Press Release:

Prince William County author Katherine Gotthardt will hold a reading and book signing of her newly released collection Poems from the Battlefield on Sunday, November 1, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. at Manassas Museum, 9101 Prince William Street, Manassas, VA.
A portion of the proceeds from book sales will be donated to support local and national parks as well as historic preservation efforts.

Poems from the Battlefield captures unique aspects of the Civil War in Manassas and Prince William County, Virginia. Using persona, metaphor, photos and quotes, Gotthardt brings readers from contemporary park experiences back to the days of the Civil War, offering multiple perspectives and insight. Alongside historic themes, the poems touch upon anti-war sentiments, feminism, diversity and humanitarianism.

“Most of my context comes from hikes and photos I took at Manassas Museum, Bristoe Station, Manassas National Battlefield Park and Brentsville Courthouse Historic Center,” Gotthardt said. “But there are some personal metaphors built into the poetry as well, which makes the book especially meaningful for me. And, of course, there are certainly global themes that need to be re-examined.”

In the book’s afterword, Gotthardt writes, “In some poems, you might recognize relationships between past and present historic struggles with our current domestic climate of fear that prevents us from being our very best selves.”

Gotthardt said she believes that especially with the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Civil War (2011-2015), it is crucial that we recall what that war meant in terms of national legacy and how we should examine the Civil War period when analyzing our contemporary society. “We see the same patterns over and over again throughout history,” she said. “It’s too true–learn from history or repeat it.”

Gotthardt does not seek to relay details of history or battles. Rather, she says, she offers a collection of impressions, images, and emotion, as well as obvious bewilderment at how easily we invite our own destruction.

“War is tragic,” she said. “I want people to recognize that.”

She also said, “I wanted these poems to be powerful, relevant, accessible and interesting even to those who wouldn’t normally look at poetry. And I wanted to deepen the experience by offering words and pictures of the people who lived at that time, because these people are part of our history, and they matter. In remembering them, we remind ourselves that they still matter and that what we do matters.”

A wife and mother, Gotthardt is a poetry and prose writer residing in Western Prince William County where she enjoys exploring history, art, culture and nature. An advocate for preservation, conservation and civic engagement, Gotthardt volunteers for several non-profit organizations. She is a freelance, community writer for News & Messenger newspaper and has authored a children’s book soon to be released. Gotthardt also teaches college English composition online and assists with assessing adult ESOL students’ language skills.

For more information and a list of other events, visit

I have already received my copy. It is a delightful little book with very interesting, yet haunting illustrations.



38 Thoughts to “Local Author to Hold Reading and Book Signing-Poems from the Battlefield”

  1. Hey, thanks for posting that, MH! Really nice of you.

    A huge thanks goes to Manassas Museum’s Jane Riley for working with me on the reading.

    Sneak peak: one of the photos in the book is of a display case in the museum. There’s a Civil War uniform in the display. The reflection of the light on the glass makes the uniform look ghostly.

  2. You are more than welcome, Pinko. May the force be with you.

  3. Hee heee! I am quite sure there is SOME force with me, though I am not quite sure what that might be.

    Anyway, glad you like the book.

  4. Cool, Pinko! See you Sunday!

  5. Last Best Hope

    Katherine, thank you for writing this book and congratulations. I feel very strongly that we should embrace our Civil War heritage, and not allow modern day applications of race and politics to make us ashamed of who we are as Virginians. War is tragic indeed, and this war was the most tragic of all in many ways. 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War, more than all the other wars the United States has fought COMBINED, from the Revolution through Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

    We take pride in commemorating the Revolutionary War, which was a civil war after all that turned out differently, so we should take price in the Civil War as well, even though Virginia fought on the losing side.

  6. Well said, Last Best Hope. I have never been ashamed of being a Virginian. It is very possible to honor one’s heritage without using that heritage to promote negative feelings.

    I was fortunate enough to have known some of the people who lived during that time. Granted, they were very old, and I was very young, but I still was in their presence.

