PA Books features authors of books about Pennsylvania-related topics. These hour-long conversations allow authors to discuss both their subject matter and inspiration behind the books.
“If We Are Striking for Pennsylvania” with Scott Mingus & Eric Wittenberg
Gen. Robert E. Lee began moving part of his Army of Northern Virginia from the Old Dominion toward Pennsylvania on June 3, 1863. Lee believed his army needed to win a major victory on Northern soil if the South was to have a chance at winning the war. Transferring the fighting out of war-torn Virginia would allow the state time to heal while he supplied his army from untapped farms and stores in Maryland and the Keystone State. Lee had also convinced Pres. Jefferson Davis that his offensive would interfere with the Union effort to take Vicksburg in Mississippi. The bold movement would trigger extensive cavalry fighting and a major battle at Winchester before culminating in the bloody three-day battle at Gettysburg. As the Virginia army moved north, the Army of the Potomac responded by protecting the vital roads to Washington, D.C., in case Lee turned to threaten the capital. Opposing presidents Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, meanwhile, kept a close watch on the latest and often conflicting military intelligence gathered in the field. Throughout northern Virginia, central Maryland, and south-central Pennsylvania, meanwhile, civilians and soldiers alike struggled with the reality of a mobile campaign and the massive logistical needs of the armies. Thousands left written accounts of the passage of the long martial columns. Mingus and Wittenberg mined hundreds of primary accounts, newspapers, and other sources to produce this powerful and gripping account. As readers will quickly learn, much of it is glossed over in other studies of the campaign, which cannot be fully understood without a firm appreciation of what the armies (and civilians) did on their way to the small crossroads town in Pennsylvania.
Scott L. Mingus Sr. is a scientist and consultant in the global pulp and paper industry. Scott is the author of nearly two dozen books and numerous articles. His biography Confederate General William “Extra Billy” Smith won multiple awards, including the 2013 Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr. Literary Award for Confederate history. Scott is also the author of many articles for a wide variety of publications, including Gettysburg Magazine.
Eric J. Wittenberg is an accomplished American Civil War cavalry historian and author. The Ohio attorney has authored nearly two dozen books on various Civil War subjects, with particular focus on cavalry operations, as well as three dozen articles in popular magazines, such as North & South, Blue & Gray, America’s Civil War, and Gettysburg Magazine. His first book, Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions, won the prestigious 1998 Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award. Wittenberg speaks widely, leads tours of various battlefields, and is an active preservationist.
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“River Boots” with Robert Lynn Steiner
River Boots is a career synopsis, a training manual, a history book and one conservation officer’s slightly twisted view of a quarter century in the business. It is a sometimes “belly laughing” look at a profession that can turn deadly serious in a second and can leave tears running down your face from laughter a few minutes later. The 253 stories in River Boots were written for fishermen, hunters, boaters, conservation officers and their deputies, all law enforcement officers and anyone that has an interest in the outdoors. For conservation officers it is a textbook, with the how-tos and the how-not-tos, the whys and the why-nots. For conservation agency folks, it is a bit of nostalgia with a smirk. Other law enforcement officers will see a little deadly serious, perhaps lifesaving thinking, coupled with a “Barney Miller” attitude. Folks considering a job in the agencies will get an on-the-spot look at what they are asking for and will come away eagerly awaiting their turn to join in. The license-buying hunter, fisherman or boater will get a firsthand look at how their license fees are spent for the good of the sport, the environment and the fish and game resources. Sorry, no statistics or charts included. You will laugh at the scofflaws and the conservation officers alike. Mostly, like reading “Notes from the Stream” or “Field Notes” produced by our fish and game agencies, you will grin and laugh and ponder.
Robert Lynn Steiner is a retired PA Fish & Boat Commission Waterways Conservation Officer.
“Pirates & Privateers from Long Island Sound to Delaware Bay” with Jamie Goodall
Illicit commerce was key to the survival of the mid-Atlantic colonies from the Golden Age of Piracy to the battles of the American Revolution. Out of this exciting time came beloved villains like Captain William Kidd and Black Sam Bellamy, as well as inspiring locals like Captain Shelley and James Forten. From the shores of New York to the oceans of the East Indies, from Delaware Bay to the islands of the West Indies, author Jamie L.H. Goodall illuminates the height of piratical depredations in the mid-Atlantic in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Jamie L.H. Goodall, PhD, is staff historian with the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C. She has a PhD in history from The Ohio State University, with specializations in Atlantic world, early American and military histories. Goodall is an expert on Golden Age piracy and has published with The History Press/Arcadia Publishing, the Washington Post and National Geographic. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband, Kyle, and her Boxers, Thomas Jefferson and John Tyler.
