Pennsylvania: A Military History by William A. Pencak, Christian B. Keller and Barbara A. Gannon

Book Review presents reviews of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects by noted scholars, historians and journalists.

Pennsylvania: A Military History
by William A. Pencak, Christian B. Keller and Barbara A. Gannon
Westholme Publishing, 304 pp., cloth $35

In 16 incisive and insightful original essays covering wars among Indians to the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the authors reveal a Pennsylvania that was and is very different from the “peaceable kingdom” image of art and myth. Indeed, by their reckoning, Pennsylvania has been, from its beginning as a colony to its present state, almost constantly at war or engaged in war work and support, providing men, materiel, money and more for military affairs. In their analysis, Pennsylvania proved critical to American independence and development thereafter, from fighting to supplying armies and building navies, to managing veterans’ affairs. War also proved critical to Pennsylvania’s development in terms of pushing frontiers west, putting down rebellions, sustaining defense-related industries, and connecting the commonwealth to the nation’s interests.

The authors offer an expanded view of military matters. They look at irregular warfare and the use of state forces in labor disputes, among several domestic issues, as well as major engagements by regular armies during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, and they point to the lasting effects of war in building a culture of heroic memory and civic obligation that came from war. They also show that war and military matters divided Pennsylvanians, from Loyalists during the Revolution and Copperheads during the Civil War to conscientious objectors in the two world wars and antiwar activists during the Vietnam War, among many who have dissented from war for religious, social and political reasons. The authors conclude with a very useful appendix describing the many and various monuments, memorials, museums and historic sites that recall, remember and reveal Pennsylvania’s long and troubled military history. In doing so, they show why we must never forget that Pennsylvania, like America, was born in war and made by it and has struggled ever after to find peace.

Randall M. Miller
Saint Joseph’s University