Back From Battle
A Civil War Saga
In August 2021, Sunbury Press released Jim's latest book, Back From Battle: The Forgotten Story of Pennsylvania's Camp Discharge and the Weary Civil War Soldiers It Served.The work follows several years of deep research that Jim conducted along with co-author Brad Upp.
Back From Battle chronicles a special Union Army post that was swiftly erected outside Philadelphia in the final year of the Civil War. Its purpose was to handle a jumble of returning citizen-soldiers and process them out of their units. Many bore bullet wounds, broken bones, and other scars of combat. Some had lost limbs. Some were laid low by illness. Hundreds arrived half-dead as survivors of wretched prison camps. Indeed, more than a quarter of them had been held at the notorious Andersonville prison in Georgia. Others arrived blessedly unscathed – but all grappled with the fresh, ferocious memories of their time at war.
Camp Discharge did its best to help move hundreds of young Union veterans back to civilian life. During its brief existence, it sat on a bluff that overlooks what is today one of the nation's busiest highways, the Schuylkill Expressway. The post was quickly dismantled, its site unmarked, its story nearly forgotten. Back From Battle reclaims the post's remarkable history and follows the often-tumultuous lives of the Pennsylvania volunteer soldiers who passed through its gates.
Jim and Brad drew from military and medical records, pension files, diaries, memoirs, newspapers and more to present a rich account of Camp Discharge and the men it housed and helped. The book includes a full roster of the men with summaries of their service records.
"By adding the details of these soldiers and their noble service to the nation, the book brings many poignant facts to the surface," says Anthony Waskie, historian of the Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Museum & Library in Philadelphia. "It details many hardships these men endured and the agony of what seemed like interminable waiting for their release."
Jim's co-author, Brad Upp, is a Civil War re-enactor and a board member of the Lower Merion Historical Society, which proudly supported the development of Back From Battle.
The co-authors are available to give PowerPoint talks about the camp and its history. Their presentations include photographs and accounts of individual soldiers, as well as a display of artifacts that Brad has unearthed at the site. In addition, they would bring copies of Back From Battle to sign and sell.