Human Interest Stories of the Gettysburg Campaign

bookcover.gifThe influences which create emotional bonds between us, today, and those in the past are human interest stories. Such stories allow us to understand the hardships and deprivations endured from this event.  They connect and endear us in ways we can relate to the participants.  They instill in us respect by their commitment to duty and they amaze us with tales of lighter, sometimes humorous, moments amidst tragic circumstances.

This unique blend of stories, arranged in chronological order to enhance the reader’s experience, was taken from primary sources, including, diaries, pension records, historical collections, official records, as well as  newspapers, journals, and books.  Here are just a few samples:

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An unusual group of volunteers responded in Harrisburg to Governor Curtin’s plea. Capt.  Charles C. Carson and a company of 17 men, the youngest being 68 years old, came forward  and presented themselves for military service. Each senior citizen was a veteran of the War of 1812, and they wanted to again serve their state and country in a time of need. A color bearer proudly carried a historic relic, a highly tattered battle flag that had once been borne at the Battle of Trenton by Pennsylvanians serving under George Washington.

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In one case, some members of the 3rd Michigan found that the most threatening enemy was not the Confederates they were pursuing.  The Wolverines, hungry for some honey, raided some beehives in a nearby garden, initially driving off the bees. However, as the men reached the hives, the bees counterattacked en masse, repeatedly stinging the men as they struggled to get away from the prolonged assault. An amused onlooker, Color Sgt. Daniel Crotty, later wrote that the slashing and darting bees made some men “turn such somersaulting on the ground as to put to shame a lot of Japanese acrobat performers  in a circus ring.”  The soldiers made an inglorious retreat, their swollen heads and faces now resembling huge mortar shells.

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A massive thunderstorm on the evening of July 4 drenched the armies, creating untold misery and torture for the thousands of wounded that still dotted the fields and woods surrounding Gettysburg. Creeks and streams, already swollen from days of rain before the Battle of Gettysburg, swiftly overflowed their banks, and flash floods claimed the lives of scores of unfortunate wounded men. The hospital of Clark’s Battery was in a field near Rock Creek east of Taneytown Road.. The attendants and orderlies frantically worked to  move the injured soldiers to higher ground. However, the water rose so quickly that not all could be moved. Artilleryman Dick Price held himself up above the torrent with his elbows draped over the branch of a dogwood tree. The lower extremities of both arms had been amputated, so Price’s agony must have been excruciating. Still, he held his composure…Price would soon die from complications resulting from his wounds. He is buried in the National Cemetery.

Human Interest Stories of the Gettysburg Campaign is published by Colecraft Industries, Orrtanna, PA 17353 and is now available for ordering online at colecraftbooks@aol.com, amazon.com, and barnes&noble.com.  It is also available at several Gettysburg area bookstores and gift centers.

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Categories: Civil War books, Gettysburg | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Human Interest Stories of the Gettysburg Campaign

  1. Some reviews of the new book from amazon.com:

    Approaches Gettysburg From a New Angle
    Reviewer: Brett R. Schulte

    The Battle of Gettysburg has had more written about it than any other battle of the Civil War, and probably more than the entire Western and Trans-Mississippi Theaters combined. This leads readers to the obvious question, “Why should anyone do another book on Gettysburg?”, and it’s one that I often ask. Author Scott Mingus has a ready answer for that question. Many of the Gettysburg studies are detailed accounts of strategy and tactics. Mingus responds that Gettysburg was a “very individual event for the 150,000 or so troops engaged.” On that note, the author sets out to detail some of these “individual events”, drawing from various primary sources and rewording or reinterpreting the stories told. This book moves in areas far below the level of army commanders, getting down to the individual soldiers who lived, marched, fought, and died during this famous campaign. Human Interest Stories is a look at Gettysburg from the ground up, allowing the soldiers’ stories, many unknown and unpublished prior to this account, to stand independent of the battle’s strategy and tactics.

    The book is divided into five chapters, covering the march north into Maryland and Pennsylvania, the three days of battle, and the aftermath. After each vignette, Mingus includes the source he pulled the story from, allowing interested readers to find those available sources on their own. These sources include diaries, letters, newspapers, regimentals, MOLLUS accounts, county histories, and even the Official Records. The author gives equal coverage to the fighting men of the Union and Confederacy, and also includes civilians on occasion. One of my favorite stories involved a civilian of Gettysburg who ran an inn. He had only recently received a large shipment of liquor, and he rightly feared this would all be taken if soldiers entered the town. The civilian decided to hide his liquor in a trench in his garden, covering it up with a newly created cabbage patch. The man completed the ruse by saving a few barrels of the poorest liquor and hiding it in his home. Confederates did discover this poor quality liquor, but they were satisfied that this was all the man had. After the Confederates had left, the man was dismayed to find his liquor had been ruined after water seeped into the barrels after a heavy rain!

    I enjoyed this book, honestly much more than I thought I would. My main interest in the war involves the campaign and battle studies I mentioned in the original paragraph, so I did not know how much I would like the format going in. With that said, I absolutely could not put this book down. At 100 pages it is a very fast read. The various stories can be read in order, or you can randomly flip through the book and find something interesting on almost every page. Mingus, an award winning scenario designer for the Johnny Reb 3 miniatures gaming system and author of several wargame scenario booklets, has chosen a diverse set of vignettes for his readers. The author rewrote a lot of the stories for clarity and space constraints, allowing a modern audience to read the book with a full understanding of what is being said. Mingus promises future volumes covering more previously uncovered stories in much the same way.

