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Book Review: Taverns of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania

Taverns of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, 1750-1840. By Merri Lou Schaumann. Illustrated, 250 pp. Carlisle: Cumberland County Historical Society, 1994. $34.95.

The title of Ms. Schaumann's superb work understates the wealth of material to be found therein; indeed, the book contains just about everything the reader might wish to know about early taverns, particularly those rural and small town hostelries that flourished in the Pennsylvania hinterland. Communities often derived their colorful names from their early taverns. Whatever strikes the reader's fancy—architecture, socio-economic status of the tavern patrons, historic events that occurred, ownership and proprietorship, and the varied uses to which taverns were put—it will be there, all carefully researched and documented.

Book Review: The American Civil War: A Military History

John Keegan, The American Civil War: A Military History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009), 416 pp.; index, photographs, maps. Hardcover, $35.00; ISBN: 978-0-307-26343-8; Paperback, $16.95; ISBN: 978-0-307-27493-9 

British historians have long been fascinated by the American Civil War. To give but two examples: In 1926, the first book by David Knowles, a Benedictine monk best known now for his volumes on medieval monasticism, was The American Civil War; the middle third of the fourth and final volume of Winston Churchill's A History of the English-Speaking Peoples ( 1958) recounts the American Civil War. Now John Keegan, for forty years a formidable name among military historians, contributes his own book on the subject, one he has been studying for much of his career. From his days as an undergraduate at Oxford until now, he has returned again and again to the battlefields, letters, and memoirs of the American Civil War. In 1987 his The Mask of Command featured, alongside Alexander the Great, the Duke of Wellington, and Adolf Hitler, Ulysses S. Grant; in 1995 his Fields of Battle (published in the U. K. as Warpaths) discussed several battles waged on United States soil, including the Peninsula Campaign. In this fine book he sums up the Civil War as "an entirely new way of warfare, a struggle between beliefs fought by populations quite untrained to fight." 

Book Review: The Bitter Fruits: The Civil War Comes to a Small Town in Pennsylvania

The Bitter Fruits: The Civil Wilr Comes to a Small Town in Pennsylvania. By David G. Colwell, 1998. Cumberland County Historical Society, 1998. 

Another book on the Civil War, you say. Yes, but one that is unique to that vast body of writing. It is about the overall situation that led to the Civil War and its conduct until the Battle of Antietam. It is about the war's effect on Carlisle. But most of all it is about James Colwell, a 49-year old lawyer from Carlisle who enlisted in the Union cause shortly after the firing on Fort Sumter, and his wife, Annie, who was twenty years younger. Two things complicated· the situation-James made his decision to join the Army without consulting Annie, and Annie, born in Baltimore, tended to be Secessionist in her point of view. 

Book Review: The Indian Industrial School Carlisle, Penna: 1879-1918

Linda Witmer's chronicle of the Carlisle Indian School makes one feel that he was really there and knew some of the students personally. The story begins with the journey of seventy-two shackled Indian prisoners to St. Augustine, Florida in 1875 under Richard Henry Pratt, the transfer of most of them three years later to Hampton, Virginia, and the establishment of the Indian Industrial School at Carlisle in 1879. Pratt served with distinction as Superintendent of the school for twenty-five years.

Book Review: The Moravian Mission Diaries of David Zeisberger 1772-1781

Hermann Wellenreuther and Carola Wessel, editors, The Moravian Mission Diaries of David Zeisberger 1772-1781. Penn State University Press, 2005. Maps, appendix, register of persons, index of place and river names and other geographical terms, bibliography, and index, 666 pages, hardcover $65.00.

Primary sources are often given a bad rap. They are dimly remembered as recalcitrant beasts from secondary school or college, dry and confusing and often in storage. They resist the easy gratification of false authority; indeed, radically, they require the reader to think, to do more research beyond and behind and around them, and to think some more. They are work. Primary sources, however (and this is kept as a secret by the cognoscenti), are also fun. Properly approached, they are exciting, provocative, and astonishingly vivid in their expression of a particular time, place, and character. Penn State University Press has given a tremendous gift to the history of the state by publishing David Zeisberger's diaries, one of the most valuable primary source publications in the eighteenth century field.

Book Review: The Most Learned Woman in America: A Life of Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson

Anne M. Ousterhout, The Most Learned Woman in America: A Life of Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004. Photos, 394 pps., $35.00.

Recent years bear witness to an inordinate and pervasive coverage in books and through other media of America's "founding fathers" and the ethos of the nation and society they wished to create. In fact, the treatment is so extensive that critics are debating why such an increase in fascination now and what does it say about ourselves and our nation. Books such as the Founding Fathers by Joseph Ellis, John Adams by David McCullough, Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson and Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow are enjoying a surprisingly positive reception even among the general reading public.

Book Review: The Old Country Store on the Miracle Mile: A True Story

Mel Spahr, The Old Country Store on the Miracle Mile: A True Story. (New York: Vantage Press, 2000). viii, 45, illustrated. Paperback $8.95 (ISBN 0- 533--12837-4)

At one time almost every crossroad community in Pennsylvania had its own general store, so named because these businesses handled all types of general merchandise from food to hardware to clothing. Victims of the big-store competition made possible by a mobile society, few of the old stores remain.

Book Review: The Real All Americans: The Team that Changed a Game, a People, a Nation

The Real All Americans: The Team That Changed a Game, a People, a Nation . By Sally Jenkins. Photos, 343pp. New York, NY, Doubleday Publishers, 2007. $24.95. 

THE REAL ALL AMERICANS satisfies the reader with an innovative look at the Carlisle Indian School through the perspective of the development of the American sport of football. The unsuspecting sports enthusiast may just find herself intrigued as a previously unknown history unfolds through Jenkins' stories of players and the unique circumstances that placed them at the first off-rez boarding school far from Indian Country. We are introduced to Carlisle athletes one by one as they move from their traditional communities on the reservations and agencies to the gridiron, where they meet and compete with the Ivy League teams typically credited with the early development of the game. Set just before and after the turn of the last century, we are privileged to meet and understand the experiences of real-people athletes, beyond the legendary treatment of the greatest of them all, the Sac and Fox athlete, Jim Thorpe. 

Book Review: The Shippensburg Historical Society--A Fifty Year Retrospective, 1945-1995

The Shippensburg Historical Society-A Fifty Year Retrospective, 1945-1995. Various authors. Published by the Society: The News-Chronicle Company, Shippensburg, Pa., 1996.

In spite of the title, only about a third of this book's pages deal expressly with the historical society and its collections. The rest, however, is good town history: a chapter regarding a Civil War-era correspondence; a selection of programs and papers presented to the society (principally business histories); Shippensburg area church histories; and some other relevant articles of an original and informative nature, including an abbreviated time line for the town from 1945 through 1995 and a series of amusing couplets called "Shippensburg Businesses in Rhyme" written in 1934.