“Death of the Daily News” with Andrew Conte
The City of McKeesport in southwestern Pennsylvania once had a population of more than fifty thousand people and a newspaper that dated back to the nineteenth century. Technology has caused massive disruption to American journalism, throwing thousands of reporters out of work, closing newsrooms, and leaving vast areas with few traditional news sources—including McKeesport. With the loss of their local paper in 2015, residents now struggle to make sense of what goes on in their community and to separate facts from gossip—often driven by social media. The changes taking place in this one Pennsylvania community are being repeated across the United States as hundreds of local newspapers close, creating news deserts and leaving citizens with little access to reliable local journalism. The obituary for local news, however, does not have to read all bad: Even in the bleakest places, citizens are discovering what happens in their communities and becoming gatekeepers to information for the people around them. In McKeesport, citizens are attempting to make sense of the news on their own, for better and worse. This experiment not only offers clues about what happens after a local newspaper dies, but also provides guidance to the way forward.
Andrew Conte founded the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, which serves as a laboratory for the present and future of local journalism. He previously worked as an investigative journalist, and he has authored several nonfiction books.
“The Lion of Round Top” with Hans Meyers
Citizen-soldier Strong Vincent was many things: Harvard graduate, lawyer, political speaker, descendent of pilgrims and religious refugees, husband, father, brother. But his greatest contribution to history is as the savior of the Federal left on the second day at Gettysburg, when he and his men held Little Round Top against overwhelming Confederate numbers. Forgotten by history in favor of his subordinate, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Vincent has faded into relative obscurity in the decades since his death. This book restores Vincent to his rightful place among the heroes of the battle of Gettysburg: presenting his life story using new, never-before-published sources and archival material to bring the story of one of the most forgotten officers of the American Civil War back to the attention of readers and historians.
Hans G. Myers is an historian from Erie, Pennsylvania. A graduate of Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylvania (Class of 2019) and the University of Indianapolis (2021), Myers served as the inaugural Gerald and Marjorie Morgan Graduate Student Assistant in History at the University of Indianapolis. He studies social and military history in the nineteenth-century United States.
“Murder & Mayhem in Erie, PA” with Justin Dombrowski
From the French and Indian War to Oliver Hazard Perry at the Battle of Lake Erie, the city of Erie has a prideful place in the American story, but there also exists a seedy history of crime and murder. In 1905 Detective James "Jimmie" Higgins was mysteriously killed at Central High School and the drawn-out manhunt for his murderer occupied headlines for months. On a cold January night in 1911, a massive explosion rocked the Erie waterfront when criminals bombed the Pennsylvania Railroad Coal Trestle, leaving it a smoldering mass of steel and debris. The unsolved murder of Manley W. Keene inspired a local newspaper to bring in the "Female Sherlock Holmes," Mary Holland, who defied gender expectations and reshaped detective work in Erie for generations.
Justin Dombrowski has studied local history for over 15 years, specializing in local historical and criminal records. A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, he obtained a degree from Mercyhurst University and worked as an Intern with the Erie County Detective's unit. Having worked in the film industry since 2011, Justin is also a co-founder of Pickwick Entertainment, an Independent Film Production Company. His first book with The History Press, Murder & Mayhem In Erie, Pennsylvania, received critical acclaim for its writing and research. He resides in Erie, Pennsylvania.
When I was White
Thank you for this engrossing interview! Well done.
Was good now it just leans left
Like the title said there used to be all kinds of stuff on here. Now it seems like it all slants hard left. Whether it be historically or present day. And I like that every once and awhile but it just seems like your bludgeoning me with it. A little bit of balance or no slants at all could easy make this a five again
Mine eyes have seen
Local author Anthony Moulton published a book this year, you should interview him! He is a Marine Corps veteran from Lincoln University. His book “mine eyes have see” is a great book describing consequences of how we treat each other and moral obigation.