RETREAT FROM GETTYSBURG
White Mane Kids
"Meticulous attention to history is the strong point of this first-person narrative..."
"The research and attention to detail are exemplary; the author has masterfully combined factual events with a powerful plot. ...An excellent example of how to teach history through fiction."
— School Library Journal
Children’s Literature Award Winner
— Council for Wisconsin Writers
The award winning Retreat From Gettysburg is the fourth of Kathleen's twenty-five published books. It is written for readers ages 13 to adult who enjoy American Civil War historical fiction without any sex, gore, or explicit violence. This book is available as a 145-page trade paperback.
Chigger O’Malley, of Williamsport, Maryland, is happy when rains and floodwater trap Robert E. Lee’s army after its dismal retreat from the battlefield at Gettysburg. His father and three older brothers, all members of the Union army’s famed Irish Brigade, have been killed in battle. Chigger hopes the Union army will attack the withdrawing Confederates and end the war. But when events force Chigger and his mother to care for a wounded Confederate officer, the issues of right and wrong, of friend and enemy-become more difficult to answer.
The tense week after the Battle of Gettysburg provides the backdrop for this suspenseful tale of self-discovery as Chigger decides whether or not to leave his widowed mother to fight for the Union.
This book contains period photos and illustrations, an author's note, and lists of educational activities and additional resources.
What Others Are Saying
"Excellent…the choice of an Irish family near Williamsport at the tail end of the Gettysburg Campaign offers a refreshingly different perspective of the war and its impact upon common people."
—D. Scott Hartwig, Historian, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
"Ernst has created a richly detailed historical story that illustrates the horrors that war visits on both combatants and civilians."
"Kathleen Ernst brings here-and-now realism both to a teen-age boy's emotional confusions and to that riverbank town's mix of military tension and civilian want. ...Ernst is establishing a proprietary claim to the Civil War in western Maryland."
—The Baltimore Sun
"If MacKinlay Kantor ever thought about writing a sequel to his famous juvenile work Gettysburg, he might have chosen to write about the poignant ten days following that battle, when Robert E. Lee's retreating army crossed the flooded Potomac River. Fortunately, the vivid word-pictures and splendid writing Kathleen Ernst uses to bring those days to life in her new historical novel are worthy of Kantor himself.
Ernst is the author of two previous bestselling children's novels: The Night Riders of Harper's Ferry and The Bravest Girl in Sharpsburg. Now, in Retreat from Gettysburg, she delivers a wonderful tale of the Confederate army's desperate struggle to move its 17-mile-long wagon train of wounded soldiers from Williamsport, Maryland, back to the safety of southern ground. However, it is more than just a history lesson; it is the moving story of a young boy's struggle with the loss of his father and three brothers (all Union soldiers killed in previous battles) and with the numbing grief and war-weary living conditions that alter the relationship between him and his mother.
Chigger O'Malley is a 14-year-old youngster who tries his best to bring his mother back into his life after the loss of their family. Kids aged 10-14 will identify with many of the problems that Chigger, like any boy of his age, encounters. But the worry of being left as the only man of the house (especially when his mother still thinks of him as her little boy), the constant parade of soldiers invading their Maryland home, a wounded Rebel officer left in their care, and Chigger wishing he could join the Irish Brigade, especially will keep modern youngsters intrigued.
There are several characters who come and go in the story, but the author lets Chigger take center stage in passages where he struggles with his feelings. Should he kill the wounded Rebel who sleeps in his house? Should he run off and join the Irish Brigade to take the place of his slain brothers and father? Chigger is also torn between love for his grieving mother and the urge to leave her and join the army. The sections where Chigger wrestles with these concerns and about what to do with the Rebel in his house are excellent: "I stared at him, my head pounding. Images flashed through my mind like some crazy magic-lantern picture show. My own pa marching away. Ma in a weeping heap in her muddy mourning dress . . . the tug-of-war that had been raging inside for so long threatening to break me into little pieces. . . ."
Ernst gives the young boy many opportunities to break free from his doubts and fears, but he is constrained by devotion to his mother. He doesn't realize he is capable of showing kindness; he has seen too much cruelty around him. War is the ultimate unkindness of all, according to the boy. It is only when Chigger makes up his mind to help someone else that he finds his place in the world. Parents and teachers (and one hopes young readers) should appreciate the author's moral lesson in Retreat from Gettysburg: "Sometimes the simplest act of kindness can mean the most."
