Question of the Week 7/27-8/2

All of us began studying the American Civil War for a variety of different reasons. Your reason could be as monumental as being related to one of the key figures of the war or as simple as finding a bullet in your backyard as a child – or even as an adult!

Large or small, how did you come to find the Civil War so fascinating? What brought you to study the American Civil War?

Currier & Ives - The Battle of Petersburg

18 Responses to Question of the Week 7/27-8/2

  1. I live on Pickett Street. To get to work, I turn right on Van Dorn street, left on Braddock, then right on Beauregard Street. My daughter’s best friend lives on Pegram Street. My wife’s best friend lives on Early Street. My kids learned to ride their bikes at Fort Ward, a preserved fort that was part of the Washington, DC defenses and now serves as a hybrid historical site/picnic area. When I visit my mom, I park right next to the Appomattox Statue, which marks the point at which the 17th Virginia gathered to evacuate Alexandria, VA. When friends visit from out of town, they love to stay at Hotel Monaco, formerly the Marshall House Inn, where Elmer Ellsworth was shot by proprietor James Jackson, who was flying a secesh flag in sight of the White House.

    In other words, I am surrounded, and instead of resisting, I just dove in.

  2. I visited Gettysburg on a family trip in 1958 and climbed the lookout tower on Big Round Top. I have been hooked ever since.

  3. I was born and raised in the Shenandoah Valley, within sight of where Turner Ashby fell. I had many family members who fought for the Confederacy, including a GGGrandfather who died in the Battle of Kernstown. He was a member of the Stonewall Brigade — 33rd Virginia Infantry.

  4. I became interested in the Civil War when I decided to see for myself what events and circumstances led to the attack on Ft. Sumter. From what I see most Civil War buffs like to concentrate on the generals and military tactics, but I like to research the decisions being made by the political leaders. What really convinced state legislators to vote for secession? What role did the Confederate congress play in planning the South’s over all strategy?

  5. When I was 8 or 9 and visiting my grandmother, I went up to the attic and found what turned out to be my ancestor Isaac’s diaries, uniform, tintypes, etc. from his 3 years in the Army of the Potomac. I’m not sure why, but I was “hooked”. We visited Gettysburg, Bull Run, and Antietam a year or so later and things took off from there.

  6. My developing interest bloomed when I discovered my first direct ancestor’s service in the war. I wanted to find out about some of his experiences, started reading and the rest is history.

  7. For me it really began with my interest in WWII history. My boss at the time was a retired Marine Colonel who also shared WWII history interests. One day we got to talking about the Civil War and he gave me a book to read saying that he thought I’d be interested in it. The book was “Killer Angels.” That led me to visit Gettysburg for the first time and I got hooked. I was hooked so bad, that I began to visit Gettysburg about 6 times a year. One of my hobbies, photography, found a new niche, Civil War Battlefields. I also became so interested in the Civil War, in particular, Gettysburg, that I began studying for the Licensed Battlefield Guide exam. To step it up, I found a new hobby, Living History. I took on two impressions, the first was Colonel William “Buck” McCandless of the PA Reserves, my most recent one is of Gen. Phil Sheridan. Both of these impressions opened a whole new world not only on the battles that involved them, but the persons themselves. I look forward to continue learning about the war and to take from it the lessons learned and pass that on to newer generations.

  8. In 1983, when I was 11, I watched “The Blue and the Gray” (it premiered the year before and I think I may have seen a re-run of it). I read an article on the show in the “Weekly Reader” around that same time, describing the uniforms and the “Battle of Geyser Hill” that took place in it. I was fascinated that battles could actually be fought in what amounted to someone’s front yard. Not long after, I was given the American Heritage “Picture History” and studied the maps for hours. I was hooked.

    Joel Manuel
    Baton Rouge LA

  9. I’ve always been interested in U.S. history. Then I had an opportunity to edit a book of letters & diaries from a Union soldier, and I needed to research the war to give his words greater meaning and context. “What the Private Saw: The Civil War Letters and Diaries of Oney Foster Sweet”

  10. My grandfather taught in a one-room Pennsylvania schoolhouse in the latter part of the 19th century. I grew up in a farmhouse built in the late 1850s on a small farm that had been purchased by my him, then owned by my father, and is still in our family some 130 years later. When I was in elementary school, I decided to explore the attic where were stored the textbooks he used to teach. In those textbooks the Civil War was taught as a recent current event with all of the pomp and glory that the 19th century could muster. Additionally, the farm where he grew up was close to the Susquehanna River, the pastures of which were a depository of York County farmer’s livestock that was driven across the bridge between Wrightsville and Columbia to be kept from being appropriated by the Confederates before it was burned on June, 28, 1863. My father would tell me of his father’s memories of that time. I wanted to know more and raided the local public library and haven’t looked back since. My home has shelves and shelves of books on the subject, and my office is now covered with framed prints of the battle reenactments in which I participated during the recent Sesquicentennial. The corner of my office has a diorama amply supplied by William Britain replicating a scene from Grant’s Overland Campaign using Gordon Rhea’s descriptions in his four volume treatise on the subject. I am currently looking for a 12-step program to control my addition, but not too hard.

  11. When I was young I learned that Abraham Lincoln was from Kentucky and that naturally led to an interest in his life and the Civil War. Also, when I was about 10 years old, I read an article about 2 men who were arrested as Confederate spies near where I lived at the time. They were executed at Johnson’s Island and then buried very close to home (William Corbin and Jefferson McGraw were the men). That little bit of local (Northern Kentucky) stuck in my head and high school and college only added to my interest with various books, classes and assignments.

  12. I cannot remember when I did not know about the Civil War. My grandmother told me about relatives who fought, my dad had those big, thick black records–“Songs of the North & South” I think they were called. I remember the Life Magazine stuff on the 100th, for sure. I did projects in school & whenever the Civil War was a possible topic, I took it. It just seemed natural to know about the war.

  13. As a native Mississippian who attended Jefferson Davis grammar school, I was told about great-grandfathers on both sides who fought for the Confederacy. I was named after maternal great-grandfather. Paternal great-grandfather was a surgeon with Lee’s Army. I am now in my 80s and have leisure to read and reflect. Also, I have revised/corrected some of the “lies” that the Southern Catechism dictated that all young Rebels learn and recite verbatim. It was only later that I learned that the United Daughters of the Confederacy had promulgated an actual Southern Catechism.
    It’s a pleasure to read and participate in this blog. Love to watch American History channel on the weekends.

  14. It was the soldiers uniforms. For some reason, they really appealed to me when I was in the third grade. Plus, I discovered I had relatives who served in the war. One in the 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery and one in the 53rd Illinois Infantry.

  15. Always fascinated by Civil War in school. My wife inherited her great grandfather’s discharge paper and have retraced his journey ever since.

  16. I had always been interested in history, but the Antietam battle scene in “Glory” hooked me, the movie’s James Island sequence fascinated me, and it’s portrayal of the attack on Battery Wagner sealed my fate.

    These days, I feel a twinge of guilt whenever I read a book that’s not Civil War-related.

  17. Michele Stahl… Remember being around seven… My mom and Grandma and the kids were coming back from somewhere, and stopped at Gettysburg….

  18. I did it to meet women. They go for a man in uniform even if I am a re enactor.
    And seriously I have enjoyed learning history of my family genealogy, local history, county, state and national. Figuring out those that came before me why they did what they did.
    And those that don’t learn from their history are doomed to repeat it.

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