Civil War Adventure Weekend, Part I

As we draw ever closer to the launch date for the book, I find myself scrambling to accomplish an ever growing to-do list.  Whether it’s working on the glossary, finding interesting images or recording audio clips there’s always something to busy your hands with.  Sometimes the process can exhaust, but other times it can exhilarate.

This past weekend provided me with a wonderful opportunity to do some great work on the book and have an amazingly fun time in the process.  It was an extravaganza. 

The journey began last Thursday when I traveled up to Carnegie, Pennsylvania to meet with Harry Smeltzer, the man widely known and respected for his work at Bull Runnings - an online journal and research resource for those not just interested in the Battle of Bull Run, but in the Civil War at-large.  Harry and I had worked to organize a recorded interview session that I could then edit and insert strategically into the book (think Shelby Foote in the Ken Burns documentary).  It couldn’t have been in a better location.

Harry worked it all out so that we could do our interview in a perfectly restored Grand Army of the Republic meeting room located in the Carnegie Free Library.  It was gorgeous; packed full of antiques and artifacts all having to do with the veterans who had once been members of the post (i.e. flags, bayonets, paintings).  The library staff was great and the curator of the room was very helpful, making sure that we had everything we needed. 

By way of explanation, the Grand Army of the Republic was a fraternal organization established by Union veterans following the war.  It was a precursor to the American Legion or VFW organizations that we know today.  It too had its posts and meeting rooms, this Carnegie location among them.

We were both a little nervous as I’d never done one of these before and Harry had never been a talking head.  Luckily we managed to get through it unscathed and I got some terrific footage and insight from Harry in the process. 

It was also a good opportunity to try out my brand-spankin' new high-def video camera (which the always helpful Jim Mazzella helped me pick out).  It’s got a lot of bells and whistles on it, but once I figured out how to hit record we were off to the races.    

Afterwards we went out for a couple beers and shot the breeze over a wide ranging discussion which covered ground from Southern Lost Cause theories to the music of AC/DC.  Properly fueled with dueling pints of Guinness and Smithwicks, we then got into a vicious bar fight with two local fellas who maintained that the Civil War was not nearly as interesting as the Crimean War.  Two black eyes and one broken pool cue later, the matter was at last settled. 

I then piled into my car for a return trip to DC.  I had a long way to go as I needed to be in Spotsylvania, Virginia by morning to gather even more footage for the book.  My destination was the massive Battle of Chancellorsville reenactment taking place all that weekend.

Stay tuned for Part II...