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Gettysburg Connection writer to speak on historic turning points

Connection staff writer Leon Reed will be making two presentations on important turning points in US History in the next week. On Tuesday, May 23, he will speak at 6:30 pm at the main branch of the Adams County Public Library on “Fort Sumter and its Long Shadow: The North Mobilizes and the Border States Think Again.” The talk addresses two crucial events that occurred following President Lincoln’s speech calling for a 75,000-man army to suppress the Southern rebellion. First, within a few weeks, the northern states produced an army to defend the national capital. And eight slave states that had remained loyal during the earlier round of secession reconsidered whether to remain in the Union.

Historians seldom examine how the United States created an army almost overnight but it was a remarkable accomplishment. The U.S. had no general staff, no mobilization plan, and virtually no militia system, yet managed to create a dozen regiments almost overnight and speed them to the defenses of the capital city, with more following in their immediate wake.

The decisions of the eight slave states form a fantastic yarn with larger-than-life characters, high political stakes, and political skullduggery. The outcome of the war literally hung on the decisions of these states, and Lincoln and other pro-Union officials were not afraid to press the limit of their authority to prevent key states in the Union: sending arms, declaring martial law, and arresting public officials thought to be pro-Southern.

On Saturday, May 27, Reed will join three other authors at the World War II American Experience Museum. Reed will discuss the two greatest battles fought by the U.S. Army, Gettysburg and the Battle of the Bulge. Reed examines the battles through the experiences of five soldiers, including Frank Lembo, the subject of “A Combat Engineer With Patton’s Army,” a book Reed co-authored with his wife, Lois Lembo, and Bob Burrows, whose memoirs Reed edited and published.

Reed compares the military situation at the time of the two battles, the threat to the U.S., the command structures and objectives of the opposing armies, the homefront reactions, and casualties at the two battles. He also discusses the soldiers’ experiences getting to the battle and during the battle. Finally, Reed talks about the continuing cultural impact of the battle of Gettysburg and the Bulge campaign.

The other authors speaking on May 27 include:

• James Rada, who will speak at noon about his book “Clay soldiers: One Marine’s Story of War, Art, and Atomic Energy.” The book discusses the experiences of a local soldier who fought at Guadalcanal and Tarawa;
• At 1 pm, Charlene Biggs will give a book reading and discussion from “Letters to Lida,” based on 150 letters her father wrote to his mother during World War II;
• At 3 pm, Joseph David Cress will discuss his book series “World War II Memories.”

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Leon Reed, freelance reporter, is a former US Senate staff member, defense consultant, and history teacher. He is a seven year resident of Gettysburg, where he writes military history and explores the park and the Adams County countryside. He is the publisher at Little Falls Books, chaired the Adams County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee and is on the board of SCCAP and the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. He and his wife, Lois, have 3 children, 3 cats, and 5 grandchildren.


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