Sunday, August 15, 2010

Book Review--Flames Beyond Gettysburg

Mingus Sr., Scott L., Flames Beyond Gettysburg: The Gordon Expedition, June 1863. Ironclad Publishing, Columbus, OH. 624 pages, 462 pages text. 41 b/w illustrations and maps, 4 appendices, 6 driving tours, end notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 0967377080. $23.95.

While being one of the most well known battles of all time the battle of Gettysburg is also one of the most complex and difficult to understand. The battle has been written to death in many people's mind and each minute of action seems to have been dissected. A seldom discussed aspect however is what took place in Pennsylvania in the days leading up to the famous battle. Author Scott L. Mingus, Sr. has given us a thoroughly researched and highly readable treatment of the actions that took place near Gettysburg just before the fateful battle.

The main thrust of this massive work is Brig. General John B. Gordon's brigade and their attempt to follow orders and secure the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge for use by the entire division of Jubal Early's division. Gordon led his troops from Waynesboro through Gettysburg to York and ultimately controlling the town of Wrightsville. Ultimately the Confederates failed in their mission to secure the bridge due to the actions of Union troops led by Col. Jacob Frick and Major Granville Haller. The combination of Frick and Haller's actions plus the Confederates being recalled to the Gettysburg area by Gen. Robert E. Lee helped save the area east of Gettysburg and possibly other areas of Pennsylvania east of the Susquehanna River.

While there are military aspects to the book Mingus has also written a book dealing with how this aspect of war affected the civilian population. Considerable time is spent outlining how locals worked to move personal property east ahead of the coming storm. Livestock was especially important and moving animals away from oncoming troops occupied much of the locals time. Whether they were hidden in houses or moved east the value of animals is shown through these efforts. Also shown is that Confederates, even though in hostile territory, were not universally despised. There were civilians willing to provide food and shelter. Of course all was not rosy for non-combatants. Despite being told that private property was not to be harmed or destroyed this was not always the case. Shopkeepers were given worthless Confederate money in exchange for goods. Many citizens lost animals, crops, and prized possessions. Houses considered abandonded were many times ransacked by troops who felt they were getting revenge for actions by Union troops in the South. This isn't to say all was bad as the Confederates did work to help save the town of Wrightsville by forming a bucket brigade in an effort to prevent the town from burning due to embers from the burning bridge.

Mingus has written an important book on an overlooked part of the Gettysburg campaign. This is a long book but do not be intimidated by size. The type is large and easily readable. If set in standard type the work would be shorter. Also included in the page count are 6 driving tours. For anybody looking to further their knowledge on  Gordon's path these are vital and will provide much more insight. For those interested in further research there is a large section of end notes and an ample bibliography. Also a plus is the price. At less than $25 this is a bargain. My understanding is the book has sold out from the publisher and that Mr. Mingus is working on an updated edition to include many firsthand accounts he has located since the original publication. These can only make an excellent book even better. A must read for any body interested in the Battle of Gettysburg and certainly one that anybody interested in the Civil War in general should own.


  1. That the Rebs helped save a Yankee town from burning is fascinating, one more complexity in a complicated war.

  2. Thanks for the kind words!

    Savas-Beatie is indeed publishing a second edition now that the Ironclad version is out of print (copies still exist in some retail channels). It will be in their April 2011 catalog.

    There are more than 100 new anecdotes, incidents, and stories that people have sent me in the past two years.

    The new book will be single spaced, slimmer, and with better maps (drawn by noted cartographer Steve Stanley).