30 October 2007 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 4 comments

The November issue of Civil War News contains a really outstanding review of my Rush’s Lancers: The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War. I’m not normally one to blow my own horn–I actually find it unseemly–but this review is so good that I wanted to share it. As book reviews go, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Rush’s Lancers: The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War
By Eric J. Wittenberg
Illustrated, notes, index, appendix, 304 pp, 2007. Westholme Publishing LLC, 8 Harvey Ave., Yardley, PA, 19067, $29.95 plus shipping.

Reviewer: Chuck Romig
Chuck Romig graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in secondary education and teaches history at Penns Valley High School in Spring Mills, Pa. He continues to read and research Civil War history.

Eric J. Wittenberg has produced a gem of a regimental in Rush’s Lancers: The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War. Probably every Civil War buff can name one or two favorite John Wayne films and I’d be willing to bet that in at least one of those films the Duke was in the cavalry.

Wittenberg, in this work, expertly reveals not only untold morsels about one of the Civil War’s famed cavalry units, but also the experience of a horse soldier in the war.

He begins the story with the formation of the regiment in Philadelphia, Pa., spearheaded by one Richard H. Rush, a descendant of Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia renown. Rush was a member of the West Point class of 1846 but failed to live up to the reputation for which that class was known.

After a hiatus from the military Rush had problems gaining a commission in 1861. He used his family’s name to eventually gain rank.

The 6th Pennsylvania initially mustered at Camp Meigs in the City of Brotherly Love where they actually trained with lances, a fad that Gen. George McClellan had advocated since his Crimean trip.

After the endless drilling common to any volunteer regiment of the Civil War, the 6th Pennsylvania was ordered to join the Army of the Potomac at Manassas. On their way to the Peninsula to take part in that debacle, they sat as peaceful spectators and viewed the battle of Hampton Roads where the U.S.S. Monitor and the C.S.S. Virginia dueled to a draw in mid-March 1862.

Wittenberg uses his subjects to tell their story with deftness and accuracy. Pulling from a slew of privates, officers and a chaplain, he allows the men of the 6th Pennsylvania and those who interacted with them to tell their tale posthumously.

This style picks up once the men are on the Peninsula and continues through the Maryland Campaign of 1862, Fredericksburg, Stoneman’s Raid and Chancellorsville, Brandy Station, Gettysburg, the transition of Grant to the East, and the 1864 Valley Campaign.

Wittenberg’s work is filled with points of human interest, as well as strategic and tactical analysis, which make this regimental a more exciting read than many others. But it is not just the human interest and military analysis that make this book a keeper. It’s the group of troopers that Wittenberg chose as subjects.

I’m sure that stories as good as the 6th Pennsylvania’s exist, but there are none better. Taste these tidbits to understand what I mean. Why was Stonewall Jackson late in arriving on the Peninsula from the Valley? The 6th Pennsylvania.

Which was the only unit to get a shot off at Stuart’s troopers in their first ride around the Army of the Potomac? The 6th Pennsylvania. Who led brave charges into the teeth of hell at Brandy Station and South Cavalry Field at Gettysburg? The 6th Pennsylvania.

Theirs is a story that needed to be told. Frankly, I’m shocked it took this long with all the Civil War literature published these days.

Wittenberg matches fantastic subjects with an appropriate style of drawing from firsthand accounts in Rush’s Lancers. I wish more photographs would have accompanied the text, however, Wittenberg may have used all that were available. This one’s a good one.

Thanks, Mr. Romig. I’m humbled by your kind words for what was very much a labor of love for me. You’re quite correct in that I had an extraordinary set of subjects to work with here, all of which made the historian’s job that much easier. The eloquence of these men extended from the regimental colonel on down to lowly sergeants, all of which made documenting their exploits simpler.

I’m not quite done with the Lancers yet. I have one more project yet to go…..

And, to answer your one very mild complaint, I used EVERY photograph of a member of the Lancers that I could find. If I had managed to find more, they would have made their way into the book. There was only one photo that I did not use, of the very last reunion of the regiment, as it was a scan of a photocopy of an old newspaper, and it just didn’t duplicate well enough to run. As it was, many of those photos appear in the book for the first time anywhere.

Scridb filter


  1. Tue 30th Oct 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Well deserved Eric. A great book indeed.

  2. Tue 30th Oct 2007 at 4:42 pm

    Thanks, Michael. Much obliged.


  3. Mike Peters
    Fri 02nd Nov 2007 at 12:55 am


    If I might inquire, what other Lancer project are you working on?


  4. Fri 02nd Nov 2007 at 9:28 am


    Another set of letters. It’s in the pipeline of projects.


Comments are closed.

Copyright © Eric Wittenberg 2011, All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress