History Loving Kids: Tips from a History Nerd with Dr. Danny Sessums

Author and scholar Danny Sessums talks about his new 2-volume history of Granbury’s Texas Infantry Brigade in the Civil War, A Force to Be Reckoned With.History nerd to Ph.D and Civil war scholar, Danny lights up true stories with humor and a down home attitude!

Growing up a history nerd wasn’t easy for Danny Sessums. Maybe you’re trying to raise some history-loving kids at your house. If so, you’ll love what Danny shares. At first glance, he was probably the last kid you’d think would grow up to be a Ph.d. and real life T.V. consultant. Not to mention the author of a groundbreaking two volume work on Texas history.

Antebellum Authority, Professor, Museum Designer, Author, Civil War Re-enactor, Television Consultant. With so many titles, who would believe Danny grew up with a bootlegger for a dad?

Dinosaur Dan

As a youngster, Danny’s love of history began when he discovered an unusual fossil. When the local newspaper picked up the story, a lifelong passion for history was born.

“I became known as Dinosaur Dan,” laughs Danny, “my Borger students still all call me that.” With the odds stacked against the poor kid from west Texas, he grew up to offer some rock solid advice for young parents on how to raise history loving kids.

To hear all Danny’s insight, including a bit in an Irish accent, click above or go to Fireside Talk Radio.

A Nudge from His Grandfather Started His Quest

“My dad was killed a month before I turned nine. So, I really ran the streets of my hometown, Borger Texas. Therefore, I got a really good common sense education,” Danny told us in a recent Fireside Talk Radio interview. As always, Danny put his positive outlook on some hard truth.

“I ended up with my granddad just after my junior year working in Fort Worth,” explains Danny. “But he said, ‘You need to go back to Borger and finish school there because you’re the first Sessums kid I’ve met that I think could really be something.” With a nudge from his grandfather, Danny returned to finish school in his small hometown. Back in Borger, he excelled, acquiring college scholarships. Next, he set his course for Texas Tech and beyond.

The Adventure of History

Again sparked by his grandfather, Danny began to develop an interest in war history, particularly Civil War era. As his expertise grew, he accepted an invitation to perform on-screen in a documentary-style series, never realizing what would follow. First, he played a Virginian who fought for the British on the Tory side. Then, in the same series, he played a Texas soldier who was a Confederate.

“As luck would have it—and I mean my life has been luck, but I’m gonna say God inspired luck—a Hollywood producer saw that (series) and gave me a call. I’m gonna tell you, I thought it was a friend of mine pulling a joke on me at the time,” laughs Danny. “He said, ‘We’re gonna do a series of movies, called North and South.” 

One adventure led to many more adventures, including The Alamo: the Price of Freedom and Glory, along with some other PBS documentaries and consulting gigs. For more of his stories and some terrific ideas for raising history-loving kids, click here

Best Christmas Gift Ever For Men, History Lovers, Writers, Museum Curators…

For two special history loving people on my Christmas list, I’ve already secured a 2-volume set of Danny’s book, A Force to Be Reckoned With: A History of Granbury’s Texas Infantry Brigade 1861-1865. (Okay, one of those people might be me! Stay tuned for more books Santa delivers to stockings at our house this year.)

Notably, this two-volume set is groundbreaking research, plus tons of fun. Beautifully formatted, you will be delighted to give them, read them, or keep it on your shelf for future reference. With striking thoroughness, they contain never-before-published, first-hand accounts amid detailed chronicles of troop movement. Please, buy the hard covers; you won’t regret it.

Danny’s books represent a dream come true for readers, history lovers, Texans, and Antebellum historical fiction writers, museum curators, students of battle strategy, Civil War aficionados, re-enactors, public speakers, you name it.

Note to Fellow Writers 

As we talked, Danny modestly mentioned the bibliography in the back of the book. What he didn’t say was that it’s ninety-eight (yes, that’s 98) pages of research footnotes and references! He included appendixes like lists of casualties originally published in the Galveston Daily News and the Houston Telegraph in the 1860s. Plus, a list of materials discovered during his archival search.

If you’re interested in these topics, he did your research for you: Civil War history, first source quotes, Texas, the midWest, pioneer era stories, uncommon war stories, antebellum, ancestral research, and much more.

Also an accomplished author, Danny’s wife Candace Sessums published over 25 books published under her nom de plume, Olivia Hardin. (Her books are fun to read and would make a happy gift in the stocking of a romance-loving friend!) When we talked, Danny couldn’t wait to honor Candace for all her help on his project.

“She has dedicated so much time to getting these two volumes published that I gotta give her a lot of credit there,” Danny emphasized.

What’s up Next for Danny?

Together, Danny and Candace are closing in on a dream to create a documentary chronicling the lives of everyday Texans in the years leading up to and including the Civil War. 

“When you read my books, a lot of it is the people telling what they were experiencing. Wouldn’t it be neat to chronicle  the lives of all these men, these women, these children?” asks Danny, “Wouldn’t it be neat to show there were people who came to Texas before the Civil War from the North who didn’t believe some of the things that were going on in the country or even in the state of Texas. But when the war came, they still fought for the South. They fought for their new native state. I had Germans and Hispanics, and blacks who fought in those regiments the constituted, Granbury’s Texas Brigades.” 

Strong Women

Naturally, I’m begging Danny to shed light on current lives of Texas women by writing about our antecedents, those amazing pioneer women who established the precedence of strong Texas women.

“Women in the 1850 and 1860s were the driving community resource,” explains Danny, “Women took over the leadership of not only their home and hearth but also the family lands. They drove the cattle. Women raised the crops. They helped work in hospitals and factories, things like that.” He’s got the research to prove it, too.

“Poor old Molly Scurlock of Johnson County and Mary Ann Cornwaldt from near Waco,” Danny offers as examples, “They’d write how the Indians were raiding in their territories, killing people and burning farms, ‘I’m afraid to go outside.’”

History Like  Relay Race

For emphasis, Danny likes to characterize history like a track relay race. 

“The relays always demanded an intricate hand off from one runner to the next runner,” he explains, “It was such perfect thing that it’s difficult for us to understand if we’ve never run that kind of race. As we look back at the past, we need to understand, I don’t get to run a lap or a part of a race unless the previous person brought that baton and handed it off to me.” 

May we pray together?

Dear Father in heaven, we are so grateful to live in the land of the free. With humility, we can’t really imagine what our forefathers went through to deliver this blessing to us. They only did so with your divine guidance and mercy. American values are not something we deserve, but a priceless treasure handed off to us by stout, courageous, faith-filled men and women who came before us. We raise you for their fortitude and vision. Thank you for your providential guidance and blessing on this nation, O Lord. Make us faithful, gracious stewards of the blessings you’ve bestowed. In Jesus name. Amen.

We LOVE to hear from YOU!

Which blessings are you counting during this special time of year? When you think back on history, which eras inspire you the most? How are you passing on a love of history to the next generations in your family?

Cathy Krafve, Columnist, Speaker, Blogger, Podcaster, and Christian Writer, invites your stories, ideas, and questions at CathyKrafve.com. Truth with a Texas Twang.

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