    My mother was a great conduit from the past to the present. She heard her grandfather, old aunts and relatives tell stories and she passed them along to her children. These weren’t the stories of rednecks with beer bellies and shot guns shouting ‘the South will Rise Again.” They were the stories of people who thought of themselves as Virginians as a primary identifier, and the stories of people who very much did not want to be at war.

    It is all too easy to get mired down in stereotypes nowadays. Thank you all for the reminder not to do this and to honor our past.

  7. Thank YOU all for the insightful comments! Perhaps YOU should do the commentary Sunday–I won’t be able to compete with any of that! Cindy, since you’re going, I expect you to volunteer 🙂

    One reason I wrote the book, LBH and MH, is that I couldn’t (and still can’t) rectify the conflicting ideas of pride in heritage and war between people who to a large extent shared that heritage. The Civil war wasn’t just about the states–it was a personal, internal conflict that yes, MH, had much to do with self identification, but also the pressure to “choose a side.”

    Whenever a group or a society demands we choose a side, the red flag should go up. That’s the “either/or” logical fallacy at work, and need to beware. Standing in the middle might be painful and even confusing, but if more people did it, we would see less war.

  8. I think most people who did not profit from the war, were simply people trying to make the best of a world in which they found themselves. I don’t stand in judgement. There is too much conflict and too much we will never understand because we were not alive at that time. It is impossible to infuse yourself into an environment where you are 148 years out of social sync.

  9. kelly3406

    Congratulations on the book. I have read extensively about the Civil War. Not to be unkind, but Pinko does not strike me as particularly knowledgeable about warfare or 1860s history (if I am wrong about this, just say so). Can Pinko explain how this book was researched? Is the book really based on Civil War perspectives, or is it based on a modern anti-war perspective applied to the Civil War? If I were to purchase it, what unique aspect would the book add to my Civil War library?

  10. Thank you, Kellly. And good questions! You can read more about the book here:

    In the book’s afterword and in the “about” link I posted, I make it clear I am not a historian, nor am I attempting to interpret battle scenes. I’m just not gifted in that way. My interest is in the psychological, sociological and cultural, not in battle strategy.

    Hiking through the Battlefields launched my interest in the topic because it occurred to me one day that I was hiking in a cemetery. (Read “To the Hikers” if you want to experience that discovery on my part.) Visits to various sites and reading enriched my own background.

    Why should you buy the book?

    1. I address aspects of the war that aren’t typically discussed in the war books or at least haven’t been put poetically. For example, in “Casualties of War,” there is the kind of (rhyming) dialog that can occur only between hurt people who aren’t sure of each other and who, because there is already an air of distrust and tension, won’t reveal much about the self. This creates even more mistrust and a negative outcome (which you will have to read about in the book). The poem is a metaphor for the battle between the states and between soldiers, but also, it emphasizes human dynamics and what happens when people who have lived with violence try to communicate.

    2. The book features contemporary park sites such as Chinn Ridge, Stone Bridge, Stone House etc. as settings for poems. Manassas Museum, Bristoe Station and Brentsville Courthouse inspired other poems. “The Luncheon Ladies” specifically deals with the ladies who took picnics to watch the first battle of Bull Run. This book is a tribute to our local heritage. Most books you see on sale at park book stores aren’t so personal or contemporary.

    3. Use of Civil War soldier and civilian persona run rampant in the poems. “I the author” am not the narrator in most of these. Readers should always ask (and not just when reading these poems, but all literature), “Who is doing the talking, and why are they saying what they are saying?” These “voices” come from the readings I have done on the park sites and elsewhere. It’s my attempt to understand the people from 148 years ago, which, as MH says, isn’t easy.

    4. Some poems address the tensions between having to choose sides and what that might have felt like. Some address the horrors of war–but it’s more like we shouldn’t forget how horrible it was because if we do, we are more prone to repeat it. There are plenty of blood-and-guts images in there.

    I also wanted to stress how important it is that we don’t take these battles for granted. These men fought because they believed in something. Ultimately, what that comes down to, is they wanted freedom and peace. THAT is what we need to remember. We all want the same things, and if we perpetuate the war between the states and each other instead of reconciling our differences, we do them–and ourselves–a disservice.

