Here I sit on Buttermilk Hill
Who can blame me, crying my fill
And ev’ry tear would turn a mill
Johnny has gone for a soldier.
My name is James Brookes and I am an MRes student in U.S. history at the University of Nottingham. My particular academic interest pertains to the American Civil War, and within this complex and fascinating subject I find myself drawn to a significant yet unfortunately understudied agent of the conflict, the common citizen-soldier. It is my intention to use this blog as a means of humbly expressing my thoughts and musings on the common soldier in my attempt to respectfully gauge how men of this era sought to cope with the cataclysmic events unfolding around them.
I believe that the common soldier has much to reveal about the history of the conflict, and direct the reader to the words of Private William A. Johnson of the 2nd South Carolina Infantry, who wrote “I never did anything grand or startling as a soldier, but I did a whole lot of walking, talking, starving and looking on, and in these points I feel that I am a full fledged historian.” Johnson’s words function doubly; highlighting the importance of the common citizen-soldier’s experience in aiding our understanding of the conflict and suggesting that traditional methods do not necessarily make a historian. It is one thing to read secondary sources detailing famous battles, marches and proclamations (though the author is in no way denying their importance), it is quite another to delve thoroughly into the personal accounts of the hardships encountered and to participate in living history activities. A combination of the two approaches provide one with a unique lens with which to study the realities of the common soldier’s experience.
This is a subject that I am extremely passionate about. I have devoted a great deal of time, effort, and money into the study of this subject and hope to for many years to come. As such, I always desire to improve my knowledge as well as my writing style and therefore appreciate all advice, guidance and criticism of the content I make available.