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Civil War Magazines

Thought I'd piggy-back a bit on Brett's blog regarding magazines such as Civil War Times, America's Civil War, etc. I happen to write for ACW, and I too am pleased that lately such magazines (which have been more of the 'pop' ilk compared to such productions like Blue&Gray and North&South) are stepping up their quality. Steve Stanley, who does the wonderful maps for the Civil War Preservation Trust and the like, has been doing many of the maps for ACW. He overlays them on topo maps, and has been producing excellent quality and detail.

For instance, I had an article titled "John Buford: By the Book" in the July 2005 issue of ACW, which was their feature for that Gettysburg anniversary issue. For the map included in it, I started with a map I drew entirely by freehand--which features regimental and even company level in certain areas. Stanley then took it and produced a wonderful map. Whoever at ACW it was that contracted with Steve Stanley deserves a lot of kudos.

I had two articles published in ACW this year, and another will be the feature of the March 2006 issue (about Elijah White and his 35th Battalion of VA Cavalry during the war). For all my articles, I draw on obscure primary references--not just a rehashing of what's already been published elsewhere. I know the editor of ACW, Dana Shoaf, very well, and he is directly responsible for the upgrading of the magazine lately. He's extremely particular about his content, and he's moved ACW from being that pop, easy-reading type of magazine to one that's more scholarly.

However, I have one beef--I only wish that ACW would agree to publish footnotes and sources accompanying the articles, as N&S and B&G do. Dana and I discussed this particular issue one day, and at this point Primedia doesn't seem to want to burn space printing them. I can understand their reasoning--it's all about bottom line and the best return for the space. Perhaps some day they will find a way to do it. I believe that CWT (the oldest of all) has the highest readership of any Civil War publication, and at this point Primedia may not feel pressured to include footnotes, but in the increasing "scholarship" appetite of history students today, that pressure may be forced upon them to keep the demanding readership up.

As Brett has said, this is only good for all of us. When you read an article, especially one in which the author draws new or unique conclusions or opinions, you want to see the source that he/she is using to back them up. That's truly the only way to be taken seriously. In the meantime, we have several publications that all fill niches -- B&G for its excellent tours, N&S for it's annotated scholarship, CWT for the social/political issues, and ACW for its personalities and battle/campaign narratives. If concern for the bottom line doesn't get in the way of quality, we'll all benefit.

J. David Petruzzi
Brockway, PA