W.H. Payne was born and raised in New York City. He has had a life long interest in history, particularly military history and the history of the American Civil War. His interest in the military is not solely a detached one; he served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam and served in the 10th Brigade of the New York Guard for 23 years until his retirement in January of 2015. He had been called to State Active Duty on 9/11/01.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Long Island University in Brooklyn and a master’s degree in sociology from Fordham University in the Bronx. He stays very active in historic preservation; interviewing veterans of all wars on video for the Library of Congress and for the New York State Military History Museum and collecting and maintaining exhibits along with his co-curator at the Veterans History Museum located in his American Legion Post in Saugerties, NY. The Legion Museum in turn provides presentations for the local historical society, the library, businesses, schools and church and civic organizations as well as for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. And the Scouts and students also lend their talents to museum projects.
Before his retirement, he had a 42 year career in law enforcement and criminal justice, working with probation and parole and in prisons, jails and with reentry.
The struggles of veterans returning from war have also focused his interest since he himself reentered society from military service and he has been active in veterans’ organizations in collaboration with local military units returning from deployment to help the men and women coming home to make that often difficult transition.
He has devoted much of his time as a volunteer in veterans’ services. He is Past Commander of Lamouree-Hackett Post #72, American Legion, Saugerties, NY and is Past Commander of the Ulster County American Legion. On May 22, 2012, his efforts for veterans and the community were recognized by NY State Senator John Bonacic who sponsored Payne’s induction into the NYS Senate Veterans Hall of Fame.
For many years he has presented living history as a re-enactor with the United States Naval Landing Party portraying a Union Marine of the Civil War at living history events and encampments in the northeast.
He also presents as a staff officer of the 10th NY Volunteers in the Civil War; the historical antecedent of his former New York Guard unit.
Finally, he has been in love, since age of three, with the Catskill Mountains, and has hiked them in all seasons year after year.
Payne drew from all of these interests and life experiences in writing The Veteran in a New Field, and combined them with an intimate fascination with the Civil War and the period immediately following the official cessation of hostilities.
“Everyone knows 1861 to 1865” he says, “but 1866, the time in which the story is set, was a pivotal year. It is a time remote to us now and yet it is still tangible to 21st century Americans. The old trees in our towns were living when Civil War vets walked under them on old bluestone sidewalks that are still there today. We can still visit the battlefields; for many years my son, Dan and I have run the 10k Run Through History at Antietam in early June. It is a good way to experience a battlefield; overheated, in pain, gasping for air, thirsty, blinded by the sun, sweating, dizzy, near fainting, but pressing on to the finish. Antietam, which figures in the book, is my favorite because it is so untouched by commercialism; the remnant of the Irish Brigade might have just packed up and marched off yesterday”.
His follow on to The Veteran in a New Field, picks up where the first book left off. The second book; The Sharpshooter on Picket Duty, begins in the fabulous resort of the rich and famous of 1866; Saratoga Springs, NY. The next book in the trilogy; Prisoners from the Front follows Seamus to Washington, DC in 1867 on a desperate mission to bring a conspirator in the Lincoln assassination to justice and to save the love of his life; Emily, from death on the gallows.