Fred Hawthorne’s interest in the American Civil War stemmed from stories his grandmother related of his soldier-ancestors’ war experiences. Such stories spurred him at an early age to read every book and magazine he could find dealing with the war and his family’s role in it. Hawthorne’s ancestors took up arms on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. Fred’s distant cousin, Lieutenant Thomas Huddleston, was the first western Virginia Confederate officer to die in the war – accidentally shot by one of his own men while guarding a bridge in the spring of 1861. Fred’s great grand-uncle Alex Armstrong served as a sharpshooter in Company B of the 100th Pennsylvania Infantry. The 100th took part in most of the campaigns of Ambrose Burnside’s 9th Army Corps. Another great grand-uncle in the same unit had the fingers of his hand shot off in the initial assaults on Petersburg in June of 1864. His great, great-grandfather rode with the 8th Virginia Cavalry and was captured by the Yankees while foraging for horses that same year. The study of that crucial period of American history became a lifelong interest.
Fred served four years as an Intelligence Analyst with the United States Air Force during the later stages of the Vietnam War. Assignment to the National Security Agency in Washington, D.C. for much of this period allowed for many off-duty hours stomping, studying and relic-hunting the old battlefields of northern and central Virginia. Following completion of his service obligation Fred earned a university degree in American History and another in Secondary Education at the Pennsylvania State University. He went on to acquire an advanced degree in Colonial American History and Historical Archaeology. He spent sixteen years teaching history and economics on both university and secondary school levels before making a career change to educational computing in the early 1990’s operating a 400-station computer network for a public school district in south central Pennsylvania.
Following graduation from Penn State Fred settled in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in a house built on ground over which Lee’s troops passed in their final assault on the Union center. The first day he lived in the house was marked with finding a dropped Confederate bullet while planting shrubbery. This location has given the opportunity of spending countless hours walking the more than twenty-five square miles of that historic site.
In 1981 Fred took the battlefield guide qualifying exam administered by the National Park Service earning a federal license to serve as a Licensed Battlefield Guide. For the past twenty-nine years he has conducted more than 50,000 visitors around the battlefields of Gettysburg and other sites of that war. These visitors came from all fifty states and over forty foreign countries. For thirteen of those years Fred served as president of the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides, Inc. – the oldest professional guide service in the United States dating back to 1915. He still holds several executive positions with that organization.
He is also the author of the book, Gettysburg: Stories of Men and Monuments As Told By Battlefield Guides.