On August 18, 2011, at 8:12 p.m., we published the first blog post to launch Emerging Civil War. The idea for our blog came from an evening of brainstorming by Chris Mackowski, Jake Struhelka, and Kris White as they sat on the porch of the caretaker’s cottage at the Stonewall Jackson Death Site (then called the “Stonewall Jackson Shrine”). You can read our origin here. In 2016, we commemorated our five-year milestone with a series of posts by some of our writers.
Today, we’re now ten years old!
To celebrate the occasion, we asked our gang of writers to share a few of their favorite ECW memories:
Edward Alexander: My favorite memory is that when I got the call that my first box of books arrived from the printer, I was out in the section of the Petersburg Breakthrough battlefield that the American Battlefield Trust had recently restored to its wartime appearance in the middle of planning a Pamplin Park symposium tour. That convergence of players really reinforced how notable ECW was from a public history perspective.
Paige Gibbons Backus: Happy birthday, ECW! It’s great to have a place where new historians can have a voice to share their research and have great conversations.
Sarah Kay Bierle, managing editor: Happy 10th Birthday to Emerging Civil War! Sending much appreciation to the founders for their vision of a dynamic community and to all the writers, readers, viewers, and listeners who come to share and learn. Here’s to a new decade, new challenges, and new adventures “online and on the battlefield.”
Sheritta Bitikofer: I haven’t been around with ECW for all ten years, but I’ll never forget my first symposium. I was incredibly nervous–as I tend to be in large crowds–and didn’t know a single person at Stevenson Ridge. Though I had my nose stuck in a book between the presentations, Doug Crenshaw approached and encouraged me to consider writing a guest post for the blog. It wasn’t until his name was mentioned at the podium that I realized I had just been speaking with the author of the very book I had been reading! That encounter made me realize how approachable and friendly this bunch of superstar historians could be. I have continued to be blown away by their support and determination in the field. The historians at ECW have maintained that standard of hospitality and I’m grateful for the pioneering efforts of Chris Mackowski and Kris White, without whom these historians and history enthusiasts might never have crossed paths.
Doug Crenshaw: Bert Dunkerly told me about an interesting group called “Emerging Civil War.” I checked into them, and decided to attend a Symposium. I’m not sure if it was the second or third one, but it was held in the basement of the Riddick House at Stevenson Ridge. I had no idea what to expect. When I arrived, everyone was friendly and some authors were selling books. I bought a few, which were great. During the sessions I met the “Polish Brotherhood” (Chris Kolakowski and Chris Mackowski). I was impressed with them, and I distinctly remember a presentation by Kris White. Anyway, I was sold, and thought I would try to become a contributor. It was a great decision!
Jon-Erik Gilot: One of my favorite ECW memories was back in 2014 when I asked my local library to bring Kris White to town for a lecture…and they listened! I had been a fan of ECW since its inception and to me having Kris there was like having a rock star come to town. I told him afterwards that I had been interested in and writing about the Civil War for many years, and he encouraged me to submit something to the blog. The rest is history. Thanks for the nudge, Kris!
Meg Groeling: One meets the best folks on the internet! In 2011, I began my search for Civil War-themed blogs I could read and use in my first tentative weeks of Elmer Ellsworth research. I found one that had an interview with a writer who had written a book about Walt Whitman. The blog had an odd name: Emerging Civil War. I checked it out and finally dropped them an email. I asked if they had someone writing about Col. Elmer Ellsworth and if, maybe, they would like someone to do so. Everyone was polite. I was asked to submit an article, so I wrote “A Curious Case of the Measles.” It was published on September 22, 2011, thus making me one of the first guest writers who humbly submitted an article for publication. I have never looked back. ECW is, by far, the best thing that ever happened to me professionally. Chris and Kris encouraged me to get a masters’ degree in military history (even though I was a middle school math teacher). They gave me the opportunity to publish a book, The Aftermath of Battle, and they have stuck with me through retirement, cancer, and a host of other things. Ten years later, First Fallen: The Life of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, the North’s First Civil War Hero, will finally become a reality. There are not enough words for all the feels I have about ECW. I am, indeed, blessed. Thank you.
Dwight Hughes: I think a favorite memory is attending with some trepidation my first ECW Symposium five or so years ago and first meeting the great group of public historians of which I am now a proud member, although those memories have melded with all the wonderful gatherings I have attended since.
Chris Kolakowski, chief historian: Happy 10th birthday, ECW! It has been great being a part of a community of fine historians. The annual symposia are always fun opportunities to share perspectives and discuss history. Here’s to many more!
Chris Mackowski, co-founder: Rather than say “Happy birthday,” I want to say “thank you” to all the people who’ve made ECW possible over the years. A lot of great writing by a lot of talented historians has made this a lively space online. A lot of behind-the-scenes work by a lot of dedicated volunteers ensures our writers have platforms for sharing their work. And most of all, hundreds of thousands of readers over the last decade have kept coming back for engaging history and “emerging” perspectives. I’m humbled and grateful.
Ryan Quint: I’ll add “Happy Birthday, ECW”! I think one of my favorite ECW moments was the chance to visit the Jericho Mills battlefield. It had only recently been bought by the Battlefield Trust, and wasn’t open to the public, but Sam Smith offered to show us around. I remember there was still barbed wire from the farmers crossing the field, and it required some serious bushwhacking, but it was a cool experience and one that wouldn’t have been possible without being in ECW.
Kevin Pawlak: My best memories are always sitting around casually with ECW colleagues, smoking cigars, drinking beers, and talking history!
Terry Rensel: Happy birthday to ECW, and thank you and congratulations to everyone who has helped make ECW what it is today. I’m honored to be a part of such a group of historians as this.
Angela Riotto: Happy birthday to Emerging Civil War! I am so grateful to be a part of this fantastic team of scholars. ECW continues to produce quality products, whether it’s books, blog posts, or podcasts. I am especially thankful for the fun opportunity to have been on the podcast with Chris Mackowski, Kris White, and Greg Mertz! Here’s to more marvelous years to come!
Jake Struhelka, co-founder: Beginning the whole thing on a front porch between friends was a dream!
Kris White, co-founder: Back in the good old days, we were making a name for ourselves and going against the grain. I’m pretty proud of that first symposium that we pulled off, and I’m happy that we created opportunities for others in the field. I’m proud that we built this thing from the ground up: the symposium, the book series, and the speakers bureau.
Cecily Nelson Zander: Though I came relatively late to the ECW party, the last 18 months have shown me that ECW is truly a family, and its contributors and readers are thoughtful and caring people who love history and studying the Civil War. I can’t wait for the next decade — Happy Birthday ECW!