10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2000
Even the well read student or scholar of the Civil War can develop a slanted impression of the War in reading the bulk of the literature which concentrates on stategic and tactical details and the trials and hardships of the military personnel who fought it. In reading this very well written book of the experiences of the Western Maryland civilians who endured the conflict in this theater of the war, one gains a perspective of how total the horror of this war was for those who not only had to live through the actual battles, but remained to deal with the death and suffering in which they found themselves engulfed. These hardships (physical, emotional and economic) were endured repeatedly and for years after the actual battles and occupations.
I consider this a must read for any serious Civil War enthusiast.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2001
The foreword notes that the Sharpsburg area was the first organized American community to suffer both from combat and the sustained presence of two opposing armies. The combat was, of course, the September 1862 battle of Antietam, well known as the bloodiest day in American history. Ernst says that her book is one of stories. In so doing she observes the trend to explain history through the eyes of common people, rather than those of the generals, presidents, kings and other eminencies who have fueled traditional historical narrative. Ernst has dug deep into the letters, diaries, I-was-there personal accounts and oral histories of the days immediately before and after Antietam, as well as during the carnage itself. Ample photographs give human form to the names encountered throughout the book. The result is a smoothly written work blending the military and civilian dimensions of Lee's invasion of Maryland that, on a golden September day, etched into national memory names such as the Dunker Church, the Cornfield, the Sunken Road and Burnside's Bridge. Some of these stories illuminate dark subjects. Ernst's discussion of slavery in Frederick and Washington Counties reminds us that it was more prevalent in Western Maryland than we realize-the 1860 census recorded over 4600 slaves in the area. That there were then still three slave-selling sites in Hagerstown suggests that this region was populated by more than unionist German immigrants who opposed slavery. Ernst might have cited the definitive work on 19th century Maryland slavery, Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground. The devastating psychological and economic impacts of the Antietam campaign on civilians are powerfully told through anecdote. The words of Allen Sparrow and Alexander Root convey their terror during the fighting in the passes of South Mountain, which preceded Antietam by several days. Ernst's vivid account of this battle sets the stage for the following days (including the tale of the soldier who shared a blanket with a comrade, only to learn at sunrise that he'd slept with a corpse). Maps showing topography and troop movements would have been helpful. The eighth chapter concludes movingly with accounts of area civilians coping with a landscape that had changed dramatically in the preceding two weeks. Their short-term travails included suspicious federal troops on the lookout for renegade rebels and anyone thought to be helping them; longer-term, of course, these folks faced years of rebuilding and, in some cases, economic ruin because of the battle. The last two chapters venture beyond the Antietam campaign. Lacking the depth of the first eight, they summarize the impact of the Confederate 1863 Gettysburg and 1864 Monocacy campaigns on the region. Chapter nine begins in 1863 with federal conscription in the region and Lee's move through the area on his way to Gettysburg, where the battle is touched upon through the eyes of several locals. Post-Gettysburg skirmishes in the area are mentioned, followed by the rebel retreat. Jubal Early's move through the area in July 1864, en route to his raid on Washington, concludes the chapter. The treatment of these latter campaigns seems a cursory afterthought given the compelling details surrounding Antietam that comprise the book's theme. Ernst returns to slavery in her last chapter. She describes the impact of the Antietam and Gettysburg campaigns on the "peculiar institution," and local reaction to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. She relates how free blacks and slaves were recruited into the Union army. Harrowing extracts from the diary of Otho Nesbitt, a Clear Spring slaveowner and unionist, tell of kidnapped blacks taken south by retreating rebels. Though the Confederates are known to have done this at times (as in 1863, in Chambersburg, PA), Ernst has unearthed a compelling eyewitness account of black abductions by rebels during their three major sojourns into Maryland during the Civil War. Her account also prompts us to remember that pro-union did not always mean anti-slavery. Letters and diaries describe the unrelenting efforts of families rebuilding homes, farms and lives shattered by battle. Men return from soldiering to farm again; a few were lucky enough to marry the sweethearts they'd left behind. Plowers of fields unearth the bones of the dead, and legend claims that bloodstains in field and hearth mysteriously reappear for years. Poignant reunions of veterans and civilians include the account of Kate Rudy visiting the newly elected Rutherford B. Hayes, whose injured shoulder at South Mountain her family had nursed. To Afraid to Cry is poorly referenced in places. Ernst throughout cites secondary works that themselves cite original sources, but her notes frequently provide only the former. Worse are references improperly cited. On page 194, for example, the author refers to the relief civilians felt following the departure of the union army, and gives as her source pages 244-45 of an unpublished dissertation by Duncan. But those pages in Duncan do not contain that information. The same page mistakenly attributes Duncan's prose to that of an 1862 New York Times reporter. And Landscape Turned Red, perhaps the definitive work on Antietam, is improperly assigned a quotation-"the whole country forlorn and desolate" does not appear on page 34 of that book, as Ernst's page 194 says it does. Another problem appears on pages 45 and 50, where the author quotes William Owen of the Washington Artillery of New Orleans. She cites as her sources not Owen himself but The Gleam of Bayonets-while listing Owen in her own bibliography (albeit with incorrect title, publisher and publication year). There are also inconsistencies in the treatment of misspellings inside original quotations-on page 23 the author corrects the misspelling of "privilege," yet on page 45 she lets stand the misspelling, "permiscus." Kathleen Ernst has knit a splendid archival tapestry that enriches our grasp of the seamy underside of war-the suffering of everyday people caught in the crosshairs of America's bloodiest day. Many stories of Maryland's pivotal role in the Civil War await telling, and Too Afraid To Cry shows us how captivating they are coming straight from the mouths of Marylanders.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Wow! Another book that tells of the dread and horrors that the Civil War brought to the civilians, and it is done as perfectly as one could ever hope. It is written in a lively manner and was very hard to put down. Based totally on facts, using diary and journal accounts, the writer brings the reader right in to the middle of the Maryland conflict, from the trepidation the citizens felt weeks before the battle at Sharpsburg/Antietam as the Rebs entered their border state, through the battle itself, and finally how they dealt with the after affects of the worst one day battle ever fought on American soil.
