White Mane Kids

retreat from gettysburg, civil war stories
"...vivid word-pictures and splendid writing."
Civil War Book Review

"...a richly detailed historical story that illustrates the horrors that war visits on both combatants and civilians."
Children's Literature

"Meticulous attention to history is the strong point of this first-person narrative."

The award-winning Retreat From Gettysburg is the fourth of Kathleen's six books about the American Civil War. It is written for age 13 and up who enjoy historical fiction without sex, gore, or explicit violence.

Story Description

Chigger O’Malley, of Williamsport, Maryland, is happy when rains and floodwater trap Robert E. Lee’s army after its dismal retreat from the battlefield at Gettysburg. His father and three older brothers, all members of the Union army’s famed Irish Brigade, have been killed in battle. Chigger hopes the Union army will attack the withdrawing Confederates and end the war. But when events force Chigger and his mother to care for a wounded Confederate officer, the issues of right and wrong, of friend and enemy-become more difficult to answer.

The tense week after the Battle of Gettysburg provides the backdrop for this suspenseful tale of self-discovery as Chigger decides whether or not to leave his widowed mother to fight for the Union.

This book contains period photos and illustrations, an author's note, and lists of educational activities and additional resources. This story is available as a 145-page printed book.

What Others Are Saying

Image of Council for Wisconsin Writers Award logo. Arthur Tofte Juvenile Fiction Award
Council for Wisconsin Writers

The CWW is a community of writers, poets, and educators dedicated to recognizing oustanding work by Wisconsin authors.
Photo of D. Scott Hartwig. D. Scott Hartwig
Historian, Gettysburg National Military Park

"Excellent…the choice of an Irish family near Williamsport at the tail end of the Gettysburg Campaign offers a refreshingly different perspective of the war and its impact upon common people."
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Review by Toniann Scime

"The research and attention to detail are exemplary; the author has masterfully combined factual events with a powerful plot. ...An excellent example of how to teach history through fiction."

About the Author

Bestselling author Kathleen Ernst writes award-winning mysteries, historical fiction, and non-fiction for adults and young readers.

Her work has earned numerous honors, including two lifetime writing achievement awards, an Emmy for educational television, and an Edgar Allan Poe and multiple Agatha Christie mystery award nominations.

To date nearly 1.8 million audio, ebook, and print copies of Kathleen's thirty-eight published books have been purchased. more>>

Related Blog Posts

Enjoy the author's insights about the story, characters, and settings.

Retreat From Gettysburg: The Stories Behind The Stories

Black and white image of Williamsport, Maryland from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, January, 1862/Library of Congress.  Williamsport sits on the banks of the Potomac River, within sight of the Virginia shore. After the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, the defeated Confederates knew that if they could reach Virginia, they’d be safe... more>>

Reenacting For Writers

hearts of stone, civil war stories

My husband, daughter Meg, and I reached Spring Hill, TN, in a driving rain. The temperature was dropping. The parking lot—a field intended to hold the vehicles of 10,000 or so Civil War reenactors and their gear—was a sea of mud... more>>

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Author's Note

Hear the word “Gettysburg” and you probably think of the terrible three-day battle that took place 150 years ago in Pennsylvania. The drama didn’t end there, though.


I love writing books about lesser-known stories, and the tense days that followed the battle definitely qualify. Can you imagine having the entire Confederate army descend upon your tiny village?


Young Chigger O’Malley is one of my favorite characters, too. I think you’ll enjoy making his acquaintance!

Book Goodies

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Confederate Retreat

General Robert E. Lee ordered his Confederate army to retreat back to Virginia after their defeat in the bloody 3-day fight at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It is said that his wagon train, carrying supplies and wounded soldiers, was 17-miles long. The drawing below shows one small portion of that wagon train. Click on the drawing to see a larger copy of it.

Confederate Column Retreating After Battle of Gettysburg

Union Advance

After the horrendous fighting at Gettysburg, the Union army was exhausted. Days went by before commanding General George G. Meade finally got his Union troops in motion. The painting below shows Union forces marching in the rain as they began their belated pursuit of the Confederates. Click on the oil painting below to see a larger copy of it.

Union Column Pursuing Confederates After Battle of Gettysburg

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