Review in Brief: Human Interest Stories from Antietam by Scott Mingus

by Brett Schulte on March 19, 2008 · 4 comments

Scott L. Mingus, Sr.. Human Interest Stories from Antietam. Orrtanna, PA.: Colecraft Industries; First Edition (2007). 103 pp. ISBN: 0-9777125-32 $9.95 (Paperback).

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Fellow blogger Scott Mingus saw the release of the second book in his “Human Interest Series” (the first was on the Gettysburg Campaign), published by Colecraft Industries, in 2007. I meant to get to this one a lot sooner than I did, but I’m glad I was finally able to read the book and blog about it now.

The format of the “Human Interest Series” brings readers brief stories and vignettes concerning individuals and groups of individuals taking part in the campaigns in question. In Human Interest Stories from Antietam, Mingus covers the entire campaign from the Confederate invasion through the aftermath of America’s bloodiest single day. These stories are placed in chronological order, so they help to place the timing of certain events like the major battles of the campaign in context.

Each story is paraphrased by the author and the original source is listed at the bottom. Individual vignettes are separated by several asterisks. You might think the book would not flow smoothly with such rapid breaks, but the jumping from one story to the next makes this a fun and quick read. I managed to move through its 100-odd pages in only two sittings.

The format also lends itself well to cultivating further interest in the campaign. These books would serve as an absolutely great introduction to the Civil War for children or anyone new to the Civil War. I hope to visit Gettysburg and Antietam either this summer or the next, and I’m going to give these books to my girlfriend to read before we go.

I encourage anyone who hasn’t yet encountered these volumes to go take a look. To give you a specific idea of the length of these stories, I present one example from the book:

Fighting began in earnest very early on the morning of Wednesday, September 17, when General McClellan launched a series of relatively uncoordinated attacks aimed at pushing through Confederate lines north of Sharpsburg. A hot, dry southwestern wind pushed aside the fog bank that shrouded the top of nearby South Mountain, which still teemed with the dead and wounded. However, in the verdant fields around Antietam Creek, billowing clouds of gunsmoke soon hampered visibility as “Fighting Joe” Hooker’s I Corps advanced. Bullets and shell fragments whizzed through the dawn air, maiming or killing hundreds of soldiers–officers and enlisted men alike. Maj. Gen. George G. Meade was struck by a spent canister shot, leaving him with a severe contusion on his right thigh, and his famed warhorse “Old Baldy” was shot through the neck by a Minié ball and temporarily disabled. Both horse and rider lived, and Meadde would go on to fame as the victorious commander of the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg. Surviving the war by many years, Old Baldy’s stuffed head would later be displayed in a Philadelphia museum.

George Meade, Jr., The Life and Letters of General Meade: Major General United States Army. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913).

Also look for several more of these vignettes to appear over the coming weeks.

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