Editor’s Note: Dean West has graciously decided to join TOCWOC as a new blogger. Dean’s recent comments on one of Fred Ray’s posts and the resulting email exchange which followed made it clear Dean was one of the “obsessively compulsed” amateur Civil War historians who fit the profile of a TOCWOC blogger. A little bit of dean’s history, written by Dean as an introductory post, follows below. Please join me in welcoming Dean to the team. I think you’ll really enjoy what he brings to the table.
No one including me knows how I first became interested in military history. My mother used to tell her friends that history books and toy soldiers simply showed-up in my baby crib one day. I date my interest from an inscription in a copy of Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume IV, which says, “Merry Christmas Deany, 1955.” I was ten years old. I’ve been “obsessively compulsed” ever since.
Throughout my life, the study of military history has been both hobby and avocation. For years I was part of the design team of well-known war-game designer John Hill. I worked with John as historical consultant and developer of the award winning miniatures game Johnny Reb, which is still popular after twenty-five years on the market. In 1996 my own miniatures rules, The Final Argument of Kings, were published. Final Argument is a tactical simulation of combat in the period 1740-1762. Through the years I’ve written numerous articles for various war-gaming magazines, and several years ago had a piece on Civil War cavalry published in North & South magazine. I have received credits as a researcher, copy editor and/or proof reader for historians Professor Christopher Duffy and Brent Nosworthy. I edited the western theater narrative in Keith Rocco’s Civil War art book “The Soldier’s View.” In the ’80s I was active in Civil War round tables, serving for awhile as president of the Jefferson County round table, located in Madison, Indiana.
I grew up in north west Indiana, on the Shores of beautiful Lake Michigan. I’m married and have three grown children and five feisty grand children. For forty years I made my living working for State Farm Mutual in its automobile claim department. For twenty-five of those years I managed auto claim facilities in two Indiana locations. A major part of my job was managing defense litigation. I retired a few years ago, and can now devote most of my time to the study of the “linear” or “Black Powder” era of warfare, 1689 through 1865.
In 1999 we bought a “hobby farm” in a very rural county of Kentucky. One day, while watching the terrific Civil War movie “Ride With the Devil” I decided I needed to learn to ride a horse well before I got to old. I had become intensely interested in cavalry, but knew I’d need the physical experience of riding to even attempt to understand the mounted arm. So at fifty-four I learned the basics of riding, bought two horses, and reconfigured the tiny hobby farm so we could care for horses there. Then I bought a truck and a horse trailer and joined The Kentucky Cavalry Brigade reenactment unit. Being around these Kentucky cavaliers who had been on horseback since boyhood vastly improved my riding skills. I learned the drill and became a drill master, and was fortunate to eventually rise to the rank of captain. I retired last year, before I broke a hip or worse, but the adventures I experienced during my nine years in the “pretend cavalry” are without doubt the most exciting of my lifetime. Moreover, hands-on physical experience with horses has vastly enhanced my ability to speak and write confidently about cavalry. In 2008, I had the great honor to command the 9th Kentucky Cavalry Regiment, USA, at the Chickamauga National event.