    Mingus delivers an entertaining, enjoyable read that can be enjoyed in one sitting or over a lengthier period of time. Jaded readers tired of “yet another Gettysburg book” will want to give this one a try, as it does deliver on the author’s promise to approach Gettysburg from an unconventional angle. Civil War buffs interested in the individual stories of the war rather than tactical studies will find this book to be an exciting first entry in what should quickly become a series. The book contains no maps, and none are really needed, as that’s not the point. Even beginners to the rich history of this time period can take something tangible from Human Interest Stories. In fact, I see this as a nice gift to lend or give to friends who might not otherwise be interested in the Civil War specifically or history in general. It shows that history need not be dry and boring. Considering the low price, I consider this a solid purchase for any Civil War enthusiast.

  2. Absorbing reading
    Reviewer: C. Teague “Chaplain Chuck”

    Upon my first trip as a boy to Gettysburg in 1958 I returned home with a paperback of human interest stories on the battle. I devoured that book and through it the momentous battle came alive for me. Scott Mingus has done a great service in compiling a far better collection of such wonderful stories, complete with citations. As a public historian who has the honor of intereting the battle on the very ground, I repeatedly mention that there are 200,000 amazing stories to be told, beyond the popular accounts about men like Chamberlain and Pickett. Mr. Mingus has opened the door for us to meet a number of ordinary people struck by truly extraordinary experiences.

    The battle can be approached from many perspectives. What Mr. Mingus has done is to compile the stories that the veterans and locals themselves enjoyed reminiscing about for decades thereafter. You won’t find tactical and technical matters addressed here, but the fascinating observations of common folk who would never ever forget the images deeply fixed in their memories. It’s sort of like sitting on the porch steps of an old Victorian home listening to a gray-haired codger in a rocking chair tell about that time back in ’63 when he “saw the elephant.” Some tales are gruesome, others are humorous. But each one leads you to call out, “Wow! Tell me more!”

    Even those quite familiar with the Battle of Gettysburg will marvel at the fresh stories Mr. Mingus has unearthed and shared for our enjoyment.

    ***

    An Enjoyable and Stimulating Read
    Reviewer: Douglas B. Kline

    After reading hundreds of Civil War titles over the years, and many on Gettysburg, I did not think reading another book on Gettysburg would result in as much enjoyment as this one did. Scott Mingus has a hit here with wonderful “nuggets” of information.

    These “nuggets” provide an insight into the minds of the individual soldiers, citizens and others affected by this great battle. I found that this book was hard to set down. It is laid out in an easy to read format with chapters on the invasion, days 1, 2 and 3, as well as a chapter on the aftermath.

    Enjoyable little tales of interaction between soldiers, civilians and their enemies. In addition to tales about battle, I found many tales to show the softer or human side of the battle. Much of the information was culled from memoirs, newspapers, letters and other sources. Each “nugget” varies in length from 1 to 2 paragraphs up to a page. Scott also provides source information related to each item which can be very helpful if you want to further your research.

    Human Interest Stories is a wonderful book that I recommend to anyone interested in Civil War history. Scott has really found an interesting niche with this title. I hope to see similar offerings on other battles!

    ***

    Outstanding Insights into Gettysburg
    Reviewer: Doug Rogers

    Human Interest Stories of the Gettysburg Campaign by Scott Mingus Sr. is a “must read” for anyone interested in history and particularly curious about the period of the American Civil War. This roughly 100 page collection of brief commentary on the progression of the Gettysburg Campaign of Robert E. Lee couches a multitude of stories and quotes from original sources for both the North and the South. It includes interactions of young and old, soldiers and citizens, men and women, friends and foes, heroes and scoundrels. There are even described interactions between men and animals caught in the whirlwind of the event including horses, cattle, rabbits, fox, snake, and birds. Scott’s presentation carries the essence of the individual’s experience leading up to, through, and the aftermath of the great battle. He touches on stories that demonstrate courage and cowardice. Examples of deep faith and others expressing the human failure are all in this little book. This is one book that some will not be able to put down, while others will find it a perfect distraction by enjoying it by bits and pieces of the humorous and the solemn. I did some of each and believe that I came away with a deeper understanding of how those that experienced the event felt.

    ***

    A Valuable Addition to Anyone’s ACW Library
    Reviewer: Ivor Janci

    I enjoy reading about the strategy and tactics used by the Federals and Confederates leading up to and including the battle of Gettysburg, but it’s the human interest stories about the participants and civilians that move my heart. And that is exactly what Scott Mingus has done with this collection of excerpts from memoirs, regimental biographies, newspaper articles, and letters to loved ones. If one enjoyed the now out-of-print Voices of the Civil War series by Time-Life Books, then one will find this book to be a wonderful companion to that series. Though not illustrated (which would have added more value, but also more cost) it is the soldiers and civilians own words that are important. The excerpts are not long, and the book can be read in its entirety over a couple of evenings, but one can also just pick it up anytime to read a few paragraphs and still enjoy it. I believe that anyone that is interested not only in the battle of Gettysburg but in the American Civil War in general, will find this book a worthy addition to their library. I highly recommend it.

  3. Ten years after the Civil War and 12 years after the Battle of Gettysburg Edward Plank was born. He became a Hall of Fame pitcher who played most of his career with the Philadelphia Athletics. He is 3rd out of left handed pitchers and 11th among all pitchers in wins with 326. Gettysburg is mainly known for the Battle during the Civil War and also Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address which is recognized as one of the most famous speeches in history. Eddie Plank also known as “Gettysburg Eddie” also brought some recognition to the small town in PA. Although the Civil War far surpasses Eddie Plank’s fame I feel he should still be recognized as a Gettysburg story.

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