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

The Civil War in Pennsylvania: A Photographic History

Written by a trio of savvy and inveterate collectors of photographs, artifacts, objects, and ephemera documenting the American Civil War and its associations with the Keystone State and its soldiers and citizens, The Civil War in Pennsylvania: A Photographic History (Senator John Heinz History Center for Pennsylvania Civil War 150, 2012, paper, 312 pages, $34.95) presents a stunning selection of images, many of which have never before been published. The collectors-cum-authors are Michael G. Kraus, curator of collections of Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Pittsburgh and sculptor whose life-sized bronze statues are located in museums and on battlefields, as well as in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.; David M. Neville, military historian specializing in the Civil War, publisher of Military Images magazine, and co-writer with Kraus of a DVD documentary series entitled Civil War Minutes; and Kenneth C. Turner, a writer and researcher for a number of Civil War-related magazines and projects, including the Time-Life Civil War series, who has amassed one of the largest private Pennsylvania Civil War collections of images and memorabilia, including recruiting posters, presentation swords, inscribed corps badges, letters, and weapons.

In his foreword, Edward L. Ayers, president of the University of Richmond and author of In the Presence of Mine Enemies: Civil War in the Heart of America, emphasizes “the 150th anniversaries of the American Civil War and Emancipation offers us a great opportunity and a great challenge. More than at any time since those momentous events, we have a chance to see them fully and clearly.” The Civil War in Pennsylvania: A Photographic History is a new, unbiased lens that allows readers to examine the unfolding events that led to the war, continuing through warfare, and concluding with postwar commemorations.

Andrew E. Masich, chairman of the Pennsylvania and Historical and Museum Commission and president and CEO of the Senator John Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh, offers a succinct overview of Pennsylvania’s role during the conflict in the book’s introduction.

“The ‘Keystone State’ shared the Mason-Dixon line with the Southern Confederacy and so served as the bulwark of the Union, bearing the brunt of Robert E. Lee’s 1863 invasion that resulted in the Gettysburg campaign and the greatest battle ever fought in the Americas,” writes Masich. “Pennsylvania was also the breadbasket and arsenal of the Union, its farms and industrial might sustaining the largest armies the continent had ever seen. The Union’s armies and navy comprised hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania men, forming regiments of infantry, cavalry, and artillery as well as sailors and merchant seaman — supplying more manpower, in fact, than any state except New York, the most populous state in the Union. African American free men sprang to the call early in the war but not until 1863 did their numbers and passion for the cause of freedom — their freedom — make a significant difference on the muster rolls of Union regiments. Women and children also served in arsenals, workshops, hospitals, farms, schools, and Sanitary Commission fairs. Wives and mothers carried on the work of the farm, home, and family that did not stop or wait for war.”

The Civil War in Pennsylvania opens with Chapter One entitled “From Frontier Colony to the Threshold of War” which spans from settlement of Penn’s Woods by William Penn and followers to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers in April 1861. The authors discuss how Pennsylvanians confronted slavery, the politics of the period, and the creation of the Pennsylvania Militia before moving on to Chapter Two, aptly titled “1862: War,” in which they explain nineteenth-century photography and address various aspects of warfare, among them uniforms, camp, immigrants, music, and battle flags, in addition to the roles of the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy.

In this lavishly illustrated tome, Kraus, Neville, and Turner cover a number of topics in the remaining three chapters: life before, during, and after the war, particularly the July 1–3, 1863, Battle of Gettysburg; the rise of the United States Colored Troops; the work of the United States Sanitary Commission; the assassination of President Lincoln; the Women’s Relief Corps; and the Battle of Gettysburg’s fiftieth anniversary in 1913 and seventy-fifth anniversary in 1938.

What makes this book so riveting are the hundreds of original images made on the battlefield and on the home front mostly drawn from the private collections of the authors. Rare and historic images include a circa 1860 portrait of a free black man obtained from one of Beaver County’s first African American families; cartes-de-visite of Pennsylvania’s “Great War Governor” Andrew Gregg Curtin, “Hero of Erie” Colonel Strong Vincent who died of wounds after commanding his troops “Don’t give an inch!” while defending Little Round Top on the second day of battle at Gettysburg, and the Reverend Alonzo Potter, the third bishop of the Pennsylvania Episcopal Church and founder of Philadelphia’s Hospital of the Protestant Episcopal Church which cared for thousands of wounded Union soldiers and officers; and a vast array of daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, albumin prints, stereographs, and cabinet cards.

The authors’ images are augmented by illustrations drawn from the Library of Congress, The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State Archives, Senator John Heinz History Center, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Chester County Historical Society, Westmoreland Museum of American Art, U.S. Army Military History Institute, and Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College, among others. Notable nineteenth-century photographers represented include Matthew B. Brady and Philadelphian Frederick Gutekunst.

 

Also Worth Noting

James S. Herr (1924–2012), founder of the Pennsylvania-based conglomerate that sells potato chips, cheese curls, pork rinds, and nuts, burgeoned from a $1700 investment by purchasing in 1946 a potato chip factory in Lancaster to the $250 million enterprise it is today (see “Snackin’ — Pennsylvania Style” by Kyle R. Weaver, Summer 2012). Life with Flavor: a Personal History of Herr’s (Barricade Books, 2012, cloth, 183 pages, $22) by Herr, with Bruce E. Mowday and June Herr Gunden, recounts the remarkable story of the company’s growth and expansion and the indomitable spirit of its founder. This is an intimate and insightful posthumously published autobiography that provides, in the words of former Governor Tom Ridge, “more than a delicious blueprint for a delicious chip and successful business. Jim’s words offer an inspiring recipe for a fulfilling life of faith, family, and community.”

Oil Fields, Oil People: Re-imaginings of the Great Stories Of the Early Days of Pennsylvania Oil (Adam Midas Press, 2012, paper, 165 pages, $20) by Paul Adomites is, in the words of the author, “a history book. It is the stories of the people, the places, and the times …” But there’s a twist. Adomites recreates the tales of northwestern Pennsylvania’s oil region with fiction. This book is decidedly not about the companies. It does not try to be literally historical, chronological, or even geographical. Oil Fields, Oil People does bring the oil region’s rich heritage up to date in what Adomites describes as “a lively jaunt down a bumpy (and sometimes muddy) road.”

Nancy Cervetti’s S. Weir Mitchell, 1829–1914: Philadelphia’s Literary Physician (Pennsylvania State university Press, 2012, cloth, 295 pages, $79.95) is a thoroughly modern and fascinating biography providing a comprehensive and balanced view of a legendary figure in American medicine. Controversial because of his fight against women’s rights, distinguished Philadelphian Silas Weir Mitchell achieved stunning success through his experimentation with venomous snakes, treatment of Civil War soldiers with phantom limbs and burning pain, and creation of the rest cure to treat hysteria and neurasthenia, a nervous condition. His life was interesting in its own right and as a case study in the larger inquiry into nineteenth-century medical practice, society, and culture.

Known at various times as the Military Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Association, or simply Associators, this long-neglected organization represented a new constituency in Pennsylvania politics and, by extension, a new American response to arbitrary rule. The all-volunteer military establishment pledged to defend Pennsylvania and served as its de facto armed force. The Pennsylvania Associators, 1747–1777 (Westholme Publishing LLC, 2012, cloth, 280 pages, $29.95), by historian Joseph Seymour traces the organization’s history and discusses its defiance of colonial leadership. The author explains how the Associators defended American Indian refugees against the infamous Paxton Boys in 1764 and participated in Revolutionary War battles in 1776. The Pennsylvania Associators is the first definitive history of this influential organization.