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Sunday, March 19, 2017


Published in November of 2013 Legacy Publishing

Union General Benjamin F. Kelley (1807-1891).
He features prominently in many of the stories in 

this collection, including the story of how he was
kidnapped by Confederate rangers in a daring raid.
Echoes of War Drums: The Civil War in Mountain Maryland is a collection of newspaper and magazine articles written by the author. This sort of collection is, like most things, a good thing and a bad thing. What's good about it is the short format makes it an easy to book to pick up and read for a few minutes with the knowledge that you can walk away for a while and not have to remember any important people or plot points. But, there is a lot of overlap among the articles so the book can be repetitive if you are reading it straight through.

I am not a native of Maryland. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I've never been to the region of Maryland that is featured in this book. But, I am an avid student of the Civil War so I read it to find out about an area of the country that had a front-row seat to many of the major battles of the Eastern Theater.

It turns out this area had more value than just proximity. It was also a major source of coal and contained vital railroad and canal routes that were a constant target of Confederate raiders.

My favorite story by far was "A Pair of Generals Give the Confederates an Ace in the Hole". This tells the story of how two Union generals were kidnapped by Confederate rangers. I have read this story in just about every history of the Eastern Theater but never in this detail. I had no idea how audacious this plan was until you see it spelled out step-by-step.

"Teenage Rebellion, Civil War Style" the story of a female teenage spy who was caught delivering messages to Confederate forces gives the reader the feel for how fluid the border between the North and the South really was and how family connections often crisscrossed that border.

"Who is 'Genl. Scofield'?" is the touching story of a family that has adopted the grave marker of this unknown soldier. I say that he is unknown because there were only two generals named Scofield in the war and neither died anywhere near western Maryland and they have no connection to the area so this grave is unlikely to be theirs.

Collections like this one fill local book shops across the country and are a great source of additional information that remind the reader that the Civil War is more than the Emancipation Proclamation, Pickett's Charge and memorable lines like, "Damn the Torpedoes! Full Speed Ahead!" It is also about an almost infinite number of smaller events like nuns traveling across Ohio to tend to the wounded for weeks and months in a strange town and families being forced out of their homes for failing to sign a loyalty oath and soldiers guarding a railroad track in a small fort they helped build a long way from home.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Echoes of War Drums by James Rada, Jr.

Note: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the author. I have not met the author and received nothing except for a copy of the book, which I was not obligated to review.

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