This weekend, Civil War enthusiasts will get the chance to meet with Bethany Beach author and Civil War historian Tom Ryan.
Ryan will be signing copies of his 2015 book, “Spies, Scouts & Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign: How the Critical Role of Intelligence Impacted the Outcome of Lee’s Invasion of the North, June-July 1863.” The signing will be held from noon to 2 p.m. on Friday, July 1, at Bethany Beach Books.
Ryan is the former president of the Central Delaware Civil War Round Table and a longtime member of the Gettysburg Foundation and the Civil War Trust.
Ryan is well known to Civil War buffs for his previously published works, including articles in the Washington Times newspaper and Gettysburg magazine. He is also the author of “Essays on Delaware during the Civil War: A Political, Military & Social Perspective,” which is a collection of his weekly “Civil War Profiles” columns published in the Coastal Point.
Ryan himself spent his career in intelligence, first serving three years in the U.S. Army, followed by 35 years with the Department of Defense. It was during his career at the DOD that he met Civil War scholars writing about intelligence operations.
“My interest picked up after I retired in 1994 and began pursuing more information about the Civil War. I went on a month-long trip to many of the Civil War battlefields,” he recalled. “My wife and I traveled in a high-top van from state to state, covering a total of about 6,000 miles.”
“Spies, Scouts & Secrets” was born out of a five-part series Ryan wrote for Gettysburg magazine from 2003 to 2006. He continued his research for several more years to create the book.
The Battle of Gettysburg lasted only three days, but Ryan researched the entire Gettysburg Campaign.
“By the ‘campaign,’ I mean when the Confederate and Union armies were down around Fredericksburg, Va., initially, facing each other across the Rappahannock River,” explained Ryan.
“Then, Gen. Robert E. Lee decided to invade the north by marching through the Shenandoah Valley, up into Maryland and into Pennsylvania. And, of course, the Union Army pursued the Confederates.
“The Rebels started their movement northward on June 3, and the Battle of Gettysburg began on July 1. So it took the armies almost a month to reach that small town in southcentral Pennsylvania that few people had heard of before. Following the battle, the Rebels retreated back into Virginia, with the Union forces in pursuit. This required another month-long march, so the campaign did not end until the beginning of August.”
The distinctive feature of Ryan’s book is the focus on the intelligence aspect of that campaign.
“My interest was certainly in intelligence. At the time, there were very few people who were researching intelligence operations during the Civil War. So the field was kind of left open. As a result, the information contained in my book is unique in many respects.”
The Robert E. Lee Civil War Round Table of Central New Jersey awarded Ryan’s “Spies, Scouts & Secrets” the 2015 Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award, presented annually to the work that most significantly contributes to the knowledge of the Gettysburg campaign or to its memorialization.
“Ted Savas of my publishing company, Savas Beatie, posted on Facebook that they were informed by the Robert E. Lee Civil War Round Table that one of the books they published was going to win the award for this year.
“Then I got a call — the next day, I think… I got a call that my book had won. It came out of the blue. Naturally, I was extremely pleased and astonished, to tell you the truth. It’s a pretty prestigious award, as far as the Civil War community is concerned. It’s one of the big ones to win. I was surprised, but pleasantly so.”
In addition, the Eastern Shore Writers Association awarded an honorable mention to Ryan’s book in the non-fiction category for the 2015 Delmarva Book Prize.
Ryan speculated that interest in the Civil War has increased thanks to Ken Burns’ television series “The Civil War.”
“It was amazing how people all over the country suddenly became extremely interested in the Civil War,” he said. “The Ken Burns series has been replayed a number of times on PBS and keeps generating interest, so every new generation gets exposed to that story. The issue of slavery is also a generator of interest… I think that, over the years, people have maintained an interest, or curiosity at least, about the slavery issue.”
Ryan has scheduled numerous speaking engagements and book signings for 2016. In addition to the Bethany Beach Books signing this Friday, he will hold a signing at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach on Saturday, July 23, from noon to 2 p.m.
Those who are unable to attend the signings can hear historian Vince Houghton interview Ryan for the Washington, D.C., International Spy Museum’s Podcast, “Spycast,” online at www.spymuseum.org/multimedia/spycast/episode/author-debriefing-spies-sco....
Bethany Beach Books is located at 99 Garfield Parkway in Bethany Beach. For information about Ryan’s Bethany Beach Books signing, visit www.bethanybeachbooks.com/author-events/tomryan. For more information about Ryan, or to book a speaking engagement, visit his website at www.tomryan-civilwar.com.