Monday, September 17, 2018

Booknotes: At the Forefront of Lee's Invasion

New Arrival:
At the Forefront of Lee's Invasion: Retribution, Plunder, and Clashing Cultures on Richard S. Ewell's Road to Gettysburg by Robert J. Wynstra (KSU Press, 2018).

In terms of treatment of enemy civilians and their property, tradition holds that on the whole the men of Lee's army behaved better than their northern counterparts. Reassessing this and other related topics is the new book At the Forefront of Lee's Invasion: Retribution, Plunder, and Clashing Cultures on Richard S. Ewell's Road to Gettysburg. In it, author Robert Wynstra examines and analyzes the many encounters between the invading Confederate vanguard, Ewell's Second Corps, and the Pennsylvania citizenry who lived along its path north to Gettysburg.

According to Wynstra, "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." The study also addresses the "slave hunts" conducted by some units of the Army of Northern Virginia. With varying degrees of approval from superiors, they sought to capture and return escaped slaves to bondage but also kidnapped numerous free blacks in the process.

More: "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." The Gettysburg Campaign literature is (of course) vast and wide ranging, but I don't recall coming across a specialized title quite like this one before. It should be interesting.

1 comment:

  1. Drew: This looks like a book relating to Gettysburg which we actually need. There is a lot of "urban legend" out there that the Yankees were generally a horde of ruffians who pillaged and did all of the other uncivilized things ruffian mobs engage in while the Rebels refrained from that conduct. We know from history that invading armies to one extent or another can't resist taking advantage of the inhabitants but it never hurts to get documented evidence of that.

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