The list

The market shed in the downtown square in Hanover PA (Scott Mingus postcard)

Throughout the Civil War, in towns both large and small, North and South, people gathered in the town squares or near newspaper or telegraph offices to get the latest news from the front lines. Of particular interest were the reports of battles, especially if hometown units were known to have been involved.

Perhaps nothing brought more anxiety, consternation, and pain than the occasional posting of casualty lists, often in a letter home to the newspaper from the commander of the local boys. Parents, wives, siblings, friends, all read through the lists with an anxious heart.

For some, the news was not good.

In the sultry summer of 1863, the residents of Hanover learned the sad toll from their hometown soldiers, Company D of the 76th Pennsylvania, at the recent battle at Fort Wagner near Charleston, South Carolina. On July 11, Captain Cyrus Diller penned the casualty list and mailed it to Maria Leader, the editor/owner of the Hanover Spectator. It was one of the few female-owned newspapers in the country at the time. The Adams Sentinel and General Advertiser reprinted Diller’s list on August 4, 1863.

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New Osprey book on Sharpshooting Rifles of the American Civil War

Osprey Publishing has for several decades been a major resource for military wargamers, dioramists, miniaturists, and other hobbyists with its battle overviews, guides to uniforms, maps, and other useful information. Over time, the company has expanded its lineup to appeal to a broad range of history buffs with a wide series of different books covering a similar theme. Among these is their Weapon series, which focuses on specific categories of military arms — their development, use, and historical impact.

Weapon #56, written by Martin Pegler, covers Sharpshooting Rifles of the Civil War: Colt, Spencer, and Whitworth. Pegler is the Senior Curator of Firearms at the Roral Armories Museum in Leeds, UK, and the author of several other works on military small arms.

As with nearly all Osprey books, this one features a profusion of colorful illustrations, including line drawings, vintage photographs, modern artwork and renditions of soldiers in uniform using their weapons, and concise text.

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Save Hybla. Period.

“Captain Tanner,” an orderly dispatched from General Gordon called down from his lathered mount, “Compliments of the General. He wishes for you to send the left section of your battery over to yonder hill and deploy. See the stone house and barn to the east? That’s where he wants you to go. Once there, you may open.”

“Please give the general my compliments, sir,” Captain William Tanner eagerly replied, “and tell him the Courtney Artillery will do honor to the Old Dominion this day.”

As the orderly rode back to inform the brigade commander, Tanner raised his field glasses and surveyed the scene off to the northeast. He could see a long, low, dark line of earthworks stretching as far as the eye could see surrounding the small town of Wrightsville, Pennsylvania. Brightly colored flags dotted the line here and there, marking the positions of various detachments of Pennsylvania state militia. “Melish,” he thought to himself. “They will run off at the first shell. They always do.” Scanning further, he examined the best routes to move the two guns into position on the small knoll housing the stone house. Satisfied that he could get the guns there without impunity, he relayed the appropriate instructions to the lieutenant in charge of the section. “See to it,” he ordered.

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New book on the fighting in the Miller Cornfield in the Battle of Antietam

The battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862, remains the bloodiest single day of combat in American military history. Several of my relatives on my father’s side were there, serving in the 7th Virginia (in the Union Second Corps), later the 7th West Virginia, during the Sons of the Mountains’ unsuccessful attack on the Sunken Road. The Chambers boys lived to fight again the following year at Gettysburg,  but Antietam remained seared in their consciousness and memory.

So many places on the relatively compact, neatly cultivated battlefield became killing grounds. Names such as Bloody Lane, the West Woods, the Dunker Church, Burnside’s Bridge, and the East Woods have come down in history. Units such as the Iron Brigade, the Louisiana Tigers, the Texas Brigade, and others enhanced their respective reputations, but at a high cost in lives lost or ruined.

Perhaps the worst carnage of the day came in the repeated attacks in a heretofore nondescript cornfield belonging to a Maryland farmer named David R. Miller. He, like so many of his neighbors, had no clue as September 1862 began that their lives would forever be changed as two opposing armies slugged it out in their fields, woods, and farmyards. A number of books have described the fighting in some detail, including James V. Murfin’s classic book from my childhood, his 1965 edition of The Gleam of Bayonets. Since that time, the works of many other authors, including Sears, Alexander, Jordan, Priest, McPherson, Gottfried, Recker, Hartwig, Frassanito, Clemens, Harsh, and a host of other Antietam authors have graced my bookshelves.

