New book details the Confederate march on Harrisburg and related skirmishes

Author and researcher Cooper H. Wingert has written a new book on the Confederate march to Harrisburg during the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign

Cooper H. Wingert is a young author from central Pennsylvania who has proven to be a very talented researcher in his short career as a writer and history buff. The Enola native has been studying primary accounts of the defense of Harrisburg during the Gettysburg Campaign and the Confederate march through Cumberland County toward the Susquehanna River. He has deftly scoured local and state archives and has assembled an collection of sources rarely or never before used to tell the story of the eventful days of late June 1863 when an enemy army threatened the state capital.

Almost Harrisburg: The Confederate Attempt on Pennsylvania’s Capital, Gettysburg Campaign, June & July 1863 has just been published in April 2012. The new book boasts a solid array of black-and-white photographs, illustrations, and original maps to aid the reader. The author presents the details of the campaign for Harrisburg in an unbiased fashion, examining primary accounts from Confederate soldiers and officers, local civilians, state politicians, and the New York and Pennsylvania militiamen who defended the city.

A preface by Pennsylvania Civil War author Scott L. Mingus, Sr. sets the stage and provides historical context for the book. Cooper Wingert breaks down the opposing movements and tactical situations chronologically, beginning with an introduction to the Gettysburg Campaign and Harrisburg’s strategic importance. Robert E. Lee had instructed a key subordinate, Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, to seize the city if he had the means to do so. Ewell, however, did not aggressively pursue a direct attack on the hastily built fortifications across the river from Harrisburg, which was defended by thousands of militia of varying quality levels and military experience.

This new book more than adequately tells the story, and will leave the reader with a solid understanding of the military proceedings around Harrisburg as the Rebels try to reach the Susquehanna River. Cooper Wingert continues to provide ample evidence that he is one of the finest young Civil War historians in the country. Not yet in high school, he continues to hone his research and writing skills, and this book stands on its own merits.

Almost Harrisburg should be on the shelf of any student of the Gettysburg Campaign who is interested in the defense of the state capital. Pick up your copy at Civil War and More, a fine bookstore at 10 S. Market Street in Mechanicsburg. Owner Jim Schmick will take orders via phone, internet / e-mail, or in person for Cooper’s new book.

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4 Responses to New book details the Confederate march on Harrisburg and related skirmishes

  1. William Richardson says:

    Hello Mr. Mingus,

    Sounds like a very interesting book that I will have to add to my library. The statement below has brought me to a question…..

    “Robert E. Lee had instructed a key subordinate, Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, to seize the city if he had the means to do so. Ewell, however, did not aggressively pursue a direct attack on the hastily built fortifications across the river from Harrisburg, which was defended by thousands of militia of varying quality levels and military experience.”

    Was Harrisburg Lee’s target or was it just a target of opportunity ? I have been involved in several discussions and they go about 50-50, some saying it was his target, some saying it was not. The word “if” makes it sound more like it was a target of opportunity than an actual must have target. Again, according to the comment Ewell “blinked” before attacking. He was truly a man of indecision. He didn’t want to attack Cemetery Hill ( That is a whole different can of worms ) nor did he want to move around to the right.
    What is your take on Harrisburg ? Was it an intended target or a target of opportunity ?

    Respectfully,

    William

    • Scott Mingus says:

      Hello William!

      I do not believe that Harrisburg was a primary target at the beginning of the campaign. However, once Lee realized that he had a significant head start on Hooker, Harrisburg became a target of opportunity. If he truly wanted to capture it quickly, I think he would have pushed Ewell more aggressively.

  2. William Richardson says:

    I agree. Do you think Lee threaten Harrisburg to lore Hooker/Meade north at a faster pace ? Thank you for your wonderful blog and for your response.

    Respectfully,

    William

    • Scott Mingus says:

      Hello William.

      Lee never left any evidence that his instructions to Ewell were meant to draw Hooker into Pennsylvania faster. In fact, Lee believed that he has plenty of time. Hence, he sent Ewell toward Harrisburg, Early toward York, Hill and Longstreet toward Chambersburg. On the night of June 28, more then 75 miles separated Gordon’s Brigade at Wrightsville from Pickett’s Division. If Lee wanted to hasten the Yankees into Pennsylvania, he would not have spread his army so dangerously thin. He consistently did so in the campaign, and drew a comment from President Lincoln early in the campaign that if the animal [Lee’s army] was stretched so thin, why shouldn’t Hooker attack it in the middle? I think Lee had a lot of disdain for Hooker; the speed of the Union army in arriving in central Maryland and southern PA surprised him.

      Thanks for your kind words about the Cannonball blog!

      Scott

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