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An Amateur, Passion and the Civil War

The word amateur comes from the Latin base, amator, to love.

We’ve taken that word and turned it into a person who loves something so inordinately passionately that they don’t care if it has any monetary value. Amateurs love something for the sake of loving it–and they usually want to share that passion with everyone they meet.

Civil War amateurs

Amateurs in the purist sense, is a good definition for the folks I met at Civil War Days in Duncan Mills, California.  Tony Horwitz‘ book  Confederates in the Attic, describes the lengths for which Civil War reenactors go for authenticity. Men routinely diet so as to resemble starving soldiers on the field.

I didn’t meet anyone like that.amateur, Civil War games, Confederates in the Attic, Texas Brides Collection, John Hunt Morgan, An Inconvenient Gamble, reenactors

But I did encounter people who loved the Civil War and could wax lyrical on  the most minor of minutiae. I loved listening to and watching them detail their personal area of expertise.

Why else would they devote their weekend to working a Civil War era blacksmith shop, or demonstrating how to fire a 150 year-old cannon?

Many looked their parts and lectured me with joy on their subject matter!

amateur, Civil War games, Confederates in the Attic, Texas Brides Collection, John Hunt Morgan, An Inconvenient Gamble, reenactorsTheir passion came out as they discussed their parts and as an historian, they were invaluable to me.

Horse amateurs

I visited the Civil War games for detailed information for my novella, An Inconvenient Gamble, part of The Texas Brides Collection. Set in 1867 Texas, the story features a cavalry man who rode with John Morgan. I needed some details–what type of saddle would he have used?

An ostler for the “Union Army” gave me a 20-minute tutorial in the types of saddles, an 1865 McClellan no doubt, and how a cavalry man would have adjusted it for his own.

No saddle horn; they would have used leather straps to carry things on their horse. The black saddle bag is all they would have had to carry rations.

My horsemaster source alsoamateur, Civil War games, Confederates in the Attic, Texas Brides Collection, John Hunt Morgan, An Inconvenient Gamble, reenactors demonstrated the different ways the saddle would be cinched to thAll Postse horse, discussed how much forage a horse required and the distance they could travel if necessary. (Morgan’s men rode for two weeks on a 1200 mile raid from Kentucky. You do the math and understand how tired the horses were!)

My husband laughed afterwards. “You made that man’s day. You took notes while he gave you far more details than you’ll ever need.”

He’s right. I didn’t need most of the information, but it was so much fun to watch the  amateur’s face as he told me everything he knew about saddles and the Union cavalry, I couldn’t stop asking questions.

amateur, Civil War games, Confederates in the Attic, Texas Brides Collection, John Hunt Morgan, An Inconvenient Gamble, reenactors

Amateurs, lovers, with their infectious zeal will do that to you!

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