A NH Perspective on the Civil War

It’s the story of “a big war told small”

“I love reading other people’s mail” — so says Mike Pride, a historian and journalist (30 years as the editor of the Concord Monitor) in the forward of his latest book, “Our War” [Monitor Publishing, $29.95]. Indeed, he would have to love it because, in the writing of the book, he was no doubt surrounded by piles of letters  — diaries and newspapers too — for days on end. It is only with that kind of painstaking work that such a textured story of the Civil War could be told.  

His aim, he says, was “to free eloquent voices from archives and find lost and little-known stories,” and so he did, revealing telling details of a terrible war that have been mostly hidden from view by broader-brush reporting.

The fact that the storytellers are from New Hampshire cities and towns — Concord, Peterborough, Lancaster, Woodstock and Manchester among them — adds  a note of familiarity that invests us more in their fate.

And what a fate for most of them — about 33,000 New Hampshire men went to war; more than 5,000 died and more than 10,000 were wounded. Many who were unscathed physically returned scarred psychologically.

Pride tells of Luther Ladd of Alexandria, the first NH soldier to die, shot in the streets of Baltimore; Alvah Hunter of Gilford, a ship’s boy who watched the ironclad Weehawken sink with 24 seamen and officers aboard;  Frank “Bulletproof” Butler of Bennington, who survived terrible battles only to die of gangrene when he returned home; Sophia Scott and Kate Cummings of Peterborough, soldiers’ wives killed while visiting their husbands.   

Just a few of the stories of “a big war told small,” as the book jacket says. Pride, an expert storyteller, deftly weaves together various accounts to give the reader a compelling — and accessible — picture of a state and its people bravely facing  tragic times. 

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