New book details area Civil War action
Civil War historian Steve French has written and published Rebel Chronicles, Raiders, Scouts and Train Robbers of the Upper-Potomac, his third book on war action in the Eastern Panhandle area.
In the book, French details the lives and adventures of regular and irregular soldiers and partisans that are little known or acknowledged by Civil War scholars outside of the local area.
Characters such as Redmond Burke, Andrew Leopold, John Corbin Blackford, and John Imboden as well as many others from the tri-county area and Grant and Hampshire counties are brought to life in the book.
“Most of the people in the book are forgotten now,” French said.
He explained the content in the book is all new material. “I went to almost all these places in the book and took pictures and interviewed people. I like to identify the spot and go there. It took years,” French said.
Born in Hedgesville and a graduate of the old Hedgesville High School and Shepherd University, French has lived in Morgan County near Spruce Pine Hollow since 1974. His family owns and has operated a convenience store near Hedgesville for the past 45 years. French teaches West Virginia history at the Martinsburg South Middle School.
“The book started out basically years ago as articles for the Washington Times and The Morgan Messenger,” French said.
He spent three years compiling the stories in the book, working parttime at night and on weekends, but the work on the stories took place over many years.
For example, French said he spent 15 years looking for an accurate description of Redmond Burke of Shepherdstown.
“How I found his description is when he escaped from the Old Capital Prison in Washington, D.C., the papers down there had an all-points bulletin out on him.”
French said his research consisted of personal interviews, going to local historical societies, old newspaper articles containing eye witness accounts of events and digging through documents in the National Archives.
“The research is the most interesting part because of the people you meet,” he said.
The cover of the book is a print of “Mosby’s Scouts,” a painting by well-known Western artist Gordon Phillips. French said he got permission to use the print and obtained a copy from Phillips’s son Gary who is also an artist and lives near Butt’s Mill.
Asked about his next book, French said he is thinking about writing about Belle Boyd from newspaper articles before, during and after the war.
Rebel Chronicles is available at The Morgan Messenger, Berkeley Springs Books and French’s Qwik Check as well as on-line.
A book signing is scheduled for Sunday, August 26, at Berkeley Springs Books on North Washington Street from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
French’s other books are Imboden’s Brigade in the Gettysburg Campaign for which he won the 2008 Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award and the 2009 Gettysburg Civil War Round Table Book Award, and The Jones-Imboden Raid Against the B&O Railroad at Rowlesburg, Virginia, April 1863.
French is also editor of the Civil War era diary Four Years Along the Tilhance: The Diary of Elisha Manor.