I also enjoyed the photographs and maps of the actual locations mentioned in the story. Ernst has carefully placed many authentic illustrations throughout the book to help students understand the setting and to follow the historical aspects of Chigger's home. I would love to see more authors use this layout in historical fiction written for upper elementary and middle school readers. Along with the photos, maps, and prints, Ernst includes an excellent section of "Additional Resources" that lists books, music, and information for planning a visit to areas mentioned in the novel.
Kathleen Ernst should be very proud of Retreat from Gettysburg. It is obvious she has spent many hours researching the details of the days following the battle. Teachers will find the book extremely useful for further study about the events, as well as a heart-warming, intense look at how youngsters and widows might have dealt with losing their fathers and husbands in the Civil War."
—Civil War Book Review
Best selling author Kathleen Ernst writes mysteries and historical fiction for adults and young readers. Her work has earned numerous honors, including multiple Edgar and Agatha mystery award nominations, and an Emmy for children's educational programming. To date, Kathleen's 25 published books have been sold well over 750,000 copies. more>>
Hear the word “Gettysburg” and you probably think of the terrible three-day battle that took place in Pennsylvania. The drama didn’t end there, though.
I love writing books about lesser-known stories, and the tense days that followed the battle definitely qualify. Can you imagine having the entire Confederate army descend upon your tiny village?
Young Chigger O’Malley is one of my favorite characters, too. I think you’ll enjoy making his acquaintance!
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Abner Ainsminger, Agnes Conrad O'Malley, American Civil War, American History, Baby Willis O'Malley, Battle of Antietam, Battle of Bull Run, Battle Of Chancellorsville, Battle of Gettysburg, Beholden, Beyond All Ken, Boonboro Maryland, Canalboats, C&O Canal, Captain George Tallard, Carry Me Back To Old Virginny Song, Cavalry, Cement Mill, Cemetery Hill, Charlie Troxell's Blacksmith Shop, Cherry Trees, Chig, Chigger O'Malley, Childrens Fiction, Childrens Historical Fiction, Christian Duty, Church Street, Civilians, Clear Springs Road, Confederacy, Confederate Army, Confederate States, Consarned Rebels, Crimus!, Cushwa's Tannery, Defensive Line, Digging In Like Gophers, Don't Sing Dixie Yet, Egan O'Malley, Eliza Tallard, Falling Waters Maryland, Father Ryan, Ferry, Fiction, Fiddle, Fierce Rain, Flooding Rain, Ford, Funkstown Maryland, God-Sent Blessing, God-Sent Curse, General John Imboden, General Johnston Pettigrew, General James Longstreet, General George Pickett, General Robert E Lee, Gettysburg Pennsyvania, Glassy Eyes, Gunfire, Hagerstown Maryland, Historical Fiction, History, Hooted Like A Saw-Whet Owl, Huxley's Well, Irish Brigade, July 1863, Jumpy As Hares, Just Hush Your Trap, Kathleen Ernst, Leghorn Chicken, Liam O'Malley, Like A Halter-Broke Calf, Loading Basin, Louis, Ma, Magic Lantern Picture Show, Marse Robert, Maryland, Maureen O'Malley, Methodist, Michael Tipton, Middlekauff's Mill, Moving Fast And Grim, Moving Like Molassas, Mrs Conrad, Mules, My Father's Gun Song, Pa, Plank Road, Playing Marbles, Pontoon Bridge, Potomac River, Potomac Street, Prison Camp, Rebel Army, Rebel Artillery, Rebels, Robert Kincaid, Rooted Like A Club-Stunned Hog, Ryerson Family, Secessionists, Secesh Women, Sergeant Krick, Sharpsburg Maryland, Shoop & LeFever's Lumberyard, Sick-Shivery, Simp Hepplewhite, Skeddaling, Sniffing Like An Old Coon Dog, Splinter, St Augustine Catholic Church, Stephen Tallard, Sunday Mass, Surgeon Hatfield, The Battle Cry Of Freedom Song, The Great Hunger, The Slows, The Wagoner's Fight, Trapped Like Treed Coons, Trenches, Union, Union Soldiers, Wagon Train, White Mane Kids, Widow Ainsminger, Williamsport Maryland, Wounded Rebels, Yankees, Yankee Witch, 6th Michigan Cavalry, 69th New York Regiment, 1863