Scott Mingus Interview

Louisiana Tigers / Pinkerton Agency

Harry Smeltzer Interview, Battle of First Manassas, Bull Run BattleIt is our pleasure to bring you the Scott Mingus interview. For many years he has served the Civil War community through his blogs and as a published author.

He is also a Civil War wargamer and has won many awards connected with the hobby. In addition, Scott works with his wife Debi on a wargaming newsletter named Charge! produced by the Johnny Reb Gaming Society.

Scott was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions for Total Gettysburg. And without any further delay we bring you the Scott Mingus interview.


1) Hi Scott, thanks for joining us today. Please take this opportunity to briefly tell us about yourself, your blog at www.scottmingus.wordpress.com, and anything else you'd like to mention.

SM: I am by profession a scientist and executive in the global paper industry, with patents in self-adhesive postage stamps and bar code labels. I currently am the Global Director of New Product Development for Glatfelter, a $1.5 billion paper company based here in York, Pennsylvania. As a hobby, I write Civil War books and magazine articles, with seven non-fiction books currently in print and four more in various stages, plus 5 scenario books for wargaming. I have two blogs on the Civil War -- www.scottmingus.wordpress.com which covers my hobby of miniature wargaming and http://www.yorkblog.com/cannonball/ for York County, Pa. in the Civil War (which I maintain for the York Daily Record newspaper. I also am a sanctioned Civil War tour guide for the York County Heritage Trust.

My wife Debi and I publish CHARGE!, a quarterly newsletter for regimental-level Civil War miniature wargaming. It's available as hard copies and on-line as digital downloads at The Wargame Vault.


2) In layman's terms, please describe the concept of Civil War wargaming and how does it help portray events in the Civil War?

SM: Miniature Civil War wargaming is a hobby with its roots in the game of chess. Instead of a flat game board, the battlefield is simulated in 3D with model railroad-style terrain, with trees, rivers, woods, houses, fences, stone walls, etc. (these are often set on the table top to depict actual battles from history such as Gettysburg or Shiloh). Miniature figurines are used to depict actual troops (infantry, cavalry, or artillery), usually in a set scale such as 1 figure equals 30 actual combat troops (such as in the popular rules set Johnny Reb 3). Hence, a 240-man Civil War regiment can be portrayed on the tabletop by an 8-figure miniature regiment. Some rules use 1 figure for 200 men for larger scale battles; others are one for one for skirmish or company level gaming. The figures are usually grouped onto a base stand for ease of movement and tactical control. Movement, morale, leadership, fire power, defensive ratings, etc. are usually factored into the rules to simulate a unit's combat or maneuver ability. Die rolls are often used to predict casualties, with modifications to the pip tally from morale, tiredness, number of figures able to fire, target distance and morale, visibility, etc. Units can lose figures, or lose cohesion and formation and then retreat or rout off the board. Figures and ground scale can vary, with 25mm and 15mm figures (height from foot to head) the most popular).

Gamers can set up specific actions such as the attack on the Sunken Road at Antietam, a squad out on skirmish duty, or the entire battle of Chancellorsville (depending upon ground scale and troop scale). Some gamers prefer instead to create random or hypothetical battle situations where no one knows the historical outcomes, reinforcements, etc. I like to construct miniature battlefields based upon historical maps and then refight the battles. This helps me to visualize the terrain and its tactical implications, and often helps me better understand the actual fighting.


3) When did you first develop an interest in the Civil War and how have your views about the conflict changed since then?

SM: I grew up in southeastern Ohio, an area steeped in Civil War history. Generals William T. Sherman and Phil Sheridan's homes were within an hour's drive of my hometown, as was famed drummer boy Johnny Shiloh. George Armstrong Custer, Ulysses S. Grant, and other Ohioans played important roles in the conflict. Many of my own ancestors fought for the Union during the war, including three great-great-uncles who fought in the 7th West Virginia at Antietam and Gettysburg. My great-great-grandfather on Mom's side of the family was a 15-year-old drummer in the 51st Ohio. He was an immigrant from England. During the Civil War Centennial in 1963 my parents gave a a Marx Blue & Gray playset for Christmas (I still have most of the plastic toy soldiers from that set). That sparked my interest, and when I got a little older I started checking out Civil War books from our local library. Now, decades later, I realize war is far from glamorous, and those childhood battles in my sandbox under the old apple tree in our back yard seem so innocent from what the realities must have been. My ancestors fought to preserve the Union, but interestingly, I have written three books on Confederate brigades from the Gettysburg Campaign -- John Gordon's Georgians (Flames Beyond Gettysburg), Extra Billy Smith's Virginians (Gettysburg's Controversial Old Confederate General: Gov. William "Extra Billy" Smith of Virginia), and the Louisiana Tigers.

My research into the Extra Billy Smith book gave me a much deeper understanding of Southern ideals on states rights, slavery, tariffs, banking, westward expansion, globalization, and all the other divisive issues which threatened to split the country in the early to mid-1800s. My ancestors fought not to free the slaves but instead to preserve the Union. Now I understand their enemies a little more. May such a civil war never again occur in America.


4) Your recent book, 'The Louisiana Tigers in the Gettysburg Campaign' has been very well-received by the Civil war community and was touted by one reader as "a top-notch book that belongs on the shelf of every Gettysburg enthusiast." What inspired you to write about the Louisiana Tigers in particular?

Scott Mingus Interview, Louisiana Tigers, Pinkerton AgencySM: My primary interest lies in two angles -- my ancestors in the 7th West Virginia fought against the Tigers on Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg, and the Tigers spent 3 days and nights camping here in York, Pa., right before the battle of Gettysburg. Their escapades here in York County are fascinating, and I expanded that research into a full-length book covering the Louisianans throughout the campaign from the time they broke camp in Virginia in early June until the time they returned to the Old Dominion in July. The Tigers were a fascinating bunch. They had French Creoles and Cajuns from the bayous, an entire regiment of Irishmen (many of them immigrants to New Orleans), legions of farm boys from northern Louisiana, Norwegians, Danes, Englishmen, Jewish-Germans, and men "of every hue and color." Some went into battle carrying wicked-looking and lethal Bowie knives, and the brigade's love for alcohol is legendary.


5) Thanks Scott for taking the time to speak with us and we'd like to wrap it up with one more question. If you could go back in time and gain insight into one of the great mysteries of the Civil War, which would it be?

SM: One of the mysteries that interests me has local roots. After being elected president in 1860, Lincoln traveled by train from his home in Springfield, Illinois, to Washington for his inauguration in early 1861. Detectives from what became the Pinkerton Agency uncovered hints of a plot to kill Lincoln when he changed trains in Baltimore (he had to travel about a mile on a public street between two train stations for rival railroad lines). His train steamed through York County for Baltimore in front of thousands of spectators who lined the tracks. However Lincoln was not on that train as scheduled and advertised. He took a night train through Philadelphia and arrived in Baltimore undetected (some accounts suggest he was in disguise, or at least was wearing clothing that was not indicative of his position as president-elect). Not all of the details of the plot are fully understood, and there remain dark hints of a wider involvement. John Wilkes Booth, four years later, does kill the president. Booth had studied at a York school, and the man who held his horse outside of Ford's Theater, Ned Spangler, was a York native. Anti-Lincoln sentiment was very strong here. So, I would like to more fully understand the depth and breadth of the various assassination plots and schemes, and if there really was no indirect or direct involvement by the Confederate government or its operatives.

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