"Who am I? Why am I Here?"

It came like a bolt out of the blue - a query from Dmitri Rotov:

“I'm going away for a week and wonder if you would act as guest blogger in my absence.”

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

I have never met Dmitri.  He’s what I refer to as an e-ssociate, someone I know only from internet correspondence.  I’m a regular reader and great admirer of this blog – have been for the past year or so since being alerted to it by Tim Reese.  Later, due to interest in the historiography surrounding George B. McClellan, I became a member of the McClellan Society discussion group.  My published works consist of one letter to the editor of North & South Magazine (you can find it in Volume 8, #3).  My recreational reading for the past ten years has focused almost exclusively on the American Civil War, though I take a break now and again for other non-fiction and fiction.  Each year, I take from two to five battlefield trips, and these trips are the bases for my reading “schedule”.  I also belong to at least five Civil War email discussion groups, and a couple of online discussion forums.  My Civil War library consists of about 1,500 titles and stacks of periodicals, and being a very slow reader I have enough unread material to last me the rest of my life, though this doesn’t deter me from buying books like a drunken librarian.  I’ve considered blogging, but can’t get past the certainty that there are few out there anxiously waiting to catch any pearls dropping from my keyboard.

The above probably describes to varying degrees many of you reading this blog.  While I may be more qualified (for lack of a better term) to sub for Dmitri than some of you, I am certainly less qualified than many of you.  The immediate realization of this led me, before accepting his generous offer, to ask Dmitri “Why me?”

While his answer was certainly complimentary (I’m “independent”, a “deep reader”, and my favorite, “non-academic”), I reached the obvious conclusion:

Everybody else said “No.”

While I have no definite plan, what I’d like to do over the next week is examine some “Urban Legends” associated with the Civil War; stories and story lines that have been generally accepted as fact, but which are supported by little or no documentary evidence and are routinely repeated without any disclaimer identifying them as conjecture.  Possible topics include John Bell Hood and laudanum; Oliver Otis Howard and his deliberate attempt to discredit Abner Doubleday; Grant being “the only one” who would have made his famous right turn after the Wilderness; Robert Gould Shaw, David Hunter and the burning of Darien, GA; Nathaniel Banks’ incompetence and the failure of the Red River Campaign.

Other than this I have no real plan.  My only instructions are to treat the blog as if it were my own.  I’ll try to post at least once a day, and will attempt to post links to ACW news items.  Thanks to Dmitri for the opportunity to experiment on his well earned audience.

Harry Smeltzer