Scott L. Mingus, Sr. and Cooper H. Wingert
Savas Beatie, 2019, 272 pp., $32.95
Image courtesy of amazon.com
For those of you who’ve read my reviews before, there is always one thing which I praise, and that is simply tell me something new. Thankfully, there have been many works throughout the past few years which have always taught me something I never knew about the American Civil War and Targeted Tracksadds to that. The railroads in the war is something that has always fascinated me, and with this work by both Scott Mingus Sr., and Cooper H. Winger, I have learned more about this lesser spoken about aspect. And with the book being centered around the Cumberland Valley Railroad during the war, there was quite a bit to be excited about.
Scott L. Mingus Sr. is a well known Civil War author who has penned many books and essays. Overall, he has written nineteen books on the subject, all of which add greatly to the Civil War scholarship. Confederate General William “Extra Billy” Smith was the recipient of the Dr. James I. Robertson Jr. Literary Award for Confederate History. Cooper Wingert is also a well known author on the subject, writing both on slavery and the American Civil War. His book, The Confederate Approach on Harrisburg, won the 2012 Dr. James R. Robertson Jr. Literary Award for Confederate History.
Targeted Tracksdetails the history of the Cumberland Valley Railroad throughout the Civil War, and in some ways reads like a biography. The events which unravel along this important railway not only shape some of the most iconic battles in the eastern theater, but had some interesting encounters itself. As the first major war to use the railroad system, there was much to use and exploit concerning this new mode of transportation for both armies and supplies. The book even details the burning of the railroad bridge at Scotland, Pennsylvania which had crucial ramifications to the proceeding months. The railroad was under such contention that it often saw more action waged against it than one would expect from a major supply line. Both Mingus and Wingert detail each attack, each operation, that used the line with excellent research and a wonderful narrative. You could feel the havoc that the Confederates were creating when they took over the line. You could feel the tension of the northern officials when they were attempting to protect it. Overall, the narrative is fueled by primary sources which only stand to enrich the story which is being presented here. In many ways, we now have the book about the Cumberland Valley Railroad that we always wanted. The importance of this railroad was always there in the back of my mind, but never before had it been written out so well.
I highly recommend this book. Not only will fans of the campaigns that this railway surrounded enjoy it, but I think a Civil War reader overall will enjoy this. It tells the story of a persona in the war that we often put in the back of our minds, but what Mingus and Wingert have truly done is given us a biography of this railroad. It is a much needed study and it will be greatly appreciated for the coming years. Once again, the attention and detail which these two authors put into this work is outstanding and deserves all the praise it is given.