I grew up in Northeastern Oklahoma, a few miles from the Cabin Creek Battlesite. My mother's family if from Arkansas, and I cannot remember the first time I was taken to the family cemetery and shown the gravestone of my mother's great-grandfather's father, a man named David James Wilson, who served as a blacksmith with the 53rd Alabama Cavalry (Partisan Rangers).
Later, I discovered that his brother Frank had ended up in the 23rd Alabama Infantry, attached to the ANV and sent to Virginia in the last days of the War. Frank was captured and died at Camp Douglas. It was not known by his family at the time where he had been laid to rest. By chance, not long ago, I ran across a man who had done extensive work on the 23rd, and found out that Frank was buried at Oakwood, near Chicago, and that his name appears on the memorial at the Confederate Mound.
A third brother, Harris, served with the 1st Alabama Infantry, and survived the War.
I now live in Tom Green County, Texas (named for Confederate General Tom Green) and am not far from the Dove Creek Battlesite.
It is not so much being 'interested' in the War, as it is that the War surrounds me. It affected my family. I have been moved to tears when I discover just one more fact about these men. I have walked the battlesites, touched the ground they touched, laid my hands upon their graves. They are not 'historical figures' to me, they are flesh and blood; my flesh and blood.
I cannot imagine a day passing when I do not think of them.
I don't remember when I finally became a civil war buff. I've always read books about wars and enjoyed them greatly. I believe the real reason I started getting deeper into the civil war was because of Robert E. Lee. I just love how he handled all the situations in his life in a biblical manner.
Eventually I just started getting deeper and deeper. Now I try to get my hands on every civil war book I can. Now, compared to some people, I'm not even close to being a civil war buff. That is probably due to my schoolwork, which prevents me from visiting all the battlefields I want to see.
So I don't know if you could consider me a civil war buff, though I like to think of myself as one.
What was that first moment that led to an interest in the Civil War? I have to look hard to remember. I remember reading a book on the Gettysburg Address as a youth but I don’t really remember being all that interested. At the time I think I was more intrigued with Star Wars and World War Two. I remember well admiring; actually I think it was more awe and hero worship of the Legion members who had served. They were men who dropped their lives for four years to go off to foreign lands far from home to battle an evil the likes fiction has a hard time inventing.
So where did my fascination with the Civil War begin? I don’t think it was a s youth, but in college my fascination was still with World War Two and the Mongol Conquests of Asia. My father asked me to see if I could find some information on family members who had served. I was very little help. I needed an American history class for my major and the chair of the department was offering a 2 credit winter coarse on the Civil War. Professor Lybarger was a man who gave simple but poignant lectures with only one or two text books and a lot of suggested readings. The text was the very readable Battle Cry of Freedom and the Ken Burns Video series. We were given several options for our final, one was to pick a very specific portion of the war and research it or to pick a mistake or error in Battle Cry of Freedom or the Ken Burns Series. Others chose specific bits of the Ken Burns series and picked it apart. I chose the firearms of the era and learned a lot from William Edwards, Civil War Guns. That class and that book started a passion in me but it was a slow starting seed.
Years later while stationed in South Carolina I developed a taste for Maurices BBQ and through a strange happenstance found a young lady working at the South Carolina Historical Society. She introduced me to some microfiche of period newspapers and letters. I enjoyed studying the words of men who had been there. Those letters were written by men not at all unlike me or those veterans of World War Two. They were my age with dreams and hopes like mine. It was a slow growing interest that turned into a passion. Now through books and Living History my passion has grown almost to an obsession. The more I learn the more I want to know about those men. Luckily my passion has grown to encompass my entire family.
I have gained an understanding of the day to day life; day to day trials and tribulations that still haunt the average soldier. All in all I have garnered an understanding of our history; a knowledge that the more things change the more they have stayed the same.