Phil Schlegel

     Last June we posted Mike Bell’s version of how he became interested in the Civil War, followed in September by Carol Manchester’s story. That seems like a great way to get to know our round table members a little better, so I thought that I’d follow up with my own experience. For me, it started in the early 1960’s with a hard-cover copy of the Golden Book of the Civil War (American Heritage). I became fascinated with the color 3D maps on the printed page and the stories that accompanied them. To this day, a map to accompany the story of a battle means a lot more to me than the printed word alone . . . even to the point that I will often print off a map to consult as I read the story of an unfolding battle.

     For those of you who are “baby boomers,” the next part of my story may be similar to yours! In the early 1960’s the Civil War Centennial was in full swing. The Civil War Centennial commemorative stamp series remains vivid in my memory. I vaguely recall watching a Civil War-themed television program called The Americans which, according to IMDb, ran for a single season in 1961. Then, when I was 14, my dad and I went on my first Civil War field trip, taking in Gettysburg, Antietam, and the host of the nearby Virginia battlefields.

     I was introduced to Bruce Catton’s “Army of the Potomac” trilogy as well as his “Centennial History of the Civil War” series. My interest in examining the minute details of battles, battle maps, and contemporary and post-war art blossomed from there. After getting out of the army and moving to Gettysburg I became active in the North-South Skirmish Association, gaining hands-on knowledge of Civil War-era weapons, participating in many sponsored competitions, and enjoying the camaraderie of fellow enthusiasts. The many contributions of Shelby Foote, Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary, the Roots mini-series, and so many others before and after, simply added to the foundation laid at a very early age.

     The adventure continues to this day. Only recently I was astonished to learn that I have a Civil War relative . . . a great, great uncle who served in the 22nd Connecticut Volunteer Infantry! It’s too bad I didn’t know that back in 1961, but I’m pleased to have that new information now!

Again, we hope that some of you will share your stories of how you got interested in the Civil War.

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