When I reflect on the battle of Monocacy and the origins of what eventually became Determined to Stand and Fight, I think back to how the engagement outside of Frederick, Maryland, gave me a greater appreciation for the smaller actions of the Civil War.
As a student of the Civil War, I had certainly spent my fair share of time studying Antietam or Gettysburg, but then came the documentary No Retreat from Destiny. Depicting Jubal Early’s 1864 Invasion of Maryland and the ensuing battles of Monocacy and Fort Stevens, I first watched the film sometime around junior year of high school. And I was drawn to the fact that these smaller engagements were just as dramatic and had just as much human interest as the bigger battles that had entire bookshelves devoted to them. So, I made it my mission to read as much about them as I could get my hands on.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I was an intern at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park in the summer of 2013. On one particularly slow day out at the Wilderness Exhibit Shelter, I pulled out Glenn Worthington’s Fighting for Time; Worthington’s words were some of the first written about the battle, and as a witness to the actions as a young boy, Worthington’s perspective was particularly gripping. I was working with Chris Mackowski that day, and at some point, he asked me what I was reading. The ensuing conversation was the first time I spent any considerable amount of time discussing Early’s Invasion with another historian, and eventually Chris invited me to write a guest post about Lew Wallace’s role in the battle. That marked my introduction to Emerging Civil War.
As I worked my way through those first guest posts, I was reminded about the importance of small-though-sometimes forgotten battles. Especially surrounded by the behemoth stories of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania, I realized that Monocacy was just as important to the participants as those much bigger and bloodier engagements. So, I read more, and wrote more. I made the battle of Monocacy the topic of my senior thesis for my history degree at the University of Mary Washington. I went on my first trips to the Monocacy National Battlefield, and saw the red brick Worthington House, where young Glenn saw the fighting from his basement.
And then came the offer from Chris to write the Emerging Civil War Series book for Monocacy. I was nervous about taking the leap to that next step, but had plenty of support from friends and family, and from the park staff and volunteers at Monocacy who helped with all sorts of research and answered all sorts of questions, no matter how mundane. The book began to take shape over about a year; my senior thesis became Chapter 5, and gradually the whole thing began to take shape. The time finally came to visit Monocacy to take all the photographs needed for the book, and fittingly, I went with Chris to take them. Without his suggestion to write about Monocacy, I’m not sure I ever would have. No blog posts, no senior thesis, and certainly ECW book. I’m extremely thankful for those suggestions, and for the gentle nudging along the way.
I remember on a very cold January night going to the post office to pick up three boxes full of the book when it came out in early 2017. I eagerly opened the boxes when I got home and stared at the cover, not fully believing my eyes; I put aside the first copy in the box for myself and pulled the rest out. It was a bit of an out-of-body experience signing the inside pages for people who had bought copies of the book—I was a published author.
At the time I write this, it’s been more than ten years since I saw No Retreat from Destiny; it’s been eight since that conversation at the Wilderness with Chris, and it’s been about five years since Determined to Stand and Fight came out. What remains still is my focus on smaller battles. Understanding those actions that have been all but swept under the rug of memory has driven me with new projects and new appreciations for the people who were thrown into conflict in the 1860s.
Determined to Stand and Fight: The Battle of Monocacy, July 9, 1864
by Ryan T. Quint
Savas Beatie, 2017
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