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 Posted: Mon Apr 9th, 2007 02:17 pm
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Johan Steele
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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.



 Posted: Mon Apr 9th, 2007 03:38 pm
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susansweet
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Most interesting story and journey Johan.  Where did mine come from.  I am much older, you are lucky to have started younger with your interest .  I am playing catch up.  As a young child growing up during the cold war I loved reading history.  Seems like it was mainly western history I loved the best.  I do remember though writing a letter to the president  Eisenhower , that is and telling him he was my favorite next to Abraham Lincoln.  I was a fifth grader at the time .  That spring we visited my father's cousin in Springfield.  When they learned how much I liked Lincoln they took us every where Lincoln had been in the area, his house , the Capital building , New Salem and to the cemetery.  I still remember standing looking at his tomb with the flags in a half circle around it .  My younger brother was wearing his confederate kepi that spring .  We each had gotten one at Disneyland his gray , mine blue.  Dad's cousin called my brother beau.  Told him it was in honor of Beauregard .  He then had to tell us who that was. 

I studied the war in school as the years went on.  It was the centennial the year I started high school.  I even had my mom make me a dress from the pattern that came out that year.  Called a Centennial Dress.  But I lived in California .  No battlefields to visit out here.  The Drum was still an apartment building . 

I went off to college to major in history but my love had become European history.  I studied English history , Renaissance etc.  Then started traveling in Europe.  THAT was where history was I thought. 

In 1976 I was teaching kindergarten.  I had been on a committee for our school district to develop materials for the bicentennial.  After spending a year or more gearing up all that came out of it was a page that came out each month with what happened this month in history.  I was disappointed.  That summer at our big 4th of July parent some reenactors marched.  Not revolutionary but Civil War.  They invited all to join them in Huntington Beach Park for a battle that week end.  Off we went.  I sat on the side of of a hill to look down on the field and watch North and South battle.  Somewhat like I thought it had been at Bull Run. 

But life went on I was busy with other things.  A friend moved to Fairfax Virginia .  I went to visit.  I spent most of my time in Washington but she did take me out to two sites.  The stone bridge by Bull Run and the Park headquarters by the Statue of Stonewall Jackson.  Still it didn't stick.  I was now beginning to read anything and everything about Renaissance England I started attending Renaissance Faire.   I did this for years.  Collecting more and more books and as the years went on more and more clothing to wear at faire.  

I kept saying one day I would go east and see the battlefields.  The only place in the east I got was Boston to visit my brother at Christmas.  Revolutionary sites were my interest there . 

The rest of my free time when I wasn't teaching was taken up by my new passion Shakespeare.  I went to festivals everywhere I could.  The theatre was my love.  Old and new.  I traveled to Oregon to the Festival in Ashland .  I still do once a year in August.  BUT I retired. 

My dream was to drive cross country to see historical sites .  Things I had only read about. My second year of retirement I made the dream come true.  I hit the road.  I had a month .  As I was leaving Oklahoma where I had found my family roots I was crossing Northern Arkansas and saw a sign.  PEA RIDGE.  I remembered somewhere in the back of my mind that a battle had taken place here .  I took a big turn and headed that way. That was it.  I toured the battlefield with a driving cd.  I was in awe.  I went on up to Springfield Mo to see a friend.  She worked during the day so before I met up iwth her I was killing time and saw another sign, Wilson Creek battlegrounds. I went.  Another driving tour with cd.  I went back to the visitors center and looked at the books.  The ranger recommended Life of Johnny Reb and Life of Billy Yank.  I bought them.  I went on east . Visited Shiloh  in Tennesse, Appomattox in Virginia and met friends in Gettysburg for a day long visit .  I was bitten.  I had to know more.  I came home and signed up for a class for seniors at the high school  This high school teacher after school would show senior citizens videos on the different aspects of the Civil War .  Some were Hollywood movies , Ride with the Devil, some were History Channel or A and E shows.  I took two semesters and started making a notebook of places to see .  I hit the road again this time with a major focus on the war.  I visited Fort Jefferson Davis in Texas, mainly a Indian Wars fort but had been captured by Confederates during the War.  I spent two months mainly going from Battlefield to Battlefield, buying books, talking to park rangers.  I was hooked.  I still missed some major sites as I hadn't read about them yet.  Franklin for one.  I also learned about park closings   I would arrive at 5 pm to find the gate across some battlefields, but I would explore around the outside area.  Stones River for example. 

I came home after two months of Civil War wanting more.  I went to a reenactment again at Huntington Beach park and saw another sign.  Orange Country Civil War Round Table.  I sat down and wrote out a check to join right then and there.  I have only missed one meeting since that day two and a half years ago.  One thing has lead to another, Members of the round table invited me to join them at the Drum Barracks for a reading group , they even carpool to Wilmington from Orange County.  That led to training to be a docent there at the Drum which lead to going to reenactments to pass out literature about the Drum Barracks.  So here I am , three years into my journey.  A docent at the Drum,  Program Chair of the Round Table, and a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy and Union Daughters.  The books are piled up everywhere as are the magazines subscriptions.  Oh and yes as Patty and I talked about it the Civil War dresses.  I am up to three.  I also write a column for the Drum Barracks newsletter about places I have visited and the history.  A friend at the Drum mentioned this website one day.  told me I would enjoy it.  I am now a trivia junkie.  I drive my friends crazy looking for the answers. 

I also have friends in South Carolina I met because a mutual friend knew we were interested in the Civil War.  So last fall I flew back to tour South Carolina seeing battle sites and museums etc.  I will return in the fall to tour Tennesse with them .  Oh yes I am totally hooked .  I have sooooo much to read and right now I am trying to figure out how to get a road trip east in.  Gas and all make it expensive on a retirement salary. Then there is the car that has seen so many miles now seven years after retiring .  Excuse me I need to read the news page on here, read a chapter or two in the biography of Jesse James to get ready for the speaker next week at Round table and then meet the former president of the round table for lunch to go over the newsletter I just posted to the membership.  My new laptop with visit is not letting my printer work so she is mailing the newsletters to those without computers. Oh then I have to review my notes on Lincoln at Cooper Union for the book discussion group tomorrow night at the Drum.  At this stage in my life my world seems to revolve around the Civil War.   Oh I wish I had started earlier and maybe joined a unit as a female in diguise or as a Civilian in camp.  I know not too late but I have to man the Drum Barracks booth and tell people about this lovely building and the events we sponsor, 

I am off and running.

Susan



 Posted: Mon Apr 9th, 2007 11:21 pm
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richards
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I've been interested in it for a while, just haven't done too much to learn alot about it.  I think what got me and is getting me more interested is that it happened all around us.  I mean I've got two battlefields within an hours drive from me...Lone Jack and Lexington.  That's what's cool about it.



 Posted: Tue Apr 10th, 2007 12:15 pm
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Like Susan, my interest in the Civil War is recent.  I've lived in Fairfax County, VA, since 1965 and never noticed the war was all around me.  In August 2005, idle curiosity led me to a living-history event at Sully Plantation Park, an 18th-century house and museum which belongs to the county.

For the skirmishes that day, there weren't enough blue uniforms, so some of the grays changed to blue to balance the numbers.  Four Federal cavalry, and one Confederate 3" ordnance rifle.  What a thrill to talk to the artillerist and actually touch the gun.  One of the cavalry riders was a young woman; she answered the questions of all the little kids, let them pet her horse's nose, it was terrific.

Here I am, almost two years later, I've visited 13 battlefields from Gettysburg to Chickamauga, collected and read more than 100 books, joined two round tables, and am a member of two "friends of xxx" type of support organizations.  Also the CWPT.

Since I have no Civil War ancestors, and no information to start research, I don't have much interest in genealogy, heritage organizations, regimental histories, etc.

I'm in so deep that I'll never get out.  I've met so many fascinating people, in person and online, it's a whole new universe that has changed my life.  I never dreamed retirement could be so much fun.

Patty



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 Posted: Sat Jul 28th, 2007 07:25 am
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bairdal81
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Well being a Canadian i still find it strange that I am even interested in the Civil War. But it all started in grade 11 when I took an American History class and chose to do an essay on Gettysburg. I was always intersted in war, especially the first two World War's and though the civil war seemes interesting i never heard much about it. So i went to the book store to find some material for my essay and bough the complete idiots guide to the civil war. Then i got a good idea of what took place i started buying more and more books. Pretty much anything i could get my hands on. I still have yet to visit a battle site for it's been a long time since i've had a chance to go south but they it is on my list of things to do in the next few years. I am going to school for music and because of this i've found a passion for civil war music as well. I'm trying to take as many courses about the civil war as possible in school, but alas they are far and few between. I now preserve my love for the CW with a growing collection of books and the essential movies about the Civil War.  



 Posted: Sat Jul 28th, 2007 04:20 pm
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booklover
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My interest in the war came about more so through my exposure to Lincoln. Living in Illinois, it is a state law that every school child must travel to Springfield at least once in their life (OK, it's not, but I like to say that). Shortly after my father died, my mother was trying to figure out a career that would let her raise her children (me at age 5, my oldest sister at age 13, two others in -between) and stay at home. She chose to go to beauty school. She had to take her state boards in Springfield so she brought me home a wooden bust of Lincoln that I still have to this day. The next year we went back to Springfield and visited all the Lincoln sites and New Salem. After that I began to read whatever I could on Lincoln. Another sister bought me the Golden Book history of the Civil War, which I also still have. From there, I started to read everything I could until my interest shifted to World War II. After college, I picked up McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom and realized what I had been missing. I wrote McPherson a letter telling him how much I loved the book. He wrote back and I have his reply hanging on my wall, below a letter written to me by C. Vann Woodward, whom I asked about the advisability of going to graduate school. From there the fever came back. In 1996 I started to research the life of Everton Conger and from that point on, my Civil War and Lincoln library has grown from about 15 books to well over 500.

Best
Rob



 Posted: Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 05:11 pm
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Dixie Girl
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my third grade teacher got me interested......i think she liked that part of history too cause whenever we had a lesson on that she was always more entheusiastic about those lessons...she even researched her family tree and told us about her relatives that fought during the war



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War Means Fighting And Fighting Means Killing - N. B. Forrest When war does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Stonewall Jackson


 Posted: Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 11:58 pm
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pamc153PA
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I am, like Susan and Widow, a fairly recent CW addict. It's been only about 10 years now and I wish it would have bitten me sooner, because I feel like I have much to catch up on.

For years, in the junior high where I teach, the ninth grade studies the CW. On one entire class day, after they study the battle of Gettysburg, the whole ninth grade spends all day watching the movie Gettysburg, the long version that came in a special boxed set someone got years ago. Since the kids were there all day, so were the teachers. The coolest thing about the film, I thought, was that when the Confederates fire the artillery on Day 3 before Pickett's Charge, the volume was loud enough in the auditorium that you could feel the floor shake--talk about realism. Otherwise, for years, I looked at it as a day where I didn't have to teach.

Then my sister and brother-in-law got my husband and I a gift certificate to the Gettysburg Hotel. They'd been there recently, and spent their time doing everything but spending much time on the battlefield. My husband and I went out over Christmas, and took the auto tour, not knowing much about the battle at all. It was cold, it was empty, and it was just, well--fields.

And then we got to the Pennsylvania Monument, and walked around looking at the bronze tablets on the base, and on a whim I started looking for my maiden name, Rothrock, on them. And by darn didn't I find it, six times. It just struck me that my ancestors had fought here, maybe died here, and I knew nothing about them. I couldn't have expected to leave Gettysburg that time with the need to understand the war and my ancestors who fought in it, but it stuck.

From there, it was a race to learn about anything and everything CW. The next summer we visited Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Manassas, Pamplin, Petersburg, besides heading to Gettysburg again. In Virginia to visit my great-aunt in Crewe, we followed a good lot of the Confederate retreat route. I also worked on learning about some of the major players, too, North and South. I began to research my own ancestors. And the rest is history--so to speak!

