Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Book ---A Gettysburg Historic House and Confederate Sharpshooters

"In The Eye Of The Storm": the Farnsworth House and the Battle of Gettysburg, Timothy H. Smith, Farnsworth House Publications, 63 pp., maps, photographs, notes, 2008. $9.95.

It was one of CWL's better impulses. While at the Farnsworth House bookstore in Gettysburg this past weekend, I paid $10 for a 63 pp. staple-bound booklet on the historic house. Wincing at the price but justifying it because Tim Smith, Licensed Battlefield Guide, is the author I added it to my book stack. The stack sits next to my desk and is called 'Books about Gettysburg that I've bought in Gettysburg.'

I had just finished Nothing But Glory and wanted a Sunday length article or book. "In The Eye Of The Storm": the Farnsworth House and the Battle of Gettysburg was the right one; I couldn't put it down. Covering the early history of Gettysburg borough, the building of the house and its first families in nine pages, Smith recounts in forty pages the three days of the battle that was fought in the borough and south of The Circle. The Slentz family, who were a tenant family who fled the McPherson farm, moved into the house.

Smith's account of the battle in the borough is highly detailed with the judicious use of first person accounts: civilian, Confederate and Federal. The exchange of gunfire between Federals at the Wagon Hotel and Confederates in the borough's homes is dramatic. Rebel sharpshooters establish posts in garrets and at chimneys; walls that are shared by buildings are destroyed so that Rebels could walk a block on the inside of buildings and not have to step into the street. Federal artillerymen are favorite targets of sharpshooters nested in third floor attics.

Major Eugene Blackford's sharpshooter battalion from Alabama have two fine first person accounts: one from the major and one from the major's brother who was on Stuart's staff. With these two accounts and another one from a Louisiana soldier, Smith offers a clear and concise description of the fight and the civilians caught in the homes that were used as forts. For the Gettysburg Address, the author relies on Harvey Sweeney's account; Sweeney was the owner and occupant of the home which later would be called the Farnsworth House. Smith's standing with the both the Adams County Historical Society and the Center for Civil War Photography is valuable. The booklet offers many photographs of the home and its neighborhood. The manner in which the buildings change over time, especially from 1863 to the present is described and documented through photographs.

Barroom pronouncements among actors who enjoyed the Farnsworth House's tavern during the filming of the movie Gettysburg concludes the booklet. The author's 106notes offer clear evidence of Smith's resolute research, the last of which is a citation for Stephen Lang (aka George Pickett climbing on the bar and declaring that he has finally taken the high ground.

Note: The above photo is not the cover of the book. My computer has Adobe 8 issues today.

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