It came to my attention a month or so ago that my webpage has been cited as a reference in a recent online revision of an older scholarly article in print called The Story of Union Forces In South Texas During the Civil War. The article was revised by Norman Rozeff of the Cameron County Historical Commission in Texas for their website. My URL for my webpage is listed in the references at the end of the article as the online location of a document cited by Rozeff as 'Fredrich Buker. Memoirs of a Union Soldier.'
I'm not ordinarily the nitpicky sort. The fact is that the rules and conventions for citing online work are still pretty much up for grabs. Writings that are only available online can't really claim to have actually been published in anything but a virtual sense. Vast amounts of 'published' materials consist of information assembled or compiled by individuals and donated to local historical or genealogical societies. Many such documents are one of only a handful of copies made for the benefit of the dozen or so people in the world who might one day want access to that particular information. Sometimes the material is invaluable to the people to whom it pertains, but the chances of its finding a wider audience are so infinitesimal that there is no percentage in investing in publishing costs that won't ever be recouped.
The internet makes it much easier to 'publish' such material. All that's required is one hard copy, access to a scanner, a computer and a server address where the document's URL can be accessed online by remote computers. Anyone with a blog could put the entire content of most local historical societies' libraries online at very little expense beyond the time it takes to scan in the pages. What that means is that scholars, particularly historians, now have to contend with an exponential growth in the availability of primary historical sources.
The item Norman Rozeff referenced to my web address is actually only a 'dead link', one that a reader can find if they take the trouble to read through my entire webpage, a page that was written more than five years ago when the link was still current. Rozeff is actually referencing my summary of a translated memoir of a German-immigrant Union soldier who was in South Texas at the end of the Civil War.
A current link to Buker's translated memoir can be found in the sidebar of this blog under the heading Friedrich Buker. At some point during the past five years, probably less than a year ago, the State of Wisconsin took enough interest in Buker's diary to host the document on their own server and spare Buker's descendants the cost of paying a server to host the document.
I'm not convinced, based upon Rozeff's excellent and highly detailed and documented article, that he's ever actually seen Buker's translated memoir, a primary historical source. My summary of Buker's memoir is a secondary source and it should have been cited as a secondary source under the title of my webpage, Pinnacled Dim In The Intense Inane, which can also be found on my left margin sidebar.
As a memoirist Buker rambles a bit and he tends to assume that readers of his rendering are already well acquainted with the newspaper accounts of his regiment's activities. That may have been true in his time. The State of Wisconsin, for the benefit of 21st century readers, recently began hosting the online edition of an unpublished book by Mark Knipping, A History of the 27th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment During the War of the Rebellion. Summarizing Buker's memoir would have been far easier for me and required much less close reading if Mr. Knipping's book had been published online five years ago.
Nonetheless, I am deeply grateful and feel highly complimented that Mr. Rozeff took the trouble to acknowledge my work, however obliquely, for the online revision of his print article.