - Thanks to a $150,000 grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), The National Civil War Life Museum will be able to support the design, fabrication and installation of two exhibits, Life in Camp and Technology and Armament and War. Life in Camp will focus on recreating camp life with objects used daily by soldiers. Technology, Armament and War will include artifacts and newspapers of the time period highlighting the influence of the industrial revolution, involvement and diversity of civilian factory workers, and innovation and ingenuity of the Civil War era. Both exhibits will become permanent installations in the museum’s Civil War Life Gallery. The project coincides with the 2011 Civil War Sesquicentennial commemoration.

"The Civil War is the defining event in American history since the founding of our Republic. Many of us have studied its history, battles, tactics and strategy; some have delved into the fundamental causes and the dominant political, economic, and human rights issues. However, we cannot truly comprehend the magnitude and impact of the Civil War era unless we take time to understand the bravery and sacrifices, individually and collectively, of those who fought on both sides, and all whose lives that were indelibly shaped and affected before, during and in the aftermath of this epic struggle. To this day we still live with the legacy, outcome, and consequences of the Civil War." - Col. Horace McCaskill Jr., USA, (Ret) – Chairman of the Board, National Civil War Life Foundation.

"As repositories of our nation’s treasures and our nation’s history, museums are positioned to play and integral role in the education of their communities. Museums for America grants support projects and ongoing activities that build museums’ capacities and help these institutions serve their diverse constituencies to the best of their abilities." - Dr. Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services

IMLS received 433 applications requesting more than $48.4 million. Of these 167 projects were selected to receive $19,176,000. The projects selected represent a wide spectrum of activities that will help museums serve their communities better through increased education programs, community outreach programs and behind-the-scenes projects.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 4:24 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 10 August 2009 4:30 PM EDT
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Hot off the press

I just finished typing up my review of “The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson” for the Free Lance-Star. I’ll post a copy here when it goes to press. An updated version of a previous publication, this new book is truly a homegrown title. Researched and written by NPS Volunteer Chris Mackowski and Ranger/Historian Kris White, it was produced by local graphic-designer Jackson Foster and funded by the Friends of Fredericksburg Area Battlefields. According to John Hennessy, Chief Historian and Chief of Interpretation at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, this book is the first in what will be a series of publications to come out jointly under the NPS and FOFAB logo. Also in the pipeline are titles on the Wilderness and Ellwood, Chancellorsville, Chatham, and Clara Barton. Each will be produced locally and released through Thomas Publications. I find this extremely exciting as its always great to see regional histories flourishing.

On a related note, I just spoke with my rep at The History Press and they have begun production on my newest title as part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial Series. Today the marketing dept. officially settled on the title: “The Civil War in Spotsylvania County: Confederate Campfires at the Crossroads.” Projects like these are extra-special to me as it's an opportunity to share history on a local level. (Stay tuned for updates as the finished piece progresses.)

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 4:07 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 10 August 2009 4:11 PM EDT
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Thursday, 6 August 2009
NCWLF spot

Film director Clint Ross was nice enough to send me some raw still frames from the commercial we shot for the National Civil War Life Foundation. I have to present this project to the museum board in a couple weeks and these images show the two different segments (Spotsylvania Battlefield and the Museum Gallery). I’ll be sure to post the finished video here when it’s completed.


Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 11:12 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 14 August 2009 12:08 PM EDT
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What's goin' on

Today I finished writing my presentation on research in writing for the Pittsburgh Writer's Project. I will be giving this talk at the Green Tree Library in Pittsburgh on September 12th. This is a real homecoming for me as I was born and raised just down the street (my parents still live there) and the library is the site of my 4-6 grade elementary school. Although my lectures usually deal with history, I gave a similar talk about the craft of writing a few months back to Fredericksburg's Kappa Delta Gamma (Beta Eta Chapter). This piece is similar, but I have broken it down into two parts: 1. a recap of how I researched one of my books (specifically how I wrote "Houses of the Holy") and 2. ten practical tips for conducting research. I’ll be sure to post a copy here upon my return. I also hope to have some photos of the affair.

