Saturday, December 16, 2017

At the Forefront of Lee’s Invasion

Here's another title from the 2018 Kent State catalog that I thought might interest readers. It certainly appears that Robert Wynstra's At the Forefront of Lee’s Invasion: Retribution, Plunder, and Clashing Cultures on Richard S. Ewell’s Road to Gettysburg (October '18) will examine the Confederate advance north in a manner quite different from more traditionally constructed military accounts.

From the description: "After clearing Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley of Federal troops, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s bold invasion into the North reached the Maryland shore of the Potomac River on June 15, 1863. A week later, the Confederate infantry crossed into lower Pennsylvania, where they had their first sustained interactions with the civilian population in a solidly pro-Union state. Most of the initial encounters with the people in the lush Cumberland Valley and the neighboring parts of the state involved the men from the Army of Northern Virginia’s famed Second Corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, who led the way as Lee’s veteran soldiers advanced north toward their eventual showdown with the Union army at the crossroads town of Gettysburg.

 ... Civilian property losses in the North amounted to several million dollars. The interactions along the way further laid bare the enormous cultural gulf that separated the two sides in the war. As Robert Wynstra explains, Ewell and his top commanders constantly struggled to control the desire among the troops to seek retribution for what they perceived as Federal outrages in the South and to stop the plundering, working to maintain strict discipline in the army and uphold Southern honor.

More: "Despite the yearly flood of books on Gettysburg, the Confederate advance has been largely ignored. Most books devote only a few pages or a single short chapter to that aspect of the campaign. In this new study, Wynstra draws on an array of primary sources, including rare soldiers’ letters and eyewitness accounts published in local newspapers, manuscripts and diaries in small historical societies, and a trove of postwar damage claims from the invasion to fill in this vital gap in the historiography of the campaign." I suppose what one considers "largely ignored" is in the eye of the beholder. I am far from familiar with the publications associated with this limited geographical section of the campaign, but I do know that Scott Mingus has authored numerous books documenting different aspects of the Confederate advance between the crossing of the Maryland border into Pennsylvania and the Battle of Gettysburg. I don't know to what degree the Schildt and Gottfried books sharing the title Roads to Gettysburg cover Confederate interactions with Pennsylvania civilians.


  1. I hope he covers the now well-documented round of slave-catching that went on during Ewell's advance.

  2. Very interesting book, fills in a large gap in time. Thank you.


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