Scott Mingus on “The Second Battle of Winchester: The Confederate Victory That Opened the Door to Gettysburg”
In the summer of 1863, as Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia began its inexorable push northward toward Pennsylvania, only one significant force stood in the way — Union Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy’s division of the Eighth Army Corps in the vicinity of Winchester and Berryville. Milroy, affectionately known to his men as the Old Grey Eagle, would stubbornly defy repeated instructions to withdraw to safety even as the overpowering Rebel force approached. Believing that the enemy was merely a cavalry raid or feint, the veteran Indiana politician-turned-general chose to stand and fight. His controversial decision put his outnumbered and largely inexperienced men on a path to what most observers considered to be a military fiasco when Milroy lost half his force and routed ingloriously from the final battlefield. Many of the Northern soldiers who fought at Second Winchester, however, believed their three-day, ultimately unwinnable resistance delayed the vaunted Rebels from entering Pennsylvania long enough to buy time for the Army of the Potomac to arrive and defeat Lee at Gettysburg.
Today largely forgotten in the plethora of Gettysburg media attention, the Second Battle of Winchester in its time proved to be politically charged for the Union, with President Lincoln and the War Department seeking to save face; Milroy seeking to save his now tainted career; and the beleaguered soldiers seeking redemption. On the Confederate side, Robert E. Lee believed he had found in Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell a worthy successor to the late, lamented Stonewall Jackson. Gettysburg would prove that the promise of Second Winchester was only an illusion on many fronts. Lee’s inner circle of senior leaders was lacking a significant cog, and his army was not as invincible as the overwhelming victory over Milroy had suggested.
In this book, multiple award-winning authors Eric J. Wittenberg and Scott L. Mingus, Sr. combine their writing and research talents into what may be the definitive account of Second Winchester. Using more than a hundred fresh sources, they weave together the individual soldier’s stories into a comprehensive, highly readable narrative that takes the reader back to the pivotal battle that opened the door to Gettysburg.
Scott Mingus is a scientist and consultant in the global pulp & paper industry, and holds patents in self-adhesive postage stamps and bar code labels. The Ohio native graduated from the Paper Science & Engineering program at Miami University. While working for Avery Dennison, he was part of the research team that developed the first commercially successful self-adhesive U.S. postage stamps. He has written nineteen Civil War and Underground Railroad books. His biography of Confederate General William “Extra Billy” Smith won multiple awards, including the Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr. Literary Prize for Confederate History. He has also written several articles for Gettysburg Magazine, as well as for various historical journals.
Scott and his wife Debi live in York, Pa., and for more than a decade, he was written a blog on the Civil War history of York County (www.yorkblog.com/cannonball). He received the 2013 Heritage Profile Award from the York County Heritage Trust for his contributions to local Civil War history. He also has written six scenario books for Civil War miniature wargaming. His great-great-grandfather was a 15-year-old drummer and rifleman in the 51st Ohio Infantry under General George “Pap” Thomas, and other family members fought at Antietam and Gettysburg in the 7th West Virginia.