As tax season is now in full swing and my time is limited, my research and immersion in the Civil War studies is also limited. Frustration doesn’t begin to express how I feel about that. However, there is hope! Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many history education organizations and private historians have taken to online presentations and interviews to continue their outreach. If you follow these institutions on Facebook, you’re probably familiar with this.
The good news is that, though many of these presentations are aired live on whatever online platform they’re using, the videos and podcasts are also available after-the-fact and ready to keep me company as I fill out 1099s, file payroll returns, and reconcile bank accounts. My work is lenient on allowing me to have these playing in the background as long as I stay productive.
I’d like to take a minute to share these podcasts with you so that you can browse the many presentations for yourself.
1.) We’re going to start with a personal favorite. Emerging Civil War has been airing podcasts via Patreon for quite a while and those who donated could listen to these podcasts on a monthly basis. However, in the light of the Covid and the strain on pocketbooks, ECW elected to suspend their Patreon fees and open up new podcasts absolutely FREE for the public. If you’re like me and want to stay visually engaged while listening, they’ve also posted their podcast interviews on their YouTube page. On their YouTube page you can also find a multitude of on-the-ground presentations from various battlefields, usually hosted by the co-founder, Chris Mackowski. Most of those on-site videos average 10-15 minutes long, but their podcasts can be up to an hour as they interview authors and historians about new work.
2.) The Tattooed Historian, John Heckman, has been working tirelessly this year to provide as he calls it, “friction-free content”. He charges nothing for attending his online lectures or interviews with noted historians. This past summer, he teamed up with Peter Carmichael of the Gettysburg Institute and produced some engaging and enlightening presentations. More recently, he’s begun airing new online sessions titled “Historians Off the Clock” and “Buzzed with the Tattooed Historian”, both are informal conversation-driven livestreams with either John by himself or with other historians. These sessions have held awesome insights into the historian community and have been very uplifting for a budding historian such as myself. While his personal studies focuses more in World War I, he’ll hop all over the timeline of American history. He’s even jumped onto the Twitch platform and streamed his historical gaming sessions for his followers. He can be followed on just about every platform, but his interviews are primarily stored on YouTube. John has been a huge inspiration, as he works as an independent historian, helping to improve the branding of other historians who are looking to make their way in the field.
3.) Speaking of Peter Carmichael, check out the Civil War Institute of Gettysburg College on Facebook and YouTube. While their live presentation output has slowed down since the summer, their interviews and engaging academic presentations can be found on YouTube. Peter Carmichael is praised for his genial personality and evokes both difficult and illuminating conversations with his co-hosts and interviewees. There’s never a dull moment when he’s on screen. Though an academic himself, he has a knack for making sure that discussions are understandable and appealing to the general audience.
4.) The National Museum of Civil War Medicine has really stepped up their game in light of Covid shutting down their museums. Their main museum in Frederick, Maryland shut its doors early in the pandemic, and both the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office in Washington D.C. and the Pry House Field Hospital in Sharpsburg followed suit. Luckily, they had been looking at ways to expand online and they were more than prepared to take on the challenge. They hit the ground running on the “Zoom Boom” and hosted many historians in talks pertaining to the history of medicine, especially in the 19th century. Their big message was to give “hope through history” to the masses, proving that this is not the first deadly epidemic to hit the nation and showing how far we have come. Their early presentations invited experts to tell how much medical science has advanced, assuring viewers that we would survive this just as they did. Their topics have branched out to tell the story of nurses, doctors, hospitals, and everything else pertaining to Civil War medicine, but there are quite a few live sessions that deviate from that theme. They’ve provided these live and pre-recorded sessions at no cost to viewers, but they are emphatic that without the support of donations and new membership, they would not be able to provide this content. I became a member after watching just a few videos to help support them and rejoiced when their museum was able to open back up to the public later in the year. They have one or two new lives every week and they can all be seen on YouTube or caught in real time on Facebook. If you become a member or subscribe to their newsletter, you can get a weekly heads-up about upcoming videos and links to the previous week’s videos if you missed any. John Lustrea, Jake Wynn, and Kyle Dalton have done some amazing work for the museum in this department.
