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

Down the Susquehanna to the Chesapeake

By Jack Brubaker
Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002 (288 pages, cloth, $34.95)

As the largest river on the East Coast, the rolling Susquehanna River is the indispensable tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary. Gathering strength from the scores of streams along its four hundred and forty-four mile journey – ­three hundred of which sluice through the Keystone State – the river delivers fully half of the freshwater the bay requires to maintain its ecological balance. Down the Susquehanna to the Chesapeake traces the course of the river through New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland to the bay. Fifty-six brief chapters discuss key locations along the route and examine how the river changes from sources to sea. These chapters also look at the ways in which natural resources influence – and in some ways shape – the lives of people and their communities. Along this tour of the waterway, the author explores the natural and human history of the Susquehanna, probing how the river has been used and abused, as well as assessing its current condition and forecasting its future prospects. He explains how the unusually shallow, rocky, and broad river, measuring a mile wide at Harrisburg, has substantially altered its drainage pattern over geologic time and how it continues to cut channels while erasing and creating islands. For generations the Susquehanna River has flowed through the daily lives of the riverside residents, providing water to drink and a place to pump sewage. Floods have humbled those who chose to live close to the river’s edge, and droughts have fretted farmers. A vibrant fishery has provided sustenance and recreation for hundreds of thousands. The Susquehannocks and the Iroquois reluctantly yielded the river to white settlers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the Susquehanna defined the American frontier. Coal mining, lumbering, and hydroelectric and nuclear energy production pol­luted the water and nearly ruined the landscape beyond hope in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Hope returned in the final decades of the last century as the people of the river launched restoration efforts. With nine maps and more than sixty illustrations, Down the Susquehanna to the Chesapeake offers a bold new look at a dynamic old river. This powerful journey brings to life the river, its history, and the colorful personalities who live along its banks.

 

First City: Philadelphia and the Forging of Historical Memory

By Gary B. Nash
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001 (352 pages, cloth, $34.95)

With its rich foundation stories, Philadelphia may be the most important city in America’s collective memory. By the middle of the eighteenth century, William Penn’s beloved “greene country towne” was, after London, the second largest city of the British Empire. The two most important documents in the history of the United States, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitu­tion, were drafted and signed in Philadelphia. The city served off and on as the official capital of the fledgling nation until 1800, and was also the site of the first American university, hospital, medical college, bank, paper mill, zoo, subscription library, sugar refinery, public school, and government mint. First City: Philadelphia and the Forging of Historical Memory examines the complex process of “memory making” in this most historic of American cities. Although history is necessarily written from the extant evidence of the past, as the author demonstrates, rarely is that evidence preserved without intent, nor is it equally representative. Full of surprising anecdotes, First City reveals how Philadelphi­ans – from members of elite cultural institutions, such as museums and historical societies, to relatively anonymous groups, such as women, racial and religious minorities, and laboring people – have participated in the very partisan activity of transmitting historical memory from one generation to the next. Covering more than two centuries of social, economic, and political change, and offering a challenging, innovative approach to urban as well as national history, First City tells the Philadelphia story through the wealth of material its citizens have chosen to preserve.

 

Selected Letters of Lucretia Coffin Mott

Edited by Beverly Wilson Palmer
University of Illinois Press, 2002 (580 pages, cloth, $55.00)

Lucretia Coffin Mott (1793-1880) was a wife, mother, Quaker and, most notably, activist. Her parents encouraged her independence and her Quaker rearing spawned her activism, but it was her friendship with influential abolitionist editor and publisher William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), whom she met in 1830, which strengthened her embrace of abolitionism and nonresis­tance. She was present as an observer – women were not admitted as participants – when Garrison and others founded the American Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia in December 1833. She and Garrison sought the immediate emancipation of slaves, believing that it could be obtained solely through moral suasion. Mott’s Quaker beliefs were in keeping with Garrison’s staunch no-government stance; like many members of the Society of Friends, she tended to eschew involvement in electoral politics. As active members of the Non-Resistance Society, both Mott and Garrison preached resistance to violence and to participation in politics. The society discouraged members from resorting to violence to bring about change and from supporting public officials who possessed the power to use force. Selected Letters of Lucretia Coffin Mott presents correspondence that reflects these and other causes she espoused and provides a guide to her addressing reform organizations, such as the Non-Resistance Society, and at the antislavery conventions of American women, while in the Philadelphia area she spoke to medical students and quarterly and yearly Quaker meetings. Her letters further demonstrate how dramatically her life embodied this interweaving of advocacy and daily life so central to most nineteenth-century women activists, and this landmark volume makes widely available – for the first time ever – her ponderous body of correspondence. Scrupulously reproduced and annotated, these letters illustrate the length and breadth of her public life as a leading reformer, while offering an intimate glimpse of her private, family Life. Dedicated to reform of almost every kind – temperance, peace, equal rights, women’s suffrage, and the abolition of slav­ery – Mott viewed women’s rights as only one element of a broad-based reform agenda for American society. An invaluable resource on an extraordinary individual, the letters chosen for the book – nearly one-quarter of approximately nine hundred and fifty surviving missives – reveal the incisive mind, clear sense of mission, and level-headed personality that made her a natural leader and a major force in nineteenth-century America. The book features a helpful biographical directory of correspondents, a chronology, a guide to repositories of her correspondence, and an index. Selected Letters of Lucretia Coffin Mott is indispensable for understanding the concerns, ambitions, and mindset of a freethinking woman in America in the nineteenth century who set out to right a wrong and free fellow citizens from oppression and suffering. These letters reflect Mott’s valiance, courage, and determination, rightfully placing her among America’s greatest leaders.

 

Three Years in the “Bloody Eleventh”: The Campaigns of a Pennsylvania Reserves Regiment

By Joseph Gibbs
Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002 (360 pages, cloth, $35.00)

Hailing from the Keystone State’s rugged western counties, the Eleventh Pennsylvania Reserves was one of the Civil War’s most heavily engaged units. Of more than twenty-one hundred regiments raised by the North, it suffered the eighth highest percentage of battle deaths, earning it the gruesome epithet “Bloody Eleventh.” Three Years in the “Bloody Eleventh”: The Campaigns of a Pennsylvania Reserves Regiment tells the story of this often over looked element of the Army of the Potomac from its formation in 1861 through the battles of May 1864. Drawing on letters, diaries, and documents, the author writes of individuals such as Colonel Thomas F. Gallagher, of Westmoreland County, who led his troops into battle while smoking a cigar; Colonel Samuel McCartney Jackson, of Armstrong County, who became the regiment’s commander following Gallagher’s promotion; and company captains such as Robert Litzinger, Andrew Lewis, Daniel S. Porter, and Everard Bierer. He also rediscovers the complexities of the men who commanded the brigades and divisions of which the Eleventh Reserves was a part – figures such as George G. Meade, John F. Reynolds, and Samuel Crawford. While he writes about the officers, the author never loses sight of the men in the ranks who marched into places such as Gaines’ Mill, Miller’s cornfield at Antietam, and the wheat field at Gettysburg. Nor does he forget the wives, children, and homes they left behind in western Pennsylvania. With its meticulous research and lucid prose, Three Years in the “Bloody Eleventh” provides both scholars and Civil War enthusiasts with an unprecedented look at the trials and tribulations of one of the war’s most battle-tested units.