    5. Photos come from the parks themselves but also from national archives. Quotes from soldiers and civilians accompany many of the poems. These quotes and photos really made me think while going through the revision process.

    Sometimes I think I learned more about the people of that time from reading the short quotes than trying to read a biography. These snippets give invaluable access to a tiny part of that person’s thinking process.

    As you can tell, I could write on and on about this. The project has been incredibly self-indulgent, and if asked to explicate each poem, I would gladly do so. Unfortunately, I can’t do it through speaking as well as I can in writing. But if anyone asks at the readings, I will do my best.

    Last comment (sorry to be so windy): even if you aren’t a poetry fan, buy the book and support the parks. At the moment (and for quite some time), I am not making a penny off this book. But the parks will benefit from it, and that’s crucial, especially when funding is tight and historic sites are threatened by over-development.

  11. @kelly3406
    One more thing–my undergrad is in English lit. I took several semesters and focused classes on American lit. My hero is Henry David Thoreau and the Transcendentalists, all Civil War period figures. (I have a sketch of Thoreau on my wall in my living room.) So I guess you could say that’s where my historic interest began.

    Okay, my first love affair with Thoreau was in my sophomore year of high school. But that is really going back further than I want. Going even further back, I used to swim and fish at Walden Pond.

    In 2007, I went back to Concord Mass to visit Author’s Ridge cemetery, the Alcott house and all the other fun sites that only Concord can offer. If people are seeking another perspective on the Civil War, I would encourage them to visit Concord. I am so fortunate that I have been able to grow up in that world and live in this one here as well.

  12. Pinko, I think it is important, especially in Manassas, to bring that other perspective to the Civil War. I have lieved most of my live around Civil War Battlefields. So much of my exposure has been southern Civil War culture.

    Kelly, maybe this is a girl thing but there is a lot of Civil War history that isn’t battle-centric that I find facinating. I particularly like the old diaries. Women ran most of the households while their men were away at war. Just the fact that communications were so poor and so much of housewifery was unassisted by modern convention adds a touch to the history.

    I have a lot to learn and much of what I would like to learn has been buried by time. And much of what I want to learn has also never trickled south.

    I also like the paranormal influence that has been documented in this area. Some of the documentation is so strong is makes you wonder…even if you are grounded in science…

  13. MH, I hope there’s enough gore in the book to attract men 🙂

    I also like ghosts.

  14. kelly3406

    Thanks for the answers, Pinko.

    I didn’t say the book had to be battle-centric to be interesting, MH. I just asked what was unique about it.

    I am not sure that I agree about an air of distrust and tension among the wounded; once a soldier is wounded he instantly became a non-combatant, entitled to assistance from the other side. However, if her view is backed up by the quotes she mentions, then the viewpoint presented by Pinko may make the poetry well worth a read.

    There are plenty of examples of non-combatants trusting each other enough to share water, food, and medical assistance. According to the official histories of Gettysburg, the two most common cries of the wounded from both sides were requests for water and for their mothers.

  15. @kelly3406
    In this case, it’s psychologically wounded soldiers still serving. The end (should give) gives you the impression that this is where friendly fire might come from.

  16. kelly3406

    So where does one buy the book? I am usually willing to support local authors, even one with the nom de plume “Posting as Pinko.” 😉

  17. M-H in Drag

    Kelly, you didn’t say it. I just broad brushed. Sorry.

    Kelly, you might know the answer to this–what was the name of that perfectly dreadful movie that was Civil War related? Something Mountain? Cold Mountain? That was one of the most distressing movies I have ever seen. If you know what I am talking about, how commonplace was that story? I still haven’t recovered from seeing it and it had to have come out 5 years ago. I want to say Nicole Kidman was in it.

  18. M-H in Drag

    Pinko, I just sent you a story written by my great great aunt Sallie. She witnessed the Skirmish at Rio as a kid. I believe she wrote her story when she was a teenager or young adult.

  19. kelly3406

    @M-H in Drag

    I did not see the movie, but you are likely referring to Cold Mountain. I did not watch it, because it sounded too much like a ‘chick flick.’

