The best thing about my vacation

... was Harry Smeltzer.

Lost my wallet en route to Kansas City; suffered a massive hay fever attack on arrival; irritated my gregarious in-laws by attending fewer than three parties per day; and finally experienced a total physical breakdown in some kind of adult whooping cough typhoid fever combination. (Never take a vacation.)

Harry was terrific and the visitor numbers kept at the usual levels, a nice vote of interest from regular readers of this blog.

Harry's background on message boards, email lists, and forums suggested to me a lot of "give" and "heart," which you saw in play - it's a kind of Internet agape that causes strangers to look up info for each other and in this case, one relative stranger to ask another to supply new writing for a week.

Harry tells me that rather than blog he would like to do for Bull Run I what Brian Downey at Antietam on the Web has tried to do. I hope he does. This will be the new shape of Civil War history: collaborative, open, massive in content, free, self-correcting in a wiki way, and ultimately unavoidable. It will bring certain academics to heel by making them accountable to broadly shared public knowledge - a death knell for Centennial era history, except as entertainment. Will the Gary Gallaghers continue to exclude Harsh, Reese, Clemens and others from new Antietam anthologies while publishing more puerile Dennis Frye rants? Count on it. But count also that such books now represent a small part of a much broader information stream.

So we need another topical segment in this emerging Civil War historiographic paradigm and I hope Harry pulls it together.

Meanwhile, thank you sir very much.