Now, Dr. Phillip Thomas Tucker, had been added to that assemblage with his new book, Miller Cornfield at Antietam: The Civil War’s Bloodiest Combat.

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York CWRT to discuss General George G. Meade on July 19

PRESS RELEASE – YORK PA: On July 19, 2017, please join the York Civil War Round Table in its 20th Anniversary Year, welcoming author Tom Huntington to our meeting for his PowerPoint presentation titled “My Search for Meade,” based on his book “Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg.” The monthly meeting is at 7 p.m. at the Historical Society Museum, Library and Archives, 250 E. Market Street in York, PA. Admission and parking are both free, and the meeting is open to the public.

Tom Huntington called his book “Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg” because it seems the history books have largely overlooked the man who led the Army of the Potomac for the final two years of its existence.

Born 1815 in Spain (where his father, from Philadelphia, served as a merchant and a commercial agent for the U.S. Navy), Meade graduated from West Point, fought in the Mexican-American War and built lighthouses. He received command of the dysfunctional Army of the Potomac only three days before winning the pivotal battle of Gettysburg, and he remained the army’s leader until it was dissolved on June 28, 1865. Meade died in 1872, helped to his grave by wounds he received ten years earlier.

Huntington wanted the book to reflect his own journey of discovery as he investigated Meade’s disappearing reputation. He told the story of Meade’s life, but also wrote about his own visits to Civil War battlefields to see what was there now. He visited museums and talked to park rangers, curators, preservationists and people who have found their passion in Civil War history. Along the way, he visited a horse’s head, an amputated arm, and a severed leg.

The resulting book is a compelling mash-up of history, biography, travel and journalism that touches both past and present.

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Historiography of the Battle of Hanover; 154th anniversary today

The Picket, Hanover’s landmark monument to its Civil War battle, was once in the middle of the traffic circle. (Author’s postcard collection)

June 30, 1863. The largest military battle ever fought in the recorded history of York County, Pennsylvania. American vs. American. North vs. South. Blue vs. Gray. More than 300 men fell, several to rise no more and be laid to rest in the soil of the Quaker State.

General H. Judson Kilpatrick’s Union cavalry rode from Maryland through downtown Hanover, where citizens greeted them with food, beverage, flowers, and cheers. Most of the dusty blue-clad cavalrymen rode north toward Abbottstown, searching for the reported presence of Jubal Early’s enemy infantry. Meanwhile, Stuart’s lead brigade approached from the south and slammed into the rear of Kilpatrick’s column. Savage fighting raged in the streets of Hanover in the midday, with mounted combatants slashing one another with sabers or pausing to shoot men off horseback. Some accounts suggest a few townspeople joined in the battle, firing guns from upstairs windows.

In the afternoon, the fighting moved into the fields southeast of town, as newly-minted Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer brought his Michigan Wolverines into action, while Stuart fed in two more brigades. By late afternoon, as opposing artillery banged away at long distance, Stuart broke away, sending his three brigades one by one through Jefferson and York-New Salem up to Dover. The battle of Hanover ended by evening, with Kilpatrick in charge of the field. Townspeople helped nurse the scores of wounded.

A few books have been written on the battle. Check them out of your local library, or, for those recent ones still in print, pick up a copy from your favorite book dealer.

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Battle to save Underground Railroad Station marks 154th anniversary of Rebel invasion of York County

Today marks the 154th anniversary of the beginning of the Confederate invasion of York County, Pennsylvania. Lieutenant Colonel Elijah V. White’s 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry, entered Hanover, where a delegation of city fathers had assembled to meet the oncoming Rebels. After spending an hour raiding the stores, severing telegraph lines, and stealing horses, the Southern troops rode through Jefferson to Hanover Junction, where they burned the turntable and nearby bridge, torched railroad cars, and cut the telegraph wires before camping near today’s Spring Grove in the field surrounding what is today known as the Hoke House.