5.) Most recently, I stumbled onto the Civil War Breakfast Club on Facebook. They were brought on to be interviewed by the Tattooed Historian and I had already vaguely heard of them after browsing some Civil War podcasts on Amazon Music (more on that later). I thought they sounded like a fun bunch. Mary Fincher and Darin Weeks get together every Saturday morning to talk and “BS” about the Civil War in a hilarious and sometimes satirical way while still delivering a great session packed with good interpretations of history. Now, this is WAY informal and not safe for kiddie ears, just as a warning. As a result, their podcast may seem off-color to some, but that’s what sets them apart from other historians in the podcast community. They’re real and uncensored, just two friends getting together to talk Civil War stuff and they share this with the world while also keeping up a good fluid interaction with their audience, bringing them into the conversation just as John Heckman does on his platforms. It’s refreshing to hear these takes on Civil War events and they will pinball to just about anywhere within the conflict, making their talks entertaining and educational at the same time. Their podcasts can be found on Amazon Music’s new “Podcast” category and only requires an Amazon account to listen to. They’re also on YouTube for those who don’t want to mess with Amazon. These talks are edited after the fact, so if you want the full deal, tune in on their Facebook page every Saturday morning at 9am.
6.) If you’ve been missing the get-togethers with your local Civil War Roundtable, no worries! Among some great livestreams of other roundtables (the CWRT of Central Louisiana is a great favorite of mine), you can also head over to the Civil War Roundtable Congress YouTube page and find a whole slew of interviews and presentations. Among them are over 20-something video series about Ulysses S. Grant’s military career during the Civil War, which will only grow in the coming year. Mike Movius, the president of the CWRTC has played host to authors and historians for over six months. Though you have to register for the livestream presentations, they do post these sessions afterward as many other organizations have done. They can be found on YouTube and I plan to binge-watch them in the coming weeks.
7.) I would be remiss to leave the American Battlefield Trust out of this conversation. Covid may have slowed down their traveling (a little) but they are still a wealth of livestreams and presentations, interviewing authors and historians just like the previously mentioned organizations. Their topics focus primarily on battlefield preservation efforts and battlefield anniversaries. Some great strides have been made in the preservation field since Covid struck and it’s exciting to hear about the work ABT continues to do in spite of everything. Not only do they discuss these accomplishments in the realm of the Civil War, but also the American Revolutionary War and War of 1812. So, if you are lacking in knowledge about these preceding wars, go check them out! Livesteams can be caught on Facebook and they’ve got tons more on their YouTube page from the past few years as well. You don’t want to miss out on Garry Adelman or Kristopher White giving these thorough and enthusiastic presentations.
8.) A new favorite is the Civil War Digital Digest. No, it’s not a magazine (more about that later too). Their team posts regular videos about all aspects of Civil War life from the soldier’s experience to civilian life. They’ve gone into some serious depth about everything from period recipes to clothing to games to weaponry to camp life. Their videos, though short, are packed with useful information to fill in the gaps between studies to make the era and people come to life. These videos are typically short, ranging from a few minutes to maybe half an hour. They can be found on YouTube, separated into playlists, but also on their website. They’re a great resource if you need a quick answer to small things like, “How did they eat salt pork?” or “How do you play Chuck-A-Luck?”
9.) I mentioned magazines earlier and if you like Civil War magazines, you’ve likely heard of Civil War Times. I subscribe them and have never been disappointed in the great content they turn out. It always made my day when their magazine showed up in my mailbox. What’s even better is when the first Monday of the month comes around. Dana Shoaf, chief editor of the magazine, with head photographer Melissa Winn, go on-location to some great Civil War landmarks, many of them lesser-known or hard to reach by the general public. They typically go live in 15-20 minute spurts about 4-5 times throughout their “First Monday Broadcast” as they hop around to different locations that have a connected theme. They are normally accompanied by park rangers or local historians who give amazing context to these locations. The livestreams aren’t posted anywhere afterwards, but you can browse through their videos on their Facebook page for past Mondays.
I’d also like to give a special mention to a few content providers on YouTube. Lion Heart Film Works is a great source of military history videos and Prior Attire is amazing for those who have a special interest in period clothing. Both channels have Civil War-era content. If you want something that pre-dates the war, I recommend Townsend on YouTube, which educates about 18th century America, ranging from cooking to clothing to colonial and wilderness lifestyles.
I also mentioned Amazon Music Podcasts earlier. A new feature to the Amazon experience, if you search “Civil War’ within the music player on either the desktop app, phone app, or browser, you’ll find a few podcast channels that are definitely worth a listen. And of course, Google can always be counted on if you run out of things to listen to.
So, I hope you’ve learned about a few new organizations to follow and I hope they provide you with hours upon hours of entertaining and educational content. I know these historians will be great companions as I navigate my first tax season.
These are just a few of my favorites, though I know there are tons more out there. Do you have any history or Civil War podcasts to recommend? Drop them in the comments below!