Past is Prologue

Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

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How a Union drunkard at Fredericksburg invented fracking

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

Here’s my favorite chance discovery from this weekend’s reading on the Web: A piece by Len Boselovic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette headlined, “‘The Boom’: Meet the frackers.” Subhead: Journalist Russell Gold writes an even-handed history of a controversial practice.

Here’s a photo of the book’s author, who is a writer with the Wall Street Journal:

Russell Gold

Russell Gold

Just read Boselovic’s first paragraphs, and you’ll see why I found his article — and the new book he’s writing about — so intriguing:

“Edward A.L. Roberts was a drunken lieutenant colonel for the Union army during the Civil War. Facing court-martial, he offered his resignation, but not before surviving some of the fiercest fighting of the war during the Army of the Potomac’s mindless assault up Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg, Va., in December 1862.

“During the bombardment preceding the charge, Roberts observed shells exploding in a small canal. Energy from the detonations moved sideways into the walls of the ditch, fracturing them.

“A few years later, Roberts, an inveterate tinkerer, found himself in Oil City, Pa. There, the practical application of his battlefield observation in the birthplace of the oil industry made him the father of hydraulic fracturing.”

Read the whole article at:

Hat tip to “1861″ author Adam Goodheart for putting me on the trail of Gold’s book, and this article.


  • MartinWork

    BUT wasn’t FRACKING part of the gold rush days when corporate entities used HYDRALIC methods of mining that washed away large sections of land, much the same way as firing explosive material into a water way and watching it erode away the banks of a river and the local landscape? Is it going to far to conclude FRACKING has been around for a century or more and accomplishes nothing more than compromising the land scape to the tune of yet another dollar and NOTHING MORE?

  • ptlinva

    Well, I’m sure Martin that you and your little electric car don’t need any type of fossil fuels to run? In fact, I’m sure that you don’t have electricity to your house either.
    In fact, I would dare say that you probably don’t work and collect a check and just want to complain that all our problems are due to greedy corporate America.
    That’s okay. I’m just glad there are others out here, such as myself, that would rather someone make a profit so I can work and feed my family.
    Besides, fracking doesn’t destroy the landscape. I’m not sure what shows you’ve been watching on TV, but seriously, you need to do some homework.

  • MartinWork

    AND where do you think these ASSUMPTIONS and SPECULATION of yours, about me, going to take this conversation other than to beat your chest and shout out YOU have all the answers? And, how can you judge corporate greed when your eyes are closed and willing to accept lies as a convenience to your own convictions and what remains of your ANNONYMOUS SELF.
    You may have a plan to feed your family out of business receipts, but have NOT as yet given any consideration on what CLEAN WATER is or will be and when the last drop is up for sale to the highest bidder.
    Short term business strategies simply don’t work when a long term strategy is at stake for eventual failure. Have you saved enough of your wealth to even make the cut when our clean water resources go on sale that has been contaminated by yet another man-made. human error, and more excuses that deserves more than an OOPS and being sorry for not thinking far ahead enough for even your family to appreciate the consequences of your poor judgement, and callous nature in the wake of your greed and proffers that everything is going to be OK when so many believe otherwise.
    Maybe it’s better that you keep your real identity secret from US, so you can’t be held accountable for your single minded thinking.