When he's not marketing the City of Rutland via his position at the Downtown Rutland Partnership, author and historian Don Wickman is perfectly content to research the role of Vermont and Vermonters in the U.S. Civil War. He also teaches a popular course in American history at the Community College of Vermont in Rutland.
Local interest in the Civil War is unwavering, according to Wickman. In Vermont, many residents are fascinated by the state's outstanding service in the war and its high casualty rate -15 percent died as the result of combat and disease, a staggering figure.
"Many people alive today have direct ties to the Civil War era," he said. "Also, Civil War photographs keep this moment in history alive and vibrant."
Wickman has written and edited several books about the Green Mountain State's role in the War Between the States. His most recent book reveals the daily lives of Vermont's soldiers, and in some cases, exposes the provincialism and cultural prejudices of men who hailed from hardscrabble farms.
Wickman's latest book, "We Are Coming Father Abra'am: The 9th Vermont Volunteer Infantry 1862-1865, Patriots", lets the Vermont soldiers do the talking through personal letters home as well as more formal letters to the editor that appeared in local newspapers.
The 9th Vermont Regiment was the first regiment to answer Lincoln's call for 300,000 volunteers. Two months into their service they were part of the Union forces who surrendered at Harper's Ferry. The book chronicles their exploits and accomplishments.
Many soldiers of the 9th Vermont were passionate, prolific letter writers. Wickman located their letters in both archives and private collections.
"There were so many war letters to look through," Wickman said, "that at one point I needed to take a break from it all."
Wickman's lifelong interest in the Civil War began as a youngster during the 1960s. While he studied colonial history, agriculture and botany in college, the Civil War always tugged at his sleeve.