Rewriting a pivotal chapter of American history, Newt Gingrich imagines an alternative ending to the Battle of Gettysburg. The Confederacy wins after foiling Union troops - in Carroll County.
"Carroll County was the key that made the novel," said the former House speaker, who will sign copies of his new book, Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War, at the Union Mills Homestead tomorrow. "Both military expertise and local knowledge made it a more lively book."
In Gingrich's version of events - co-written with historical fiction writer William R. Forstchen - Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's troops cut off the Union supply line in Westminster and drew Union soldiers from their more advantageous position in Gettysburg to the Pike Creek Line, a high-ground position north of Westminster and near the Homestead. There, he said, the Union would have fallen to the rebels.
Gingrich said he made several trips to Carroll County to research the novel, talking to local experts and traveling to battle scenes.
He collaborated with Forstchen on a previous foray into historical fiction, 1945, a look at how World War II could have played out differently. Gingrich has written seven nonfiction books.
He will visit Carroll County on the weekend of what is being billed as the largest Civil War re-enactment of the decade near Gettysburg, a 140th-anniversary commemoration that is expected to draw more than 15,000 re-enactors and 100,000 spectators. Gingrich is to sign books later tomorrow in Gettysburg.
A former history professor, Gingrich said he was looking for another way to make the past more interesting. "We're historians. We're tired of students being taught history in a dull and boring way," he said yesterday, speaking by phone from New York. "It is fun to start an argument this could have happened.
"We've described this as active history," he said. "Use your imagination. History is not a set of dead things to be memorized. It was alive and vigorous and real when it was happening."
Revisiting history has been a daily exercise for James M. Shriver III, a Carroll County resident whose family is steeped in Civil War lore - his great-uncles fought for the South, he said, and their cousins fought for the North. It is his family home in Union Mills, about 17 miles south of Gettysburg, where Gingrich will make his appearance.
The Union Mills Homestead, built in 1797, is a museum operated by a nonprofit foundation.
Soldiers from the North and South camped around the homestead on their way to the Battle of Gettysburg.
Shriver, describing Gingrich's imagined version of events, says, "The battle may have begun in Gettysburg but ends decisively in Carroll County."
Newt Gingrich will appear at the Union Mills Homestead, 3311 Littlestown Pike, at 10 a.m. tomorrow. Information: 410-848-2288.