Book Review Gunpowder Girls: The True Stories of Three Civil War Tragedies


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Jul 21, 2015

Author: Tanya Anderson
Title: Gunpowder Girls: The True Stories Of Three Civil War Tragedies
Publisher: Quindaro Press (October 11, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0966925874
ISBN-13: 978-0966925876
Hardcover: 160 pages
Price: $16.95 retail.

This short book is about the Allegheny Arsenal explosion on September 17,1862(4 chapters),the Richmond Arsenal explosion on March 13,1863(2 chapters) and the Washington Arsenal explosion on June 17,1864(3 chapters). The 160 pages includes an Epilogue,Author's Note,Endnotes,Selected Bibliography,Recommended Readings and an Index.

Obviously, due to the length of the book,there is not a full booklength coverage of each arsenal explosion. Not sure one exists. i first became interested in
this topic after doing CW research for a trip to Pittsburgh and visiting the site of the Allegheny Arsenal in June 2016.

The first chapter of the book explains the production of CW rifle cartridges in general and particularly at the Allegheny Arsenal. They were produced primarily by women and children. The book describes the layout of each arsenal,the working conditions and number of women and children employed in each arsenal section which produced rifle cartidges,the investigation and cause of each explosion,the casualties and the aftermath. Selected and poignant stories of some of the women and children who died in the explosions and some who survived and the hardships to their families are recounted in the book. Many of the women and children were working there to support their families because their husbands,fathers,sons and brothers were off fighting as soldiers in the war. The funerals and burial arrangements and memorials erected thereafter are also described in the book. For each explosion there is a list of the known names and ages of the casualties.

The book is geared more toward young readers,particulary females,but is very informative and suitable for adult and male readers.

From the back cover:

"Outstanding...Thoroughly researched and beautifully written, this tragic story of 140 girls and young women killed by gunpowder explosions in three arsenals where they produced ammunition for Civil War armies reveals details previously unfamiliar even to Civil War historians. We can now add their names to the human toll of America's greatest conflict." -- James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era"

From the inside flap of the back cover:

"Tanya Anderson is an award-winning author and editor of books for young readers. She has worked for more than twenty years in various editorial functions for Pages Publishing Group, Guideposts for Teens, SRA/McGraw-Hill, Darby Creek Publishing, and School Street Media, her own business.
Anderson is the author of more than thirty books published in children's and educational book markets. Her book, Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the Battle of Gettysburg, is also a narrative nonfiction book for young readers. It was a Junior Library Guild Selection and won the 2014 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for Teen Nonfiction.
Anderson lives in Springfield, Ohio, most of the year, but retreats to Palm Harbor, Florida, when it gets too cold. Her website is She has also created a website to share even more information about this book at"