I have been running a Civil War blog in one form (American Civil War Gaming & Reading) or another (TOCWOC) since late 2005 with several hiatuses. Due to this, I sometimes fall into the bad habit of assuming readers know exactly how TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog can be used to read articles of interest to you, to find Civil War wargames mods, to see just how many Civil War blogs are currently active out there in the blogosphere, and to even find some regimental level orders of battle with unit strengths for several major battles. This post is an attempt to educate readers, new and old, about the variety of Civil War related materials here at TOCWOC and how to navigate quickly and easily to the materials you find most interesting.
Let’s look at the top menu of TOCWOC first. I’ll list the items you can click on below and go into detail as to what you might find after you click.
- HOME: If at any time you would like to return to the front page of TOCWOC, simply left click on this item to do so.
- ABOUT: TOCWOC’s ABOUT page tells you how TOCWOC came together, when we started, and the blog’s purpose. It also links to the authors and the categories so you can get started quickly.
- ARCHIVES: The archives list all previous posts sorted by month or by category.
- AUTHORS: TOCWOC is as many of you know a group blog. The AUTHORS page shows you who the current bloggers are with a bit of background. Lower on the page you will see currently active bloggers elsewhere who might cross post at TOCWOC from time to time. At the very bottom of the page you will see formerly active TOCWOC bloggers who have taken a semi-permanent or permanent leave of absence from TOCWOC blogging. All of these former bloggers are welcome back at any time to resume their former activities. Please note that you can click on some blogger names to see their personal About page here at TOCWOC. My about page, for instance, tells you a little bit more about me and why I decided to start TOCWOC.
- CATEGORIES: Every category used at TOCWOC is listed here in a branching format. In order to keep things relatively simple, TOCWOC uses at most one level of sub-category. For instance, you will see the Books – Reviews subcategory under the main Books category.
- CONTACT US: The CONTACT US area can be used for a multitude of things. Common reasons to use the Contact form include:
- Asking a question about TOCWOC which isn’t post-specific. We have been asked about our review policy, asked by prospective bloggers if they could join TOCWOC, and asked about the Civil War wargames mods on the site.
- Asking a Civil War question of the authors which you think we may be able to answer.We have been asked about specific books and wargames, to recommend favorite books on a particular subject such as a battle or a military or political leader, and in one case, we were even asked to provide some help for an upcoming episode of a popular Showtime cable television show!
- Publishers or authors asking us to review a copy of their new book. I particularly enjoy these, especially now that TOCWOC is able to review fiction as well thanks to the gracious volunteer efforts of Civil War fiction author Jessica James.
- DISCLAIMER: Because this is a multi-author blog which consists of authors with differing personal, political, and religious views, the DISCLAIMER simply states that each author’s views are solely those of the author in question and do not reflect the views of TOCWOC or the authors as a whole.
- SITEMAP: The SITEMAP literally lists every single post and page on the entire TOCWOC site. As you can imagine, a blog which has been mostly active since 2005 has accumulated quite a bit of content. If you have exhausted every other option short of using our search feature, the SITEMAP is the best place to go to find an item you are specifically looking for on the site.
- RSS: RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication”. RSS allows a reader to view TOCWOC’s blog posts without ever actually having to visit the site if they choose not to. By clicking on the RSS link, you will be able to subscribe to TOCWOC’s blog entries via email or using a feed reader program which you have downloaded and installed on your computer. Using a feed reader will allow you to be notified when TOCWOC has a new blog entry up, and it displays that blog entry for you to read. It’s a great way to keep track of multiple blogs. Instead of going to each blog every day, you wait for blog entries to appear via your feed reader. If RSS appeals to your lazy side (we ALL have one, right?), subscribe to TOCWOC via email or a feed reader today and let TOCWOC blog posts come to you instead of the other way around.
Second, let’s look over the items found in the left sidebar of the site. The items listed here include many links to Civil War related web sites I have found to be useful in my years of Civil War internet surfing. You will also find other ways to interact with TOCWOC and TOCWOC bloggers. The left sidebar ends with links to the many blog directories TOCWOC is listed at, including obvious ones such as Technorati.
- Join TOCWOC as a Blogger: TOCWOC is always looking for more bloggers to add to the list, especially those who bring a unique perspective to their study of the Civil War. Click on this link to “apply” to be a TOCWOC Civil War blogger. Simply state what you believe you bring to the table as a Civil War buff. We will evaluate your “application” and get back with you in 24-48 hours.
- Enter the Latest TOCWOC Contest: This area will be used currently and for the foreseeable future to highlight the latest TOCWOC blogging contest. The current contest involves answering what five Civil War books are the most important you have read, and why, in 1000 words or less. The winner receives a FREE copy of Brent Nosworthy’s new Civil War book Roll Call to Destiny.
- Archives: Past TOCWOC blog entries can be found by clicking on past months’ worth of blog entries.
- Authors: Every past and present TOCWOC author is listed here with their total number of posts in parenthese next to their name.
- Book Publishers: The book publishers listed here are those who I value highly enough to purchase books from directly. I would rather give them the full value of the book’s cost than buy these books used because I believe in what these publishers are doing. I will also promote any and all books they publish to get these publishers as many paying customers as possible. If they continue to do what they have been doing, all students of the Civil War come out ahead.
- Game Publishers: Read the paragraph above and replace the word book(s) with wargame(s).
- Civil War Sites: These are Civil War sites I enjoy which really do not fit in the other categories.
- ACW Magazines: I have listed all of the Civil War magazines I subscribe to, many of which I provide monthly summaries for here in TOCWOC blog entries and also at my American Civil War Magazine & Journal Index. My personal favorites are North & South Magazine and also Blue & Gray Magazine.
