Thursday, April 2, 2009

Flames Beyond Gettysburg

Ironclad Publishing has just sent forth Flames Beyond Gettysburg, the latest in their Discovering Civil War America series. The book was researched and written by Scott Mingus, Sr. (with help in some areas by his son, Professor Scott Mingus, Jr.). It is a retelling, in detail, of the John B. Gordon expedition in late June 1863.

Just what we need: another book about the Civil War.

I am not being facetious. This is just exactly what we need. For this book details a portion of the battle of Gettysburg that we don’t often see.

Gordon, commanding an element of the Army of Northern Virginia (Confederate States of America), had been detailed to proceed through Adams, York and Lancaster Counties in advance of the rest of Robert E. Lee’s force so as to (1) scare the bejezus out of Pennsylvania in general and Philadelphia in particular and (2) turn north and possibly capture Harrisburg.

Note the date: June 1863. That was about a week before a dust-up that took place just down the road from here in a little crossroads town known as Gettysburg.

It was Gordon’s forces that first captured Gettysburg and Hanover and York and Wrightsville, simply pushing aside any organized Federal resistance that was encountered.

It was Gordon’s forces that emptied barns and larders of horses and food, paying for most with Confederate currency (much to the chagrin of the local citizenry).

And it was Gordon’s forces that entered Wrightsville just in time to see the bridge over the Susquehanna go up in flames (Mingus rightly points out that, today, most travelers heading east over the river barely note the crumbling remains of the earlier bridge's supports as they parallel the current Veterans' Memorial Bridge along Route 462).

And it is Mingus’ book that tells the tale. He brings to life the names and the faces encountered in the old photographs found in archives and libraries in South Central Pennsylvania.

He does it with enough detail to satisfy the nit-pickers. He does it with enough source notations and scholarship to satisfy the professional historian. And he does it with an engaging and flowing style to satisfy even the mildly curious reader.

Not only did I enjoy the ride that Mingus takes us upon, I learned some things about tactics and operations. I also learned some things about the people in this part of Pennsylvania.

It turns out that all the good guys didn’t wear blue. And all the bad guys didn’t wear grey.

I am probably not giving away a surprise ending by revealing here that Harrisburg did not fall to Lee’s army. But what was surprising--at least to me--was how they were stopped. For that, you’ll have to do the research yourself…or read the book.

In addition to reading about the expedition of 150 years ago, Mingus invites us to make our own expeditions by laying out six distinct driving tours. Hop in the car and take the book along and you’ll get to see where raiders roamed and battles (such as they were) took place, stopping along the way at farms, railroad junctions and town squares.

This isn’t his first tome about the Civil War, and I very much hope it is not his last.

I recommend it. And I am looking forward to hosting Mingus as he leads us in a discussion during our upcoming "Butternut and Blue" day later this month. Before that, he will be signing copies during this weekend's York Book and Paper Fair.

The book is available from The York Emporium and via online sites (Amazon, ABE, Alibris, Blblio, and others). Suggested retail: $23.95; ISBN 0-9673770-8-0

3 comments:

  1. The book is also available from Casemate Publishers, which is the master distributor. Their website is http://www.casematepublishing.com/cgi/titleinfo.pl?sku=9780967377087.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've got a print of the cover painting by Brad Schmehl in my living room. The destruction of this key railroad and wagon bridge by Pennsylvania Militia is part of the opening moves of the Battle of Gettysburg. It's an important part of PA history.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Kent!

    That's a great painting. I have a signed print hanging on the wall of my wargaming room in the basement.

    ReplyDelete