Cooper Wingert has been interested in history for as long as he can remember. But it was a fifth-grade field trip to Gettysburg that piqued his interest in the area’s Civil War history.
“From there, I asked my father to go down (to Gettysburg) again,” Cooper said. “And again and again and again.”
Now 14, the Enola resident has published five books on the Civil War, most recently “The Confederate Approach on Harrisburg” in November 2012.
“I’ve lived next to Harrisburg all my life,” Cooper said. “What really particularly fascinated me was all the action that took place in the area (during the Civil War). … It’s often overlooked in the grand scheme of Gettysburg.”
The account, published by The History Press as part of its Civil War Sesquicentennial Series, resulted from years of research. Cooper spent time at the Cumberland and Dauphin county historical societies, the Gettysburg National Military Park and the U.S. Army Military History Institute in Carlisle.
As he pored over letters, manuscripts, diaries and other documents, he found that researching events that happened more than 150 years ago is not always easy.
“The Battle of Sporting Hill, for instance, there are roughly less than 10 primary source accounts of the battle,” Cooper said. “It’s very difficult to find documents of any engagements.”
As a student in a cyber charter school, Cooper has more time for his research than he would if enrolled in a traditional school. He made the switch two years ago, around the time he began research for his book.
“The state archives is only open for manuscripts on weekdays,” Cooper said, just one example of an obstacle he used to encounter. “Now I can do all the classwork but have more flexibility in terms of research.”
Cooper found both a mentor and friend in Manchester Township author and Civil War expert Scott Mingus. The two met at a speaking engagement in Carlisle, and have stayed in touch. Mingus authored the foreword for “The Confederate Approach on Harrisburg.”
“He is a very bright, articulate youth, with some remarkable abilities to ferret out files, letters, documents, etc.,” Mingus said in an email. “His research is very strong. … It has been a pleasure to work with him on his projects.”
And despite his young age, Cooper has racked up the speaking engagements himself, from the Hershey and Harrisburg Civil War round tables to several historical societies.
“After the books come out, I take the photos and give a talk on the book,” Cooper. “Obviously I can’t cover everything in the book, but I’ll give an overview and add a few things in here and there.”
Cooper will speak at a meeting of the York Civil War Round Table this week, 7 p.m. Jan. 16, at the York County Heritage Trust Historical Society Museum, 250 E. Market St., York.
And, he’s already started work on his next projects — “Emergency Men: The 26th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia and the Gettysburg Campaign” is expected from Shroeder Publications in April or May, and “Harrisburg and the Civil War” is expected from The History Press in May.
“Harrisburg and the Civil War” is “more of a look at the life in Harrisburg during the war,” Cooper said, instead of specific battles and movements.
And what happens when he gets a moment of free time?
“I’m a very avid golfer,” Cooper said. “It’s either school work, Civil War work, or golf.”
Name: Cooper Wingert
Lives in: Enola, Cumberland County
Education: Enrolled in a cyber charter school
Hobbies: Civil war research, writing, golf
To purchase: “The Confederate Approach on Harrisburg” is available through amazon.com and The History Press
If you go: Cooper will speak at the York Civil War Round Table at 7 p.m. Jan. 16 at the York County Heritage Trust Historical Society Museum, 250 E. Market St., York. Call 717-848-1587 for details.