Bookshelf provides descriptions and notices of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects.

Pennsylvania Civil War Trails: The Guide to Battle Sites, Monuments, Museums and Towns

by Tom Huntington
Stackpole Books and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 2007; 150 pages, paper, $14.95

As the 2011 opening of the American Civil War Sesquicentennial draws near, the national observance is guaranteed to produce a spate of weighty tomes analyzing the epic event of the nineteenth century, as well as spawn innumerable guides to the historic people, places, and events associated with it. Individuals interested in visiting Civil War sites in the Keystone State need not wait any longer to begin their journey. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and Stackpole Books just released Pennsylvania Civil War Trails: The Guide to Battle Sites, Monuments, Museums and Towns by Tom Huntington, which leads readers on a lively tour through several southern and southcentral counties in Pennsylvania where Civil War history was made. The book mirrors thematic tours developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

With Pennsylvania Civil War Trails: The Guide to Battle Sites, Monuments, Museums and Towns author Tom Huntington presents seven itineraries to help today’s travelers discover Civil War history for themselves. Along these trails, the author points out buildings and structures – such as barns, farmsteads, and bridges – that soldiers would have seen on their way to and from battle. Gettysburg National Military Park in Adams County is the centerpiece of the trails. During the first three days of July 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg raged, ending in favor of the North and thwarting General Robert E. Lee’s ambitious invasion of Pennsylvania. But Gettysburg, Huntington advises readers, is only one part of the Civil War story.

“Taken together, the communities along the Civil War trails create a rich mosaic,” he writes. “They tell the stories, not just of the fighting men who took up arms for the Union, but also of the civilians – men and women, white and black – who suddenly found war on their doorsteps.” For example, the first chapter, “Franklin County: The Invasion Begins,” takes readers to Greencastle, besieged in June 1861 by Confederates who demanded pistols, saddles, lead, and provisions, typical of the demands they would make on communities throughout this part of Pennsylvania. This tour continues to Mercersburg, hometown of President James Buchanan and the burial ground, in Zion Union Cemetery, of thirty-six black soldiers who fought in the war, including members of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, made up of free blacks. A trip through Franklin County wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Chambersburg, burned to the ground in 1864 by Confederate forces, leaving three thousand residents homeless.

Pennsylvania Civil War Trails also offers tours entitled “Cumberland County: Up the Valley,” with stops in Shippensburg, Carlisle, and Mechanicsburg; “Harrisburg: A Capital War,” recommending visits to The State Museum of Pennsylvania, National Civil War Museum, and the John Harris-Simon Cameron mansion, among others; and “York: Divided and Conquered,” touting the York County Heritage Trust, the Prospect Hill Cemetery, the final resting place of more than one thousand Civil war soldiers, and Hanover Junction, targeted by Southern enemies in 1863. In the chapter entitled “Susquehanna River Towns: A Bridge Too Far,” readers will discover the roles of Wrightsville and Columbia in the war. “Hanover: Fighting in the Streets” will enthrall readers with a surprising account of “urban warfare” when the South’s Jeb Stuart battled the North’s George Armstrong Custer and Judson Kilpatrick in the York County community’s streets and alleys. The longest chapter, naturally, “Gettysburg: High Water Mark,” describes the many attractions and historic sites that await visitors today. The book concludes with “Off the Trail,” citing Civil War-related museums and cemeteries in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Pennsylvania Civil War Trails: The Guide to Battle Sites, Monuments, Museums and Towns, features historic and vintage images, and brings to life the turbulent past for readers who inevitably will want to see for themselves where history was made and a nation united, albeit at a great sacrifice.


Spotza, Keelers, and Stirred Sugar: The Legacy of Maple Sugaring in Somerset County, Pennsylvania

by Mark Ware
Victorian Publishing Company for the Historical and Genealogical Society of Somerset County, 2006; 150 pages, paper, $26.50

Mention the words maple sugar and most people immediately think of the New England states, specifically Vermont, the leading producer of maple syrup in the United States, which claims the sugar maple as its official state tree. However, Pennsylvania’s Somerset County is an important maple sugar producing region, contends author Mark Ware, whose Spotza, Keelers, and Stirred Sugar: The Legacy of Maple Sugaring in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, dramatically portrays the industry with a plethora of vintage images. Maple syrup is one of the country’s oldest agricultural commodities and its production in the Keystone State is two centuries old. In Somerset County – the Commonwealth’s leading producer – the harvesting of maple syrup has become an integral part of farming.

