Part of the USA Today Network

George Franks’ new book on the Battle of Falling Waters, 1863


One of the last battles of the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign took place near Williamsport, Maryland, when Union cavalry attacked the Confederate rear guard at Falling Waters, named for a nearby small waterfall in the Potomac River. The swirling fighting took the life of CSA Brigadier General J. Johnston Pettigrew, who had led a significant portion of the troops which had assaulted the Union line on Cemetery Ridge during the Battle of Gettysburg (the celebrated Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Assault popularly known as Pickett’s Charge).

However, most of Robert E. Lee’s Rebels managed to evacuate successfully across the Potomac River at Williamsport and Falling Waters, vexing President Abraham Lincoln who had hoped to destroy Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia before it could return to Virginia.

About a decade ago, Civil War buff George F. Franks III, a Navy veteran and business consultant, purchased one of the historic properties on the old Falling Waters battlefield. He researched the battle extensively, became active in local preservation activities, and began writing a manuscript on the fight.

The book is now in print. Battle of Falling Waters 1863: Custer, Pettigrew and the End of the Gettysburg Campaign is a fascinating read.


The book is an easy read, well researched, and authoritative. George Franks, having studied the battle for years, presents the fight in its proper context in the overall Gettysburg Campaign. He briefly discusses the campaign as a whole, the fight at Gettysburg, and the retreat toward the river, setting the stage for the battle.

Falling Waters1

Often relegated to a single paragraph (or even merely a sentence) in many battle histories, Falling Waters represented a missed opportunity for the Union army, and a tragic end to the campaign for hundreds of Confederate soldiers who became casualties or prisoners of war. Franks has brought this long forgotten and oft overlooked battle back into the limelight with his new book. George Armstrong Custer, General Pettigrew, H. Judson Kilpatrick — the commanders of both opposing forces are presented in enough detail to give an insight into their leadership styles.


Maps by Gettysburg National Military Park librarian John Heiser and period illustrations help give the reader a glimpse of the battlefield environs and the tactics used.  The descriptions of the fighting a lucid and clearly presented, enabling the reader to gain an in-depth knowledge of Falling Waters.

Falling Waters2

According to author George Franks, Col. John Brockenbrough’s Virginians and Brigadier General Joseph Davis’s Mississippi and North Carolina troops were in line of battle on the far side of the road during the fighting at Falling Waters on July 14, 1863. George has the unique perspective of being one of the few Civil War authors who physically lives on the battlefield he writes about in his book.

Battle of Falling Waters 1863 is available signed directly from the author at his website at It is also available from leading on-line retailers and book sellers.

This book more than aptly fills in a missing piece of the Gettysburg historiography, and deserves a place on your bookshelf.