WHM Profile: Sarah Kay Bierle


Readers, it is my pleasure to introduce ECW writer Sarah Bierle, fellow Californian and self-described “lady historian.” She is a powerhouse of energy and ideas, and Emerging Civil War is lucky to have her.

When asked about her choice to research and write history, she replied:

For me, it’s about the inspiring, real-life stories–what I can learn from the past   and share with others. Honestly, I can’t think of a time that I said to myself, ‘I  want to be a historian.’ I knew I wanted to be a writer by age nine, but historian just sort of happened  with my love of history and when other life goals didn’t come to be.

As to sharing her passion for the past with others, Sarah has given the question concerning what women bring to military history that makes their perspective different from men:

I hesitate to speak for all women, so I’ll just address this as it applies to myself. I believe I’m a little more sensitive to some aspects of historical accounts and I want to find a way to help readers or audiences grasp the emotional impact of this history while remaining completely true to the facts. If I can make a person laugh or cry, their emotions are engaged, and I believe there is a better chance they will remember the history and perhaps be inspired to be stronger citizens.

Sarah sees a definite connection between civics and history, and her voice continues to find new audiences. In her presentations at Civil War Round Tables and conferences, she continues to expound on her theme of connections between the past and present, using primary sources such as personal letters and diary entries to probe the growth of personal identification with cause and country in her subjects, whether real or fictional.

One of Sarah’s accomplishments in the field of Civil War history is her coordination of a single day conference held in Temecula, California. The conference’s inaugural year was 2016, with a theme of “1861–Marching To War” and the beginning of the war. This year the topic is “1862–Searching For Victory.” Check https://gazette665.com/2017-civil-war-conference/ for more information. Speakers and presenters this year include David Dixon, Michael L. Oddenino, Michael K. Schaffer, Edward Headington, Mark Schoenberger, and myself, all speaking about the events and people of 1862. Check the link for more information and tickets.

There have been several women authors who have inspired her on her own journey, among them Alice Rains Trulock [In the Hands of Providence: Joshua Chamberlain and the American Civil War (1992)], and Margaretta Barton Colt [Defend the Valley: A Shenandoah Family in the Civil War (1999)].

When not researching, writing, or playing the harp (yes–she plays the harp!), Sarah is working on some personal goals. She is hoping to walk or bike 646 miles this year. Why 646? It is the generally accepted distance of Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign, of course. She also wants to read the unabridged version of Mary Chestnut’s Diary, hike the Chancellorsville battlefield at night (with permission, naturally), and to have the experience of firing an artillery piece, a rifle, and a pistol from the varied collections of Civil War weaponry that are brought to any given Civil War re-enactment.

And what is Sarah Bierle currently reading? She is knee-deep in John C. Bonnell, Jr., Sabres in the Shenandoah: The 21st New York Cavalry (1996), and John W. Robinson’s Los Angeles in Civil War Days (reprinted in 2013). Sarah makes regular appearances at historical sites, Civil War clubs and Roundtables, and conferences in the Southern California area, bringing her masterful PowerPoint presentations and sharing her work, which is mostly based on primary sources such as family letters and diary entries. She works her historical magic to bring her subjects to life using their own thoughts and words, accompanied by appropriate modern and period images. She reminds her audiences that, before putting on a uniform and shouldering a weapon, the common Union or Confederate soldier was some combination of a brother, a father, a husband a son, and a friend.

Sarah Bierle has brought yet another point of view to Emerging Civil War. She is a young writer and historian, full of positive energy and promise. She writes in several genres. Although we only read her non-fiction on this blog, check out her work in other areas–including the CDs of her harp music. Very cool. Very cool, indeed.

1 Response to WHM Profile: Sarah Kay Bierle

  1. If I may make a recommendation on a book to read for Sarah, it would be “Covered in Glory”. It gives the personal story of members of the 26th NC from the beginning of the war up to the battle of Gettysburg. Tells their story growing up, schools and life in general. The writer puts flesh on the people who fought for their country, their homes and families.

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