The next school year when Gettysburg day rolled around, the floor-shaking cannonade was still cool, but by then I had witnessed Ricketts Battery live firing. Since then I've been to Antietam a couple times, Harper's Ferry, and returned to most of the ones listed above--and Gettysburg countless times. My interest now lies more in the Western Theater of the war, and I'm starting to feel that same "need to know" I felt when I first caught the CW bug unexpectedly way back when!

Pam



 Posted: Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 12:54 am
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I am like Widow, Susan and Pam I got a late start. I rekindled an old flame from high school and he was a member of SCV. He took me to battlefields and started educating me on the WBTS. He also go me interested in researching my family history. Oh how I wish I had gotten all this interest before my Daddy died in 1991. I am an only child and could not have kids; my Mom's family on both sides comes from Italy and didn't get to USA until 1900. But on my Daddy's side I have 2 G-G-Grandfathers, 1 G-G-G-Grandfather and 2 G-G Uncles that fought for the Confederacy and all survived the War. I find everyday I am reading, or surfing the net, trying to find out everything I can. My friend and I are now just email buddies again but I cherish all he has taught me and all those trips to Gettysburg, Sharpsburg, Md., Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and all the Virginia Battlefields right here at home.



 Posted: Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 12:54 am
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izzy
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I too am a recent addict.  I grew up in an area whose historical attractions were related to the French and Indian War.  As far as western PA is concerned, the Civil War has yet to be fought.  It's a 100 years into the future.  "North/South" merely refers to the physical location of the Mason Dixon line.  The cultural connotations of those terms don't exist in that territory.

We had to memorize the Gettysburg Address in school.  It was promtly forgotten after the test.  I went to Gettysburg itself in my late teens.  I didn't understand one thing I was looking at and couldn't wait to leave.  I was talking to my old Aunt one day and for some reason the Civil War came up.  As soon as the words "Civil War" came out of my mouth, I got the coldest look from my Aunt that I had ever seen followed by her saying, "The War Between the States".  That is the first time I had heard that phrase and it was the first time I had any inkling that our family was connected to it.  Then the Ken Burns series on the Civil War came on PBS.  I was interested but not hooked.

In 1999 I moved to North Carolina.  I was instantly immersed into the north/south cultural divide.  I was surprised and found it very amusing that identity revolved around those two distinctions.  I soon realized that the South was still trying to win the war through words.  I thought it was time to learn more and joined the local roundtable.  The roundtable was been taking tours into the western threater for the past few years.  It feels odd to me, from PA, that I know more about the western theater than the eastern theater.  I have yet to get to any of the sites along the Overland Campaign. 

Our roundtable decided, because of high gas prices, that they wanted to do "day tours".  The tour committee chairman asked if any one had any day tour ideas.  I raised my hand.  I looked around and realized I was the only one with my hand in the air and all eyes were on me.  So I'm it.  They are going to know East Tennessee like the back of their hands by the time I get done with them.

The only problem with specializing so soon is that I don't get to delve into the bigger picture.  That is where CWi has saved me.  I can at least read the threads here and get some overview.  I'm so swamped designing tours that I don't have time to read much else.  I'm having a great time though and have met many interesting people in East Tennessee.  I don't regret concentrating on local history.  Despite being told that "nothing ever happened here", I keep finding instead that a whole lot of something happened here.  For every tour I design, I find enough to do two more.  It seems bottomless.

 



 Posted: Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 01:15 am
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Captain Crow
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I grew up hearing stories about the war that were told to my parents by their grandfathers and great grandfathers who were both Confederates...then in grade school I discovered that American Heritage civil war book with all the battlefield illustrations with the little soldiers all over them....too cool! That was many years ago to say the least. Since then my interest has grown and sometimes contracted but never gone too far away...I consider it part of my heritage both as a southerner and as an American.



