Civil War Interactive at www.almshouse.com, Almshouse Publications, (610) 264-7977.
“For years it has been our opinion that there was a niche in the Civil War world that wasn’t being filled,” writes Joe Avalon. “What was missing was a place to go just to have a good time while studying the war. A place run by Civil War buffs, not Civil War experts…. That’s the place we couldn’t find. So we created it.” And what a job they’ve done.
Avalon and Laurie Chambliss are the editors and the sole operators of Civil War Interactive, a free on-line “magazine” about the war, done by buffs for buffs. It’s an impressive web site, even more so when you consider that it was created by only two people. The pair began the site on January 1, 1996, as Civil War Trader. Fearing the name implied they were salespeople, they gave the site its current name seven months later. Updated daily, Civil War Interactive boasts of some 2,400 faithful readers, a number that Avalon says continues to grow. These readers are treated to some of the most unusual articles to be found in any publication on the war, written in a casual, almost conversational manner.
Many of the pieces that appear on their web site are not Civil War treatises in the strictest sense. In these, there are no battles, no patriotic young men rushing off to war. No, these articles are fun. One such piece, “The Taverns of Gettysburg,” bills itself as “a drinking guide for the Civil War tourist.” Another, “The Best of the Bawdy Side,” the editors write, “is intended for mature audiences only.”
But before you start to believe Avalon and Chambliss are not serious about their craft, read Avalon’s “Field of Souls,” a poignant and touching essay on the start of the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee. “Nobody won this war,” an affected Avalon expounds. “If you think the North won, then you still don’t understand. We killed each other. That’s all. Wrap it up in all the patriotism you need to and it changes nothing…. The Civil War gives us nothing to be proud of.”