The author notes that maple sugar served the individual family’s needs by helping to vary and make more appealing its bland and staid diet. As farmsteads improved, some farmers realized a surplus of production and recognized an opportunity to generate cash by selling what they didn’t need. The return on their investment in a few inexpensive tools for sugaring was substantial and they could reap profits, with little or no overhead, in a relatively brief period. By 1850, 38 percent of county farms were engaged in the production of maple sugar, turning out nearly four hundred thousand pounds of sugar and nearly eight thousand gallons of maple molasses. Within three decades, they were producing more than one million pounds of maple sugar and fifteen thousand gallons of maple syrup each year – nearly half of Pennsylvania’s entire sugar production!

What makes Spotza, Keelers, and Stirred Sugar such an educational and entertaining book is the way in which Ware discusses the unusual and, to many, unfamiliar, industry. He opens with a description of the maple sugar process and continues with intelligently written discussions of sugar making techniques, improvements through the years, the period of maple sugaring as a time for socializing, and associated trades and crafts.

The book contains numerous illustrations, among them vintage photographs, period advertisements, and drawings. It also includes recipes and an extensive glossary of terms used in Somerset County’s maple sugar industry. (Spotza is a vernacular term for maple taffy; keelers are wooden buckets used to catch the maple sap draining from trees.)


Rush’s Lancers: The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War

by Eric J. Wittenberg
published by Westholme Publishing, 2007; 316 pages, cloth, $29.95

The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, known also as Rush’s Lancers, was a completely volunteer unit and one of the finest regiments to serve in the Civil War. Tracing their history from George Washington’s personal bodyguard during the American Revolution, many of the men of the Sixth Pennsylvania were the cream of Philadelphia society, including Richard H. Rush, grandson of Dr. Benjamin Rush, Robert Morris Jr., great-grandson and namesake of the financier of the Revolutionary War, Charles Cadawalder, whose great-grandfather was a general under Washington, Frank Furness, architect and Medal of Honor recipient, and George G. Meade Jr. It was their actions in battle, not their illustrious family histories, that distinguished Rush’s Lancers. The cavalry earned a reputation for being a highly trained and reliable unit, despite being initially armed with antiquated weapons, leaving their mark on key battlefields, including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Hanover Station, Gettysburg, Brandy Station (where they conducted one of the most famous charges of the war), and Appomattox, among others.

Drawing upon letters, diaries, memoirs, service and pension files, contemporary newspaper accounts, official records, and other primary sources, Rush’s Lancer’s: The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War, by distinguished military historian and author Eric J. Wittenberg, gives readers an engrossing account of these young men from both Philadelphia’s social elite and the city’s working classes who, despite not being professional soldiers, answered the nation’s call to war.

Rush’s Lancers contains dozens of historic images, extensive notes, and a bibliography.


These Just In . . .

A number of new and recent books about Pennsylvania history have been received by Pennsylvania Heritage‘s editorial staff, which has not had the opportunity to review them, but wishes to share news of their availability with readers.

Priest, Parish, and People: Saving the Faith in Philadelphia’s “Little Italy,” by Richard N. Juliani, published by the University of Notre Dame Press, 2007; 395 pages, paper, $35.00.

Horse-and-Buggy Mennonites: Hoofbeats of Humility in a Postmodern World, by Donald B. Kraybill and James P. Hurd, published by the Penn State University Press, 2006; 362 pages, paper, $19.95.

I’ll Fly Away: A World War II Pilot’s Lifetime of Adventures from Biplanes to Jumbo Jets, by Jack Race, with William F. Hallstead, published by the University of Scranton Press, 2006; 283 pages, paper, $20.00.

The Philadelphia Reader, edited by Robert Huber and Benjamin Wallace, published by Temple University Press, 2006; 284 pages, paper, $19.95.

Dry Plate Times: The Work of E. T. White and Others, by Delbert Paul Highlands, published by the Punxsutawney Area Historical and Genealogical Society, 200; 35 pages, paper, $10.00.

Delaware and Lehigh Canals: A Pictorial History of the Delaware and Lehigh Canals National Heritage Corridor in Pennsylvania, compiled by Ann Bartholomew, researched by Lance E. Metz, published by the Canal History and Technology Press, 2005; 163 pages, paper, $24.95.

Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia, by Matthew J. Countryman, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006; 417 pages, cloth, $42.50.

From the Miners’ Doublehouse: Archaeology and Landscape in a Pennsylvania Coal Company Town, by Karen Bescherer Metheny, published by University of Tennessee Press, 2007; 305 pages, cloth, $45.00.