Historian is man for all times FTC NORTHEWEST -- Taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor * Uniontown


November 12, 1992|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

As a funeral home owner, historian, researcher and author, Daniel D. Hartzler has worn many hats.

But when he gives lectures about Marylanders, weapons and their place in the world's war history, hats are just the beginning.

"I do a lot of dressing up," said Mr. Hartzler, owner of Hartzler and Sons Funeral Homes, his family's business since 1930.

"I can be an enlisted officer in the Confederate army or a Revolutionary War soldier," Mr. Hartzler said. "I can be a man who fought in the War of 1812 or someone from the colonial period."

Although he doesn't consider himself a writer, Mr. Hartzler will be in the role of author when he holds a public book-signing at the Leggett department store in Cranberry Mall on Nov. 28 and Dec. 5 to promote his newest book, "A Band of Brothers."

The retailer will be the only department store to sell Mr. Hartzler's six thoroughly researched works, which were available until now only in libraries as reference materials.

"You can do so much with history, and it's all so exciting," said Mr. Hartzler, who has spent countless hours gathering material for his work. "I never intended to write books, but I figured if this information is exciting to me, then it may be exciting to other people out there."

Mr. Hartzler has gone all-out to excite people about history. He went to Culp's Hill in Gettysburg, Pa., last summer for a re-enactment, where he played both a Union and a Confederate soldier -- with the appropriate outfits.

He said he always dresses for the occasion.

"I have some buddies who collect military and civilian historical clothing," Mr. Hartzler said. "I have the hats and they have the rest of the stuff, and I can fit just about all of it.

"If I'm talking about guns and hunting, maybe I'll wear a gambler's hat and a long coat and vest. If I'm talking about medicine, I'll wear the doctor's hat and the coat that goes with it," he said.

Mr. Hartzler's interest in history and its accompanying tools and trinkets extends beyond the talks and the writing and into his daily life.

Early American flags provide the backdrop for antique guns and swords that line an entire room in his New Windsor home. A pair of gentleman's pistols in Mr. Hartzler's possession once belonged to Edward Lloyd IV, whose family home was the historical Wye House in Talbot County. The guns date to 1750.

A bear hide on the room's wood floor serves as an example of the efficiency of the centuries-old hunting rifle used to kill the beast.

"Ever since I got out of college I've been hunting, using the old guns," Mr. Hartzler said. "Because I had so much appreciation for the weapons, I decided that whenever I got the opportunity I would dress up in the period clothing.

"In order to know what to wear, I had to research," he said. "The gathering of information has just become part of my life."

Through items in his vast collection, Mr. Hartzler has been able to glimpse the daily lives of our American ancestors.

An amputation kit belonging to Dr. George Johnson, a Civil War physician, probably made wounded soldiers prefer to go back into battle rather than face medical instruments such as a bone saw that looks like a modern pizza cutter.

While researching material for one of his next books, a detailed listing of blacks who served in the Civil War, Mr. Hartzler came across an affidavit attesting to the freedom of a 20-year-old black woman.

"I found that if blacks didn't have papers like this one, they could be taken and put into slavery, even if they were born free," Mr. Hartzler said. "Finding items like these makes you understand how important the work is to our history."

Mr. Hartzler also lectures on early American funeral rites, a topic that relates to his everyday job in the funeral home business, which he runs with his wife, Kit.

His son, Jeb, 28, a licensed funeral director, is a state police trooper at the Westminster barracks, and his daughter, Sandy, 24, is a computer programmer in Timonium.

His business and other affairs leave him only a day or so every few weeks to research the materials he needs to write.

"I need 30 more days in Washington to finish my book on African-Americans in the Civil War," Mr. Hartzler said.

But as much as he admires the people who made the history he researches, Mr. Hartzler said he prefers the comforts of present-day America.

"I love reading and learning about history, but I wouldn't want to live back then," Mr. Hartzler said. "I like to shower every day and sleep in a nice warm bed. I am very spoiled."

Here is a list of books by Daniel D. Hartzler: "Arms Makers of Maryland: Shumway Longrifle series," $45; "Medical Doctors of Maryland in the C.S.A.," $25; "Marylanders in the Confederacy," $25; "Confederate Presentation and Inscribed Swords and Revolvers," $35; "Maryland Longrifles," $45; "A Band of Brothers: Photographic Epilogue to Marylanders in the Confederacy," $40.

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