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O’Connor to release book

By Staff | Nov 18, 2011

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Charles Town author Bob O’Connor has just published his seventh book, his fourth historical fiction account of the Civil War.

The new book entitled “A House Divided Against Itself” is about two brothers who faced each other in two battles, at Falling Waters north of Martinsburg and at Stephenson’s Depot, the battle of Second Winchester.

The book follows four characters, the two brothers (one from Gettysburg and the other from Shepherdstown), the best friend of the Shepherdstown brother and the best friend’s girlfriend. The story is mostly true and based on regimental histories and over 90 actual letters from the participants, their friends and family.

The story was brought to the author’s attention several years back by Dr. James Price, historian laureate of Shepherdstown.

O’Connor admits that while the entire story has never been told, pieces of the story have been popular in Gettysburg for many years.

“What is unusual about this book is that it is often said that ‘brother fought against brother’ which they did,” O’Connor said in a release. “Brothers fought on different sides of the conflict. It is unusual to find brothers who actually fought in the same battle on the same day. And these two brothers did that twice.”

O’Connor’s research took him to the national archives, the research library at Carlisle, Pa., and to the Adams County Historical Society in Gettysburg. He poured through newspaper accounts and official rosters of the two units involved. National Park historian Dennis Frye’s book on the regimental history of the 2nd Virginia was the basis of a great deal of information about Wesley’s regiment.

Wesley, the Shepherdstown lad, was a member of the Hamtramck Guards. He had been working for the Hoffman Carriage Company in Gettysburg as a tailor. In 1856, the carriage company moved to Shepherdstown and made carriages in a building that still stands today, at the northeast corner of Princess and New Streets.

When the fighting began Wesley enlisted with his Shepherdstown friends in the 2nd Virginia at Harpers Ferry, a unit that soon became part of the famed Stonewall Brigade. The unit (which included Henry Kyd Douglas) was trained at Bolivar Heights above Harpers Ferry and we actively involved in burning the bridge across the Potomac River. Douglas’s father was a stockholder and part owner of that bridge.

Wesley’s brother William, along with his Gettysburg friends enlisted in Company E of the 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry, a unit that became part of the 87th Pennsylvania Infantry. Wesley’s friend, Johnston Hastings “Jack” Skelly Jr. (part of the same regiments that William had joined) and his girlfriend Mary Virginia Wade are the other two main characters in the novel.

All the characters in O’Connor’s latest book are real. All the situations really happened. The historical fiction part comes in the dialogue which has been fabricated by the author. The cover of the book is a popular painting by famed Civil War artist Mort Kunstler called “My friend, the enemy” drawn for the movie “Gods and Generals.”

The author has been a finalist four times in national book awards. He has spoken over 90 times in 18 states this year about his books.

His books are available at Patterson’s Drug Store in Martinsburg, at Four Season’s Books in Shepherdstown, at the Charles Town Visitors Center and at the Jefferson County Visitors Center in Harpers Ferry. They are also available on line at www.boboconnorbooks.com, at www.buybooksontheweb.com and at www.amazon.com. Several of the author’s books are also available for purchase as e-books.