    The issue of desertion is discussed at , which also provides good references. There appears to have been quite a lot of deserters by 1865, but not due to any lack of courage or commitment. Soldiers in the Army of Northern Virginia were battle-tested and seasoned against the numerically superior Union forces. However, with Sherman rampaging through the South, the war all but lost, and food/supplies difficult to come by, many Confederate soldiers are thought to have left the Army in order to protect their families.

  20. M-H in Drag

    Thanks Kelly, I am going to check out that link.

    Yes, it was Cold Mountain. My mother said it was a horrible book so I never bothered to read it. My daughter and I went to the movie and she came out of it furious because she had gone to it. (she is an adult) I found it to be horribly disturbing. I could have done with a little more chick and a little less violence.

    I am not one of those who wants war movies sanitized and I don’t like glamourizing war. But this was …not war violence. I am not sure one is better than the other but this was just dreadful. I will try to find the synopsis and leave it because I do want your opinion.

    I had always heard the same thing about desertion. Hopeless cause and the families were starving and being ravaged by maurading gangs of soldiers, often deserters from the other side.

    The older I get the less tolerant I become of the Civil War. I think everyone was wrong.

  21. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    I LOVE Cold Mountain. A little something for everyone!

  22. LOL yea killing. the brutality bothered me a great deal. Not really the movie brutality, but the thought that people would prey on their townspeople like that.

  23. Slowpoke Rodriguez


    War, and Nicole Kidman’s behind….what’s not to like? With respect to the cruelty that inflicted upon the locals by the “home guard”….can I interest you in a little 2nd Amendment?

  24. Had the home guard rounded up all their weapons? I don’t remember that part. I was hung up on what was done to the mother. I forget even why the guy had deserted.

  25. Here are the spark notes for Kelly. I am re-reading. Obviously I missed or forgot a few things.

    Wasn’t Renee whats her name in that movie also?

  26. I cant find the part I found so horrifying…where the farm woman who had befriended Nicole Kidman had been raped, brutalized, and had arms broken by the home guard.

    But in reading the review, I remember now why I disliked the movie so much.

    Also, surely people weren’t that crummy and scuzzy. Now a lot of things I heard as a kid are making a lot of sense.

  27. @M-H in Drag
    Oh my! Thank you! I will be sure to respond ASAP.

  28. @kelly3406
    Kelly, I once took an 8 hour walk in Manassas Battlefield (it was a goal of mine) and re-read Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage.” If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it! It gave me a real sense of the valid reasons for wanting to desert. I have a poem inspired by that–
    “For the Red Badge.”

  29. I have another poem about soldiers who return, too. But I won’t say anymore. You have to buy the book 🙂

  30. kelly3406

    Of course I have read “The Red Badge of Courage. I am not sure you and I would ever agree on a “valid reason” for desertion.

  31. kelly3406

    Thanks for the summary of Cold Mountain It still sounds like one that I can forego.

  32. Enjoyed the reading, Pinko!

    Jane Riley said the poet laureate of Virginia, Claudia Emerson is reading at the Museum next weekend.

    Also, the author of the new “Manassas Mosaic: Creating a Community” will be at the Neighborhood Conference on Nov. 14.

  33. What happened to Carolyn Kreiter–Foronda? I thought she was the poet laureate. She is a former classmate of mine.

  34. Ooops her time ran out. This new one is from Mary Washington also. Different side of the desk.

  35. Kelly, I really didn’t like it but it was disturbing enough to remember. It really wasn’t chick.

    Didn’t everyone have to read Red Badge of Courage? I know I had to-a million years ago.

    I think civilians just look at desertion differently, or perhaps I should say people who have never been in the military.

    On the other hand, look how many years people have been debating Billy Budd.

  36. @kelly3406
    I said valid reasons for WANTING to desert. Other than that, I reserve judgment since I’ve never had to stick my face in front of a bullet.

  37. Cindy, thanks for coming! I was happy with the turnout–17 people. That’s pretty good for a poetry reading and a general audience. It was nice to get to talk about the poetry, too.

    I wish my schedule didn’t conflict for next week. Would love to hear Emerson.

Comments are closed.