Born in Norristown, PA in 1953, Wayne Blattner’s Civil War interest seems foreordained. He attended the Abraham Lincoln elementary school and as a Cub/Boy Scout (fortunate to earn Eagle Scout in 1968), participated in the Norristown Memorial Day parades which ended at the Montgomery Cemetery, where the Scouts placed flags on the graves of local Civil War veterans.
After high school, Wayne studied at a technical drafting school in Reading, PA, where he received a certificate of Drafting and Design. This launched him on his career of drafting electrical engineering diagrams showing the locations of the electrical wiring, outlets, light receptacles, and fire alarms for building renovations and construction. Though Wayne jokingly referred to himself as “the dinosaur in the room” because all the other engineers had degrees, he had great bosses who helped him advance his skills. He worked 24 years as a Senior Electrical Designer for Bala Consulting Engineers in King of Prussia and retired in 2020 from his final job at Kupper Engineering in Ambler, PA.
As a kid, Wayne attended Camp Innabah in Chester County. He liked it so much that in his late teens he took a second job joining the camp support staff. This proved fortuitous as he met his future wife, Cheryl, there in 1975. She was working in the program staff, as a camp counselor. They hit it off and got married two years later, moving to Royersford, PA. They have two children – Kurt (who is also an Eagle Scout) and Corrine, born in 1982 and 1985, respectively.
Wayne’s Civil War interest stems from a family reunion in the late 1980s. He was talking to his great aunt, who told him that when she was a child she often spoke with her two grandfathers, both of whom fought in the Civil War. These were Mills Williamson, who served first with the 4th PA Infantry (a 90-day unit) and then the 95th PA Infantry (part of Upton’s VI Corps brigade), while William Charles was with the 5th PA Cavalry. William Charles was a widower who lived his final years with Wayne’s great aunt’s family. This inspired Wayne to research his great-great grandfathers’ Civil War service.
Then in 1990, Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary came out and Wayne was hooked. He did additional research and learned of five other relatives who fought in the Civil War, one of whom, John Burnett, also served in the 95th PA Infantry. Burnett’s sister, Martha, married Mills Williamson, and the two brothers-in-law enlisted together in the 95th PA after Williamson’s service with the 4th PA ended. Wayne also discovered that Williamson was wounded during Grant’s May 12, 1864 attack at Spotsylvania’s Bloody Angle. Later, Wayne was on a tour of the Spotsylvania battlefield with the legendary Ed Bearss (one of his six Ed Bearss tours). The night before the tour he asked if the next day Ed could show him where his ancestor got wounded and Ed said OK. The next day was a hot, humid, 95-degree scorcher. As the day and tour drew to a close and people began returning to the buses, Wayne figured Ed must have forgotten their conversation. Suddenly, Ed called out, “WHO’S THE GUY FROM THE 95th PA?!!!!” Wayne meekly raised his hand and Ed walked him over to the spot where the 95th PA did its fighting and where his great-great grandfather probably got wounded.
Wayne’s favorite Civil War books include Gordon Rhea’s volumes on Grant’s Overland Campaign as well as Eric Wittenberg’s books on cavalry engagements. His favorite battlefields are Gettysburg, where three of his ancestors fought, followed closely by Antietam. Besides Old Baldy, which Wayne joined in 1995, he belongs to many other Civil War organizations, such as the Civil War Round Table of Montgomery County, which meets in Norristown (Wayne’s “home” Round Table); the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, General Hartranft Camp #15, which meets in Harrisburg; the Gettysburg Foundation; and the Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce, which also organizes Civil War tours.
Wayne’s other outside interests include both model trains and vintage steam engine trains. While his model train setups as a kid were limited to layouts around the tree at Christmas, later in the 1980s and 90s, he began to take 1-2 day steam engine excursions, ranging from the more local Scranton to the Poconos trips to a 2–day steam engine outing from San Jose, CA to San Francisco and back. One possible train inspiration was Wayne’s maternal grandfather, who worked as a fireman and then an engineer for the Reading Railroad. Wayne must have thought of him every time he “took a ride on the Reading” when playing Monopoly. In addition, Wayne is an avid ancestry.com guy who has researched over 35 families for family members and friends. He has traced his own family tree back to his 7th great-grandparents, who were part of the Schwenkfelder 1734 migration from the Poland/Germany area of Europe. They came to William Penn’s new colony to escape Europe’s religious intolerance and most settled in Montgomery County.
Wayne’s Civil War connections start with his ancestors who fought in the war and continue today to his numerous Civil War groups which, happily, include the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table.