South Fayette author publishes book on local Civil War impact
Christopher George published a book on Civil War soldiers almost by accident.
The book, “ Day-by-day with the 123d Pennsylvania Volunteers: A nine-month Civil War Regiment from Allegheny County ” (CreateSpace, $21.95) discusses the everyday lives of military men in battle.
It started with George, a South Fayette resident, researching his own family history. He previously published a family history titled, “The George Memory Book” in 2008.
“To be honest, I’ve always enjoyed biography,” said George, 46. “This naturally led me to genealogy, which continues to be my main interest today. I do enjoy history, but for me it is a way to better understand the lives of my ancestors.”
He started his family research in 1993, while pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati. In 1995, he discovered that his great-great-grandfather, John Armstrong George, served in the Civil War as a private in the 123rd Volunteer Infantry.
In 1996, he spent countless hours at the Pennsylvania Room at the Carnegie Library in Oakland, and the Detre Library and Archives at the Heinz History Center. George read newspapers and journal entries and talked to fellow historians and archivists for the next decade.
“I became intrigued with how closely the Pittsburgh papers followed the regiment,” George said. “I was able to locate and transcribe more than 100 articles that connected to the regiment in one way or another.
“My great-great grandfather served in a division that was 90 percent made of men from Allegheny County,” he said. “It became obvious that there was a story to tell. This was very much a Pittsburgh story.”
The unit was formed in Allegheny City — now Pittsburgh’s North Side — and included soldiers from around southwestern Pennsylvania.
The Rev. John B. Clark, the pastor of Second United Presbyterian Church, put out the call for volunteers.
“These men that fought together were very similar,” George said. “They were mostly Christian men.”
George was stricken by the firsthand accounts of the men who described war life, from the tragic events to the mundane moments.
In the spring of 2014, George finally thought he had enough material for a book. He sent a proposal out to two publishers and received a response within two weeks.
“The feedback has been trickling in little by little,” said George, a fourth grade social studies and history teacher in the Upper St. Clair School District. “As word gets around, I hope to connect with communities where these soldiers came from. My hope is also to find other individuals like myself who have a family connection to the regiment.”
Matthew Peaslee is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.