As I am preparing to take my oldest to college in a couple weeks, I have intentionally thinned my schedule to almost nothing. I do have a book review to pen for the Free Lance-Star, but other than that, I am free. The title is “The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson” and it was written by NPS volunteer Chris Mackowski and ranger Kris White. Of course Jackson’s death is near and dear to my heart and the book looks like a nice study of the subject. I do plan to post some images and updates on the National Civil War Life Foundation’s commercial we shot last week, (as well as some other  announcements) and I still owe you a Naked Historian #10 from Catherine’s Furnace.

That said, if I appear to be slacking, don’t worry. I am.

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 3:32 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 6 August 2009 3:38 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 4 August 2009
GREAT guide

Like many folks bitten by the "Civil War Bug," I was first introduced to the War Between the States on a family vacation to Gettysburg. I fondly recalled that life-altering weekend in a piece I wrote titled "Birth of a Buff" and have since then waxed the poetic on subsequent returns to Adams County in my adult years. As both a historian and longtime resident of Fredericksburg surrounded by four major battlefields, I am clearly spoiled when it comes to Hallowed Grounds. However, none of them have managed to touch me in the way that Gettysburg's battlefield does. Simply put, I love giving tours here in Virginia, but I really love taking them in Pennsylvania.

What is it about Gettysburg that makes it so special? Maybe it was because I first walked its wheat fields and rocky hills at the impressionable age of 7, or maybe it's because the town hasn't changed all that much since I first traveled there in 1978. Perhaps it is the legacy of the battle itself, truly an epic engagement on so many levels that favored both the North and South at different times and ultimately changed the entire course of the war. Maybe it's the feeling one has when they go there. Who is not touched by the tragedy that took place there in July of 1863 and who can ignore the beauty of this magnificent place that has been preserved for all generations? This is why millions of people travel to Gettysburg each and every year.

Many of these "stompers" have their own way of exploring Civil War battlefields. Some use the officially sanctioned audio-driving tours, while others bring books, photographs and sketches to use as reference. I have always used a combination and I also enjoy walking the trails with the licensed guides and National Park Service folks whose insights are often far beyond that of any pre-packaged materials. Unfortunately there was never a "one-size-fits-all guide," a concise and dynamic tool that appealed to the die-hard enthusiast and the casual observer. With all of these choices nothing was developed that would satisfy the inquisitive expert searching for that hard-to-find spot, as well as the family of four looking for a nice way to spend an afternoon.

That is until now.

Fortunately for people in both camps, a new book is finally available that will fulfill both of their desires. Even better, it was developed by two of the best in the business. Noted historian and author J. David Petruzzi has teamed up with Civil War cartographer Steven Stanley to produce the "THE COMPLETE GETTYSBURG GUIDE: Walking and Driving Tours of the Battlefield, Town, Cemeteries, Field Hospital Sites, and other Topics of Historical Interest." This book is already my pick for the Best of 2009.

Tremendously detailed, up-to-date, and beautifully designed, this newly released Savas-Beatie title includes walking and driving tours of the battlefield, town, cemeteries, hospital sites, monuments and obscure places that are often missed by the mainstream tours. A gifted writer, Petruzzi's narrative tells the entire story of the battle and Stanley's tasteful use of photography and maps complement it perfectly. Not only does this guide outline a great tour of the grounds, it also tells the reader how they fit into the battle and why they matter. By using this guide you won't only have a better appreciation for the National Military Park at Gettysburg, you'll walk away with a better understanding of what transpired there.

I firmly believe that it won't be long before "THE COMPLETE GETTYSBURG GUIDE" will become a must-have extension of the entire Gettysburg Tour experience. It's as enjoyable to look at as the Cyclorama, as informative as the NPS Tour, and as easy to understand as the Electric Map. I cannot wait to take my copy back to Adams County and walk the grounds in a completely new and exciting way. For those of you who have never been to Gettysburg, now it the time to go as this new book will make your inaugural visit even more enjoyable, and for those of us who are regulars, this book is a great excuse to go back and share in a brand new experience.

For more information and to order your copy, visit the book's official website.

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 12:38 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 4 August 2009 10:22 PM EDT
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