Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tweeting from the Nineteenth Century

CNN had a headline today called Tweeting from the 20th century. The story told is of a lost postcard delivered some 47 years later. Well, I've got news of even older tweets going on; Tweeting from the Civil War.

This project started like most of my projects do; with me goofing around. I was reading a book called World War Z. World War Z is unique in that it has no protagonist. There is not one hero or group of people you follow through the entire story. Instead, the book reads like a collection of reports from NPR's Morning Edition. Through about 40 stories, you begin to get a feel for the narrative. It's a very interesting way to tell a story.

Well, while sitting on my couch following a few # tags on Twitter, the idea hit me. If you can tell a story through 40 characters in a book, why not tell a story through 40 characters on Twitter? Or better yet, not just a story, but history itself.

The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. I tracked down a few journals and diaries from the Civil War. I was able to collect about ten people who experienced, or were involved in some other way, the Battle of Gettysburg. I've started tweeting their journals day-by-day, as it happened 146 years ago. So if David Strother had beans for breakfast on April 21, 1863, then in 2009, David_Strother tweets, "Had beans for breakfast".

The result have been surprising. You see similar threads between the historical figures. Many of them comment on the same weather, or the same orders coming down the line. You really get a feel for what is happening, even though your reading short 140 character-long tweets.

Anyway, if you'd like to follow along, please join us over at If you've never tweeted before, no worries; we've got all the instructions on the site.


Trent said...

Rocking idea as always ... you should use hashtags in all the tweets so you could follow the hashtag and not have to follow all of the characters individually

Matthew Buckley said...

Yeah, we thought about hash tags, but then the spammers come out of the woodwork, and we'll be selling viagra along with telling the story of the battle of Gettysburg.