Simultaneously, White’s superior, Virginia Major General Jubal A. Early, a tobacco-chewing, profane but talented division commander, led more than 6,000 infantrymen into York County from the west in two powerful columns. His main force camped at Big Mount. His second column, following the turnpike from Gettysburg to York, under Brigadier General John Brown Gordon, marched through Abbottstown to Farmers Post Office. Gordon’s ultimate goal was the long covered bridge at Wrightsville, where on the next day he would fight a small battle to grab that bridge, one that saw him plant artillery next to the historic Mifflin House, once a major stop on the local Underground Railroad. Union state militiamen from Philadelphia were using the grounds as a campsite; some of Gordon’s men would later do the same.

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Fine new study of the Union army in the Overland/Petersburg campaigns

The 1864 Overland Campaign, and the subsequent Petersburg Campaign, changed the course of Civil War history. For much of the previous year and a half, Confederate General Robert E. Lee had been the aggressor, send his troops toward or into Pennsylvania in September 1862 (Maryland Campaign), October 1862 (Stuart’s First Raid of Pennsylvania), and June 1863 (Gettysburg Campaign). In the spring of 1864, it was the Yankees’ turn to take the offensive, a role that they largely would never relinquish.

Ulysses S. Grant had come to the east to take control of all the Union armies; he made defeating Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia a priority. He traveled with the Union Army of the Potomac, guiding and directing it through its titular head, Gettysburg victor George Meade, and slowly pushing Lee back from the Wilderness area near Fredericksburg south to Richmond and Petersburg in what became known as the Overland Campaign.

Many books, most notably by Gordon Rhea, have been written on the Overland Campaign and/or the Petersburg siege. Now, the talented Steven E. Sodergren has produced what is likely to become a new standard, examining the role of the Army of the Potomac in the trench warfare that developed over the summer and fall of 1864. It is an excellent study, one that deserves a place on the shelves of Civil War readers interested in the Grant vs. Lee maneuvering and battles.

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New book on the 38th GA includes fresh York stories

D. Gary Nichols has recently published a new book-length account of the 38th Georgia Volunteer Infantry during the War Between the States / Civil War. The limited edition, dust-jacketed hardback sold out in pre-sale subscriptions. I have communicated with the author a few times as this book was in pre-production and had reserved a copy. It arrived this week, and I am impressed by Nichols excellent research and clear prose. The book, what I have read so far, is a fascinating account of one of the six regiments that Confederate Brigadier General John Brown Gordon led into York County, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, June 27, 1863, camping near Farmers’ Post Office along what is today’s U.S. Route 30. There, the chief burgess of York and several civic leaders negotiated the peaceful surrender of York and the terms by which the Confederates would occupy the town (the negotiations, frankly, were one-sided; dictated by the Rebel generals).

On Sunday, June 28, 1863, the 38th Georgia and the rest of Gordon’s brigade paraded through downtown York beginning at 10 a.m. They marched through town and headed east to Wrightsville, pausing roughly where today’s East York Wal-Mart is located for a lunch break and rest stop before going on to Hellam Township.

Nichols’ new work is chock full of anecdotes and personal stories that he has assembled over the years. A few of those accounts concern the Georgians’ brief four-day visit to York County. Here’s an example:

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York CWRT to host Historian D. Scott Hartwig on June 21

Image from historian D. Scott Hartwig’s official Facebook page

On June 21, 2017, please join the York Civil War Round Table in its 20th Anniversary Year, welcoming Civil War historian and author, D. Scott Hartwig, to our meeting for his presentation “”Gettysburg: Sorting Fiction From Fact.” The monthly meeting is at 7 p.m. at the Historical Society Museum, Library and Archives, 250 E. Market Street in York, Pennsylvania. Admission and parking are both free, and the meeting is open to the public.

No battle of the American Civil War is as fraught with controversy and myth as Gettysburg. The Confederates marched to Gettysburg searching for shoes, Reynolds was picked off by a sharpshooter at long range, the Barlow-Gordon incident, Longstreet was supposed to attack at dawn on July 2, Meade wanted to retreat after the fighting on the 2nd, Meade did not pursue the Confederates after the battle, and the list goes on seemingly without end. In this program Scott Hartwig, the former supervisory historian at Gettysburg National Military Park who worked at the battlefield for 34 years, will examine some of these long standing stories and myths to separate fact from fiction and probe how they originated in the first place and what purpose they served.

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