Back in Action! After a long hiatus, I’m back with two nuggets of pleasant news. One is that the Waverly Community House is scheduled to open its new history room on Thursday, Oct. 7. The space is officially called the Destination Freedom Special Exhibitions Gallery. Waverly, Pa., was my boyhood hometown and is the focus of my last book, Embattled Freedom: Chronicle of a Fugitive-Slave Haven in the Wary North. The town has embraced its Underground Railroad history, and the wonderful Waverly Community House has been offering regular “Destination Freedom” walking tours that highlight the story. Its new gallery will be a permanent fixture marking Waverly’s complex Underground Railroad story. I’ve been honored to help E.J. Murphy, the project coordinator, as he gathers information and items for display there. More information is at www.waverlywalkingtours.com
My New Book Is Out! That’s my other nugget of good tidings. I’ve spent the past three or so years researching and writing the history of a little-known Union Army post that existed during the Civil War in my current home township of Lower Merion, outside Philadelphia. And you can read all about it in my newly released nonfiction history book titled Back From Battle: The Forgotten Story of Pennsylvania’s Camp Discharge and the Weary Civil War Soldiers It Served. Camp Discharge sat on bluff overlooking the Schuylkill River. Its barracks housed hundreds of combat vets and recently released POWs who had been held in Andersonville and other wretched prison camps in the South. My co-author, Brad Upp, and I are lining up author talks, which is a tricky business in this age of Covid. The book is loaded with photographs and has a full roster of the soldiers who were at the camp. It sells for only $19.95 and is available here through our publisher, Sunbury Press.
He Was Never the Same. Back From Battle profiles a number of the enlisted men who spent time recuperating at Camp Discharge, often in the camp’s hospital. As an example, I’ll leave you with a profiled excerpted right from the book. The subject is Jeremiah Fleegle, a married farmer from Somerset County, Pa. His was a hard-luck case. As we write, “Fleegle returned home to his family in 1865 and persevered for years as a farmer, but he was not the same man. Neighbors noticed how he labored and walked with a stoop. He’d done two tours of duty during the war and been battered by both. During the first, a nine-month enlistment with the 133rd Pa. Infantry, he contracted typhoid fever while on the march from Antietam to Fredericksburg in late 1862. According to his pension paperwork, he was hospitalized for that and recovered. Fleegle went on to join the 187th Pa. Infantry and returned to the field. A comrade in his Company H, John Wolford, testified that at the outset of the Battle of Cold Harbor in June 1864, Fleegle was injured when a cannonball struck a tree, causing a large limb to fall on him and break his right shoulder blade. Fleegle refused to leave the action and had to be ordered to a hospital. Then, at Camp Discharge in December 1864, Fleegle was hospitalized for a cold and contracted variola (smallpox). Wolford, who was with him at the camp, said the smallpox permanently damaged Fleegle’s eyes and spine. In 1895, Fleegle applied for disability from manual labor but lost, the pension examiner not convinced the injuries were contracted in the service. He won on appeal and was given $12 per month for shoulder injury, lumbago, and heart disease. Fleegle would die in 1918, a widower for decades.”