Monday, March 21, 2011

Book review - Infantry and Industry: The Civil War in Western Pennsylvania

Available at Amazon:

When the topic of the Civil War in Pennsylvania comes to mind, most people would think of Gettysburg. Indeed, one of the most important battles of the war was fought in south-central Pennsylvania. But few people would give much thought to Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. However, this region was of much more vital importance than most might realize. Brian Butko and Nicholas Ciotola of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania - housed in the Senator John Heinz Regional History Center - have put together a collection of articles published over the years in the Society's magazine, what is now Western Pennsylvania History. These ten articles (dating as far back as 1923) discuss various aspects of Western Pennsylvania's contributions to the Civil War.

Not only did tens of thousands of men from this side of the state join the Union forces, but they and many more trained at various camps in and around Pittsburgh. One such camp was Camp Wilkins, in what is now the Strip District. It is featured in an article in this book. Pittsburgh was also a point of departure to the war in the midwest. The region also turned out many distinguished officers, including the aforementioned General Alexander Hays. The book features an article about General James Scott Negley, who had been initially successful at battles in the west, but was blamed for disobeying orders at the battle of Chickamauga, TN in September 1863. He was relieve of command the next month, but later had his name cleared.
Pittsburgh was not the only city or town effected by the war. One article does a case study of the small town of New Castle, north of the city, and its contributions in manpower and iron items. Another article shows some of the correspondence from a young "Bucktail" soldier from Warren County, Cordello Collins.
The Allegheny Arsenal has been covered almost to exhaustion in some sources (as I too will later). One article discusses Pittsburgh's contributions in guns, ammunition, supplies, and iron plating for the newfangled ironclad ships for the Union Navy. There was a constant fear during the war of Confederate raids on Pittsburgh because of all the guns and such stockpiled here, including at the Fort Pitt Foundry, located on 28th Street.
Women's contributions do not go unnoticed here. In 1864, the Sanitary Fair was held in Pittsburgh by the local chapter of the United States Sanitary Commission for the benefit of supplying soliders with food, medicine, and other necessities.
There are a few more articles in this book also; I dont wish to give too much away. This little volume should be an essential part of anyone's Civil War library, especially since it is about a place little-known for its important contributions to the war effort.
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