This week marks the tenth birthday of the Irish in the American Civil War website. Fittingly it has concided with some recent milestones for the site: surpassing 1,000,000 views, and passing the 1,000,000 published words mark. A decade on from the first post, those words are now spread out across more than 725 articles and 96 pages (rather frighteningly, there are also almost 50,000 unpublished words, languishing in 105 “draft” posts/pages!). In more recent times, the site has also branched out into the world of podcasts and YouTube. However you prefer to interact, I want to thank everyone for continuing to engage with Irish in the American Civil War, and all those who have supported the initiative over the years.
When I began this undertaking, one of my primary goals was to raise awareness in Ireland of the impact of the Civil War on Irish people, an aim that has, I think, had mixed results. I hope though that it has achieved one of its other main purposes, and grown into a useful resource for all those interested in the 19th century Irish emigrant experience in the United States, no matter their geographic location. Writing and maintaining it over the years has certainly presented me with opportunities I could not have imagined in 2010–opportunities to travel to the United States to walk some of the sites I write about, opportunities to publish books, papers and articles on these Irish emigrants, and opportunities to make many new friends on both sides of the Atlantic.
I took the conscious decision from the outset to try and make the blog both publicly accessible and scholarly. As a result I have tried to focus as consistently as possible on sharing referenced original primary research, usually focused on the “microhistories” of individual Irish families, but also encompassing larger projects such as Widows in the Atlantic World. To that end I have viewed the site as a vehicle to try and make a contribution towards our shared historical understanding, while at the same time seeking to tell the personal stories we all find so compelling. Adopting this approach hasn’t always been without challenges. There is an inherent risk in placing large amounts of original research directly on the web, exposed as it is to plagiarism (which has occasionally been an issue). And though things have improved exponentially, there is still a ways to go before original web-based content, particularly that produced by unaffiliated researchers, is seen as having any significant academic merit. But on the whole, the journey the site has taken me on over the past decade has been well worth it. It is has enabled me to consistently engage with a number of my major passions, including writing, researching and publically communicating history and heritage. And from an academic perspective, thanks to Northumbria University, I have had the opportunity to return to full-time education, where I continue to work on a PhD based on the hundreds of Irish letters the blog led me to.
Since the site’s inception in May 2010, each of the intervening 120 months has seen the publication of a minimum of three new posts. Though a labour of love, maintaining the site at that level has proved a major ongoing commitment, both in terms of time and personal finances. I would like to express my deep gratitude to the site’s Patrons who have offered fantastic support to the website since I decided to place it on Patreon in 2017. Their genorosity has assisted me in defraying a portion of the costs of the site, allowing it to survive and (I hope!) thrive. I am also extremely grateful to the many excellent scholars who have freely and graciously shared their research on the site over the years (for a full list of Guest Posts, see the Index here), an aspect that I have found particularly enjoyable. I am not sure what the future holds for Irish in the American Civil War, or whether it will continue on indefinitely in its current format. But whatever happens, I certainly hope to continue to engage with the deeply compelling history these ordinary Irish emigrants left behind, and to continue to share their stories with you.
*I am hoping to hold an event over the summer months to more properly mark the site’s tenth birthday. Given the current global pandemic, it is likely that it will take the form of an online gathering, perhaps in the shape of a talk or series of talks. I will hopefully have more information for readers in the coming weeks!