ECW is pleased to welcome Phill Greenwalt for the latest installment of our My ECW Story Series. Interested in writing for Emerging Civil War? Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information!
ECW: Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do? Why Civil War and Rev War History?
PG: I am originally from Baltimore, Maryland and I currently work for the National Park Service. My father is a huge Civil War enthusiast and we would hike around battlefields, so I received my appreciation and interest from him. When I went to graduate school I studied more on the Rev. War side of things, I wanted to branch out and also not mix the hobby reading (Civil War) with academia. But I grew into appreciating the Revolutionary era even more so it grew into a passion.
ECW: I understand you recently transferred to a new NPS unit. Where are you now and what are you doing?
PG: That is correct. I recently moved to Catoctin Mountain Park in Thurmont, Maryland, which happens to be between Frederick, Maryland and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. My position is the Chief of Interpretation and Education, but I also cover the Public Information Officer duties as well.
ECW: You’ve essentially relocated to the fertile crescent of Civil War battlefields. What’s your favorite battlefield there in the greater Gettysburg/Antietam/Harpers Ferry/Monocacy area?
PG: Antietam will always be my favorite Civil War battlefield. That was the first field I visited as young kid so it will always be where the interest in visiting the hallowed ground where my interest in the Civil War came from.
ECW: You’re an Emerging Civil War elder, and a co-founder of Emerging Revolutionary War. How did you get your foot in the door?
PG: I was an intern at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP back in 2006 when I met Chris Mackowski, Kristopher White, and Daniel Davis. We stayed in touch and the following year I was hiking Wilderness Battlefield on a day off and ran into Chris. We chatted about ECW, and I was interested in contributing, he was open to the idea, and it grew from there. In terms of ERW, the idea grew out of a discussion behind the Riddick House one year after a ECW Civil War symposium. I was then working at George Washington Birthplace National Monument and studying the Rev War era in graduate school and was interested in being a part of this new endeavor. I also wanted to keep it “in-house,” meaning that one of the historians from Emerging Civil War should co-create this new blog. Luckily, Rob Orrison was also game, and we started with a blog post on Wednesdays titled “Rev War Wednesday” which in 2016 became a separate blog.
ECW: What were your first articles for ECW and ERW? What made you want to contribute?
PG: Testing the memory bank here, my first article for ECW was the account of Richard Garnett’s sword that was found in a pawn shop in Baltimore by former Confederate Brigadier General George H. Steuart. Interesting account that was also picked up by the Baltimore Sun newspaper. That was 2011. Crazy how a decade has flown by with ECW! For ERW, we had started with “Rev War Wednesdays” on ECW but the first blog for the new site, written in 2015, was a reference to the Committee of Correspondences being the 18th century version of social media. I would tell you about it but go check our Emerging Revolutionary War’s blog to read it. 🙂
ECW: What do you contribute day-to-day, week-to-week to the organizations?
PG: Besides sitting on the ECW board as the representative to Emerging Revolutionary War, I do a lot of administrative tasks for the blog, and help with the Sunday “Rev War Revelry” schedule and programs. I also write some blog posts, help with the Facebook and YouTube sites, and serve as the series editor for the Emerging Revolutionary War Series. Hopefully after settling into a place in Maryland, I will have more time to contribute.
ECW: Rev War Revelry has really taken off during the past year. What makes these events so much fun? Tell us what you have lined up in the near future.
PG: The credit to “Rev War Revelry” goes to Rob Orrison and Mark Maloy of Emerging Revolutionary War, who came up with the initial idea back in early April 2020 as a way to turn something historians and history enthusiasts like to do in person – sit around, have a beer and chat history – into a virtual happy historian hour. We never imagined it would continue to take off. We did 36 weeks in a row on Sunday nights and then scaled back to every other Sunday evening. We cover various topics, from battles, campaigns, to personalities and author interviews. Personally, I’ve learned as much as I have shared, and to interact with fellow history enthusiasts has been the most fun for me. Just to create a community and to feel connected during this time is another fun feature of this. We plan to continue the “Revelry” building up to the first annual Emerging Revolutionary War bus tour in November 2021 with some Sunday night chats focused on the Ten Crucial Days campaign. But you will have to check our Facebook page to see what else is on tap for Sunday evenings!
ECW: You’ve been a familiar face at ECW and ERW symposiums over the years. Why would you encourage our readers to attend?
PG: To network, buy books, listen to great historians, both established and emerging into the field, and for the camaraderie of ECW/ERW. With blogging tending to be a singular venture – sitting in front of a computer or researching – the symposiums are a time to connect, learn, grow friendships, and hatch ideas for future projects.
ECW: What do you find most fulfilling about your work with ECW and ERW?
PG: It’s an outlet for my passion for this period in American history. From an early age I was brought to these places, then grew up, read about them, studied the actions, the personalities, the connections, and now I get to share that with a larger audience. ECW/ERW have also afforded me the opportunity to grow as a historian, broaden my horizons, and meet new friends and other history enthusiasts that are way more knowledgeable than I am.
ECW: How has your involvement with ECW and ERW made a difference in your professional life? Has ECW/ERW furthered your interest, or opened any new avenues of research/writing/work for you?
PG: My association with these blogs have led to numerous speaking engagements, seeing my work published, and growing my network within the field. It has led me to dive into deeper studies, such as Floridians in the Civil War, or a general from Baltimore to name a few. I have learned more about how to interpret and funnel my passion for these time periods into avenues that allow me to share with a wide range of people, from community college students to readers of the blogs, teachers, and friends (whether they wanted to hear it or not is debatable). The connection has furthered my interest and expanded my library (good for knowledge, bad for the wallet). I have made some great friends and embarked into research and writing of history more than I have ever imagined. It even led to being recognized in the middle of Everglades National Park by a visitor who saw my name badge and realized I was on one of the YouTube videos he watched about the American Revolution (a “Rev War Revelry” installment). Lastly, I have had the opportunity to be a ranger at certain sites during ‘big’ anniversaries because of having written a volume of the ECWS on that campaign, or through the connections I have made in the history field that ECW/ERW has opened up. Being on such hallowed ground at the exact days when history happened in years past will always be a highlight of my career.
ECW: What advice would you give to someone who is looking to become involved in Public History or Civil War History?
Don’t be afraid to reach out via email or in a break at a conference. I found out about a NPS student program simply by asking a ranger when I was a college intern. Just ask! The worst that can come of it is no answer in return, but most historians, especially ones associated with public history, are more than happy to “pay it forward.”
ECW: What’s next for Phill Greenwalt? Do you have any more books in you?
PG: Great question. I am helping with a few ERWS books, getting them through the publication process. I am sure I have a few more books in me, both in the ERWS and ECWS. Just gotta check back later! 🙂 Rev