We here in the 21st century cannot fathom what our ancestors went through - what they felt...the aptly titled "Too Afraid to Cry" will give the reader at least a tiny idea of what life was like for the folks living in Maryland in the early Fall of 1862.
Wow is right!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2003
Seldom do we get a chance to read about civilians and their stories through out the Antietam Campaign. This book gives us a great look at just what the hardships Maryland civilians had to endure. Authors Kathleen Ernst and Ted Alexander have asembled an interesting book that features Confederate and Union early concentrations, skirmishes and battles around the Sharpsburg and Frederick areas that bring to life civilian response. Popular families such as the Prys, Pipers and Millers living in the area of Sharpsburg during the battle are covered along with many others that explain the ordeals and horrors these families faced while war was at their doorstep. Interesting and facinating the text explains the unknown hardships that civilians had to face while battles took place and how also many tried to survive after the bloody engagements. One can not just read about the battle and get a full perspective on the campaign without considering reading about the civilians and I highly recommend this book! 5 STARS!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2014
History books are undeniably one of the big niche markets in print media; the American Civil War in particular. Of the many I've tackled over the years, some are as well written and researched, but few make the narrative "come alive" like this one. Generally, you find dry campaign overviews, replete with chronologies for whatever battle, and/or Gen So-n-So, followed by the inevitable "armchair quarterback" critique. The other big trend is the dissection of an ever more specific sub topic. Thankfully, there are notable exceptions, this fine volume being one of them. "Too Afraid to Cry" is written from "the bottom up", so to speak. It starts and ends from the individual citizen or soldier's perspective. What Gen So-n-So did might be noted to provide context, but the focus is always on making clear the hell that war is, and the hell these Western Maryland people lived through. This stuff tends to get whitewashed in Civil War literature. Nowhere else will you read about how nearly EVERY house in Sharpsburg was ransacked, even with owners present! Consciously or not, the history establishment in this country helps to perpetuate the idealized facade of the Civil War as a "quaint" little conflict. Dozens of scenes in this book, like 5 yr old Ollie contemplating a growing pile of amputated limbs, or a farmer's civil rights being trampled, along with his property (that wasn't stolen!), don't sit well on the moral chassis of the Civil War Muscle Car they want to sell you. Then you turn the page and find that after more than a decade of legal wrangling, the ruined farmer ended up with a dime on the dollar for the damage claims he filed (if he was lucky), and moreover, that Uncle Sam didn't really give a flip... This is the perspective that "Too Afraid to Cry" gives you, and this is why I like this book so much. It's a refreshing switch from the sanitized, prepackaged norm. A double shot of Civil War reality, straight up!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The author and I must have been twins separated at birth, because her biography sounds like a more successful version of mine!
I, too, was born outside Maryland, but grew up in Frederick. I lived in the village of Middletown and was, from birth, imbued with deep respect for, and fascination with, the Civil War. The Battle of Antietam took place almost on my doorstep, and I was always fascinated with the town of Sharpsburg. The battle engulfed this small, ancient, and beautiful western Maryland town far longer and deeper than the fighting would suggest.
What happened inside all those stone houses and churches? How did the town survive to become such an important place of pilgrimage? Who was fighting whom OFF the battlefield? Maryland's position as a border state, and a slave state, had profound implications for its citizens. The author tells us the story of the people just looking for a better life, not driven to rage by unbending, blind commitment to abstract principles. At times, this story will move you to tears.
Using the Sharpsburg fabric as an image within Maryland's larger tapestry, the author takes on these questions with the skill of ANY history scholar. Exhaustively researched, and beautifully rendered, here is the story of how people with everything to lose survived the Civil War by living each day pragmatically, as if it could be the last. Marvelous work, recommended for all serious Civil War enthusiasts and local historians.