- Book Buying: These are the sites I most commonly buy books from online. eBay and Abebooks have rapidly taken over as my main Civil War book buying sources.
- ACW Forums: I have listed here all of the main Civil War forums I frequent. Try these out, as the Civil War forums can always use more members.
- Blog Directories: All blog directories which list TOCWOC are included here, including Technorati, BlogFlux, and others. These blog directories are a pretty good way to find other blogs in your topics of interest.
Third, we’ll move on to the items found within the right sidebar of TOCWOC. In this area you can subscribe to TOCWOC’s RSS feed as described in the first section of this post, read over TOCWOC’s book review policy, search across ALL Civil War blogs to find posts on topics of interest, search only TOCWOC to find posts on topics of interest, look through recent and top posts here at TOCWOC, and see TOCWOC’s complete blogroll of Civil War blogs and other blogs of interest.
- Subscribe to TOCWOC’s RSS Feed: This item was covered in detail in the first section of this post. To briefly recap, you can subscribe to TOCWOC’s RSS feed via daily emails or using a news reader in this section.
- Read TOCWOC’s Civil War Book Review Policy: This page is to provide clear and detailed instructions to publishers and authors looking to ask TOCWOC authors to review their book. I like to be up front about how things work, and this area describes in detail what types of books TOCWOC reviews, what condition we prefer our books to be in (new, who doesn’t?), and how long an author or publisher may wait for a review to appear.
- Search ALL Current Civil War Blogs: This is a feature we are really excited about here at TOCWOC. If you are interested in a given topic, say Civil War artillery, for instance, you can search across the entire Civil War blogosphere. Simply enter your search term and look through the results generated by Google. The results featured only come from current Civil War blogs, the ones listed on TOCWOC’s extensive and complete Civil War blogroll.
- Search TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog: If you prefer to narrow your search to only TOCWOC blog entries and pages, you can do this as well.
- Top Posts: This area allows you to look at some of the most entertaining/interesting/informative posts which have appeared at TOCWOC over the years. Currently these only include posts by me, but I plan to go through and rectify that situation soon by asking my fellow bloggers, especially Fred Ray, to pick a few of their personal favorites among their own body of work.
- Recent Posts: This area includes a list of the most recent posts at TOCWOC, showing you the date and the post title. As new posts are added to the blog, older posts disappear.
- Civil War Blogroll: This is the current list of Civil War blogs I am aware of. If you know of any new ones I’m missing, please let me know and I’ll be happy to add it. I’ve always been committed to listing every other Civil War blog out there, even the ones which have not offered TOCWOC a link in return. The idea is to accumulate a page where Civil War readers can find all of the Civil War blogs listed.
- Other Blogs: Other blogs are listed below the Civil War blogs and they are divided into several categories. I read each of these blogs on a frequent basis and highly recommend each one.
Fourth, let’s discuss the various items and tools you can use within a given TOCWOC post. When you left click on a post title, you will be brought to the permanent URL of that blog entry on the TOCWOC site. This changes the viewing environment a bit. Here I hope to make you aware of the various features within any given blog entry.
- Title: The title of the blog entry is listed prominently across the screen. Most of the time the title will be a part of the permament URL of the blog entry, also known as the “Permalink”.
- Date: The month, day, and year the entry was posted on.
- Author: The author of the post. It’s a good idea to pay particular attention to this on a group blog like TOCWOC!
- Comments: The number of comments currently posted on this entry. Don’t see a comment yet? Start the discussion! More on comments in a bit.
- Body Text: The main body of the blog entry. This is where we try to impart our wisdom on you the reader!
- Related Posts: The related posts area is one of my favorite features on TOCWOC. It lists up to five TOCWOC blog entries you may like after reading the current post.
- Categories: This area lists the major TOCWOC blog categories this blog entry fits under.
- Tags: These are more specific items such as a Civil War personality’s name, the name of a battle or campaign, the name of a Civil War book or author, etc. Click on a tag to see other posts which have this same tag.
- Leave A Comment: Enter your Name, Email Address, Web Site (if applicable), and enter your comment. Please note the ability to subscribe to comments for the given post located below the comments form by using a check box. This will allow you to follow an interesting discussion for any given blog entry.
- Action Buttons/Social Networking: Text
Lastly, I want to point out the wargames mods located here at TOCWOC. These includ:
- Wargames Mods: TOCWOC’s Civil War wargames mods page contains links to the various Civil War wargames for which I provide fan sites. These sites contain many different kinds of mods from ones which affect gameplay to sound mods to new graphics and scenarios for the games. The following Civil War wargames fan sites are listed:
- The Harpers Ferry Arsenal: This is a fan site for the Mad Minute Games’ series of Civil War “tactical simulators” for PCs. The games supported include Bull Run: Take Command 1861 and Take Command 2nd Manassas. I hope to eventually support any games made by NordSoftDev here as well.
- The Macon Armory: The Macon Armory is a fan site for Gary Grigsby’s War Between the States.
- The Springfield Armory: The Springfield Armory is a fan site for AGEod’s American Civil War.
- The Tredegar Iron Works: The Tredegar Iron Works is a fan site for Forge of Freedom.
- In addition, I have an old fan site for HPS Simulations’ Civil War Battles series of computer games which is not included directly into the TOCWOC format.
If you’ve read through this entire tutorial and you still have questions about how to use the blog, use the Contact Us link at the top of the screen and feel free to ask. We typically respond in 24-48 hours worst case scenario. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little look around, and I hope you continue to come back to TOCWOC in the future.
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***Check out the Siege of Petersburg Online for daily posts on battle accounts in newspaper articles, diary entries, letters and more!
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