 Posted: Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 01:20 am
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Crazy Delawares
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Well, here goes. I'll be dating myself now. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, I would watch a TV show called, "Johnny Yuma." It was about a Rebel soldier after the war who would wear his uniform, be made fun of, get into a fight and prove that "one Southerner could beat 10 Northern hirelings with one hand tied behind his back." He was a good guy too...always helping the downtrodden and helpless. It actually made me think that the South were the "good guys." (Oh no! I didn't just say that, did I?) :-)
Both of my grandfathers had CW books that I would ALWAYS take out, look at the pictures and read the captions. I always had a "thing" for hats since my childhood and the CW kepi was neat. I always wanted one.
FYI, the centennial of the CW was when I was 3-7 years of age.



 Posted: Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 01:34 am
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Dixie Girl
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Crazy Delawares It actually made me think that the South were the "good guys.
See that wasnt so hard to admit...you know they say admitting it is the first step :P



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War Means Fighting And Fighting Means Killing - N. B. Forrest When war does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Stonewall Jackson


 Posted: Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 01:46 am
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Crazy Delawares
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Actually, I have a few friends down in KY. (not that they would admit to being a yankee's friend in public). Went to college down there for 4.5 years. So, I now a few that are "good ol' boys!"



 Posted: Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 04:39 am
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susansweet
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Johnny Yuma the Rebel he wandered the west .  The Rebel was my favorite show .  I had such a crush on Nick Adams.  He actually named his son Jeb Stuart Adams.  There was another show back then called the Americans.  Two brothers one southern one northern.  Didn't last too long on tv but it was also good.  Then was The Gray Ghost about John Mosby.  It only last a year. 

During the Centenial I had my first Civil War dress.  I hat to tell you how many things I could find wrong with it now but I loved it then.  I wore it to a Halloween party and then later used it to be Jo March for an oral book report.  (I even talked three other girls into being the other March girls.) 

See I have always been on the edge of the Civil War , just got totally hooked five years ago. 

Susan



 Posted: Thu Sep 4th, 2008 01:11 am
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Captain Crow
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Anyone ever catch an episode of the "Gray Ghost" tv series about Mosby? I believe it was in the 50s and only lasted a season because advertisers refused to sponsor a pro-southern program..in spite of very good ratings. Sorry didn't mean to hi jack the thread......



 Posted: Fri Sep 5th, 2008 09:24 pm
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For me, what got me interested was a series of articles in one of the local papers commemorating the 100th anniversary of the War. And I definitley remember Johnny Yuma, I never missed that show.

I was so nuts about it that my dad brought home a puzzle depicting the Battle of Fredricksburg. 600 piece puzzle and I couldn't put it together fast enough.



 Posted: Sat Sep 6th, 2008 12:22 am
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My first book on the war was a kid's book that originally belonged to my sister and was passed along to me in the late 60's. It was called The Golden Book of the Civil War. I've still got it.

At the time, I was already interested in history and especially about the Old West, and anything to do with Kit Carson and mountain men. That book sparked my interest in the war, but it was on family visits to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I was really pulled in. The entire area had an effect, but it was Lookout Mountain and the old Confederama that really did the job. I'm convinced that God created Lookout Mountain for the express purpose of transfixing kids.

The next Civil War spot I got to visit was Shiloh, in the early 70's. It had the same effect on me as Lookout Mountain. From that moment on, I was permanently hooked. Oddly enough, I started getting interested in the war about the time that general interest in it was on the downswing, following all the attention it got leading up to and during the centennial years. So I like to joke that I was Civil War when Civil War wasn't cool. With apologies to Barbara Mandrell.

Perry



 Posted: Sat Sep 6th, 2008 12:45 am
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susansweet
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Wrap seems that those of you growning up in the 60's all had that book on the Civil War.  I missed it by a few years.  I was in junior high or high school when it came out according to the copyright date. 

Wish I had had it back then.  One of the ways I got addicted to history was the Bobs Merrill biographies of famous Americans.  Their childhood history.  They came in orange covered books and had silhouettes instead of pictures.  I have now started collecting them.  Just got Young Abe Lincoln in Springfield used bookstore. 

Susan



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