ECW Honors Civil War Trails for Work in Public History

From left: ECW Editor-in-Chief Chris Mackowski stands with Drew Gruber, executive director, and Richard Lewis, secretary, of Civil War Trails, Inc.

Emerging Civil War has chosen Civil War Trails, Inc., as the recipient of its 2023 Award for Service in Civil War Public History.

The award recognizes the work of an individual or organization that has made a significant impact on the field of public history in a way that better helps the general public connect with America’s defining event.

Civil War Trails is the world’s largest “open air museum,” with more than 1,400 sites across six states: Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Maps and highway markers direct travelers to sites featuring wayside signs that tell stories about the Civil War history that took place there.

“If you’ve driven the Civil War byways from Pennsylvania to North Carolina to Tennessee, you’ve seen the Civil War Trails bugle calling your attention to a roadside story,” said ECW Editor-in-Chief Chris Mackowski. “Civil War Trails has made Civil War history accessible and immediate to travelers, who can explore the story of the war at their own pace and according to their own interest while enjoying plenty of surprises along the way. It’s a wonderful way to encourage people to engage with history in a way that’s meaningful to them.”

Drew Gruber, executive director of Civil War Trails, Inc., accepts the ECW Award for Service in Civil War Public History on behalf of his organization.

According to Executive Director Drew Gruber, Civil War Trails allows travelers to drive the great campaigns turn-by-turn, hike to remote artillery positions, follow in the footsteps of freedom seekers, or visit the homes of citizens caught between the lines. “Print and digital brochures, coupled with our iconic red bugle ‘trailblazers’ help travelers find their way,” Gruber explained, “and when they arrive, they’ll find a Civil War Trails sign that will fuel their imagination as they picture the historic events swirling around them.”

All signs are generated at the grass-roots level. The community-driven approach allows Civil War Trails to tell history and share stories that oftentimes have not been heard before.

“We keep good company,” said Gruber. “This award recognizes the work of thousands of community leaders, archivists, and local historians who have proposed and researched their local stories which manifest as a Civil War Trails site.”

Gruber also lauded the staff at Civil War Trails: Chris Brown, assistant director; Dana Shoaf, historian; Victoria Tolson, administration; and Jason Shaffer, operations.

Mackowski also lauded the economic benefits of the Civil War Trails program. “The Trails directs travelers to so many cool sites, and while they’re out, those travelers then take advantage of local restaurants, breweries, and B&Bs,” Mackowski pointed out. The Trails organization works closely with hospitality and tourism organizations and agencies across all six states in the program.

“Follow Civil War Trails and create some history of your own,” Gruber said.

Past recipients of the Emerging Civil War Award for Service in Civil War Public History include the American Battlefield Trust; Dr. Gary Gallagher; Dave Ruth, former superintendent at Richmond National Battlefield; John Coski, former historian at the American Civil War Museum; the late D. P. Newton, founder of the White Oak Civil War Museum; Dave Roth of Blue & Gray Magazine; and the late Ted Alexander, former historian at Antietam National Battlefield and director of the Chambersburg Civil War Seminar.

*     *     *

About Emerging Civil War

Emerging Civil War is the collaborative effort of more than thirty historians committed to sharing the story of the Civil War in an accessible way to the general public. Founded in 2011 by Chris Mackowski, Jake Struhelka, and Kristopher D. White, Emerging Civil War features public and academic historians of diverse backgrounds and interests, while also providing a platform for emerging voices in the field. Initiatives include the award-winning Emerging Civil War Series of books published by Savas Beatie, LLC; an annual symposium; a speakers’ bureau; and a daily blog:

Emerging Civil War is recognized by the I.R.S. as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation.

1 Response to ECW Honors Civil War Trails for Work in Public History

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!