Today I would like to share a unique project with hopes that someone out there in our community will be interested in participating.
A few months ago I was contacted by a gentleman from SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) who was busy compiling a database of all known Civil War baseball sources with the intention of doing some critical data-analysis on the subject. I provided him with transcripts of everything I had, as well as some local NPS archives files, and he was able to stretch his catalog to approximately 150+ primary sources.
This was far more material than was available when the only 2 books on the subject of Civil War baseball (George Kirsch's and Patricia Millen’s studies) were published. Therefore, the potential for doing something meaningful was huge. A majority of these new pieces were quoted from soldier’s personal letters home and post-war recollections. Understandably, most were written by from troops deploying out of the northeast (New York – Massachusetts area).
The gentleman at the head of this project is Larry McCray and he asked if I would be interested in writing a paper (or possibly more) on the subject. As I am fairly busy with my own publishing endeavors, I politely declined, but offered to share the details of his vision here with hopes of soliciting some interest. Larry sent me this overview:
Since we now have about 3 times the number of references that were available as late as 2003, I suggest that someone may want to receive this new data and use it to revise our understanding of the extent and significance of ball playing in the Civil War. I’d rather such a task reside with a CW person than another baseball person, for substantive reasons. My own role, as a military know-nothing, is to summarize the total evidence statistically and to help identify prior conventional wisdom that is inconsistent with the facts we now have. I will be putting this data out, but the timing can be worked out with anyone who wants to use them. My job is to get the data out, not to interpret them.
So: is there a way to gauge interest in your community in doing some such paper? Keep in mind that there are already two books [2001, 2003] on CW baseball, and while they are necessarily fueled with sparse anecdote, I wonder if publishers will see market value in another one. I am happy to provide the source material that I have on the 150 references summarized in a Word document and Excel worksheet.
Additionally, Larry is planning on making the collection available online for others to use in their own research. See Project Protoball: Supporting Research on the Origins of Baseball.
Anyone who thinks they might be interested in exploring this venture, or are aware of someone else who may, please contact Larry via this site.
Some of our fellow Civil War bloggers have recently setup Twitter pages to help share information and generate traffic to their respective blogs and websites. This morning I set up an account and hope to use it to promote both my books, as well as our foundation’s efforts. My Twitter page is located at http://twitter.com/Aubrecht and I am still figuring out how to use it. Social interaction within a web community is still a new concept and as much as I enjoy reconnecting with friends on Facebook, I am still trying to find a way to incorporate these tools into my own work. Please be patient as I navigate these waters (after all, the root word in Twitter is “twit”).
This week I humbly accepted an invitation to speak at a banquet dinner for the Civil War Home Chatroom’s 2010 Muster. The CWHC is a wonderful organization made up of extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic Civil War buffs from around the country. Each year, members of this group gather together for an extended weekend at one of the country’s historic CW sites. For 10+ years they have visited hallowed grounds in both the western and eastern territories. Next year’s event is taking place in June and will encompass sites along the Shenandoah Valley.
Now these “musters” are not your ordinary tours by any means. This is a first class organization that spends a great deal of time coordinating a one-of-a-kind experience. From custom-designed commemorative shirts and hats, to special tours, member awards and a book exchange, the CWHC does it right. They also tap historians and experts with local networks that enable them to access sites that the general public cannot.
On the final night of each muster they hold a special dinner and I have been given the honor and privilege of giving that evening’s presentation. This year’s focus will be New Market, Port Republic, Cross Keys and Lexington and I will be speaking about one of my favorite subjects, “Stonewall” Jackson. The title of my piece is “Jackson’s Journey: Stonewall in the Valley” and it will present a look at a brilliant military campaign that forged the legacy of a lion.
As many parts of the weekend’s tours, especially those in Lexington, will cover Jackson’s family, friends, and personal life, I will be focusing on how the success of the Valley Campaign helped to re-define Jackson as a military giant. I plan to recap each engagement and offer a look at how Jackson’s actions were received on both sides. It’s quite different from talks I’ve done on ‘Stonewall” in the past (most have focused on his spiritual life), but I love the challenge of examining an old friend in a new way.
Jackson’s Valley Campaign has been heralded as one of the greatest military maneuvers in American history and rightfully so. Over the course of this mission Jackson’s 17,000 men marched over 600 miles in 48 days and successfully engaged three Union armies (52,000 men), preventing them from reinforcing the Federal offensive against Richmond. The campaign not only secured a series of crucial victories for the Confederacy, it also solidified Jackson’s reputation and a swift and savvy commander.
My talk will examine Jackson as a leader and I am really looking forward to including some great maps I’ve come upon to reinforce his troop’s remarkable achievement. Quotes from firsthand accounts and recollections will make up the conclusion of the piece. Of course I will have my usual PowerPoint visuals and I am bringing some of my own books to do a signing after the festivities are over. (I am also hoping to join the group for a prior tour and have solicited the assistance of my good friend, author and historian Richard Williams.)
Events like these, and the passionate groups that hold them, are a major reason I started writing about CW history in the first place. There is nothing better than sharing our collective knowledge to gain a better understanding and appreciation for our nation’s story.