Ted Alexander, 63, was in elementary school when he made his first visit to what was then called the Antietam National Battlefield Site.
"It was led by the noted historian E. Russell Hicks," Alexander said during a telephone call from his Greencastle, Pa., home. "He just made history come alive."
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Even then as young man, Alexander became interested in the Civil War.
He was weaned on stories by his maternal grandmother whose father had served with 1st Maryland Potomac Home Brigade. Alexander's paternal grandfather had served as a Union commander during the Battle of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and was one of the thousands captured, and later paroled.
And on his father's side, his great-grandfather served in the 31st Mississippi Regiment with the Confederate army. Alexander, himself, was born in Tuledo, Miss.
Today, Alexander tells the roles of both the North and the South as chief park historian for the Antietam National Battlefield.
"I feel I've been blessed," he said. "Because ever since I was a kid, I always said I wanted to be a ranger or historian at Antietam or Gettysburg."
Since 1985, Alexander has led visitors on the journey of the soldiers who fought at the battlefield. He's been the park historian since 1992.
Although Alexander holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Maryland, College Park and a Master of Arts from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, his real credentials come from the work he has done as an author, editor, lecturer and historian with the Civil War.
And his connection to the men in battle came from his own real-life experience as a Marine during the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V.
Last year, Alexander released his latest book, "The Battle of Antietam: The Bloodiest Day," based on the Sept. 17, 1862, Civil War battle.
"It was based, in part, of a lifetime of research," he said of the book. "It was built on work I had done over the years, magazine articles, lectures."
Although there are hundreds of books on the subject of Antietam, Alexander said he wanted to write a book that included information that isn't found in other books.
"My goal was to get beyond the battle and to look at other aspects of the Antietam story," he said.
Alexander interweaves historical facts with letters written at the time and includes photos — some never before published and ones from his personal collection — about the battle.
"The Battle of Antietam" covers the opposing sides of the war, what types of weapons they had, and the types of leadership they had, but Alexander also includes the people who were affected by the war. He writes about the aftermath and burial of the dead and the care of the wounded. The final chapter looks from the 1890s to modern times, when, after Sept. 11, 2011, thousands flocked to the battlefield to find some sense of solace.
Alexander has been busy this year with lectures about Antietam because of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War's Maryland Campaign, which of course, includes the battle.
He said people continue to be interested in the war. He's often asked about Gen. Robert E. Lee's Special Order No. 191, often referred to as the "Lost Order," which was discovered by Gen. George McClellan's men.
"There's a myth that (McClellan) had thousands of troops he could have sent into battle," he said. "That's a bit exaggerated."