Two authors to sign books Saturday

Posted: July 19, 2013

The Winchester Star

Sally Bennett (left) graduated from Handley High School and now lives in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.
Jonathan Noyalas (right) is a professor at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown.

Winchester — The personal journey of an immigrant and the recounting of a pivotal Civil War battle will be explored Saturday at two book signings at the Winchester Book Gallery.

The store at 185 N. Loudoun St. will have a signing from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for Sally Bennett’s “Immigrant: A Memoir Across the Atlantic” followed by a signing from 3 to 5 p.m. for Jonathan Noyalas’s “The Battle of Fisher’s Hill: Breaking the Shenandoah Valley’s Gibraltar.”

Having the signings on the same day was a matter of convenience, owner Christine Patrick said, but she likes that these kinds of pairings tend to bring in a diverse crowd.

“Saturday is also Salute to Our Troops, so it also offers a respite from the heat and nice entertainment,” she said.

Jonathan Noyalas

Noyalas’ journey to write about the Civil War battle that took place Sept. 21 to 22, 1864, started about a decade ago, he said.

Realizing there had not been much written about the battle that took place south of Strasburg, Noyalas, seeing an opportunity, wrote an in-depth article about it.

A few years ago, the Shenandoah Battlefields Foundation approached him about writing a book on the battle, and he liked the idea. The nonfiction work was published June 18 by The History Press.

The book covers the aftermath of the Third Battle of Winchester, which took place Sept. 19, follows the planning by the opposing armies leading up to Fisher’s Hill, and looks at its aftermath, said Noyalas, an assistant professor of history at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown.

“It also looks at how the battle of Fisher’s Hill impacted civilians living in Strasburg and the small community of Fisher’s Hill,” he said.

About 9,500 Confederate soldiers under Lt. Gen. Jubal Early, fresh from defeat at Third Winchester, took up a strong defensive position Sept. 19 at Fisher’s Hill, Noyalas said. More than 35,000 Union soldiers under Major General Philip H. Sheridan advanced Sept. 21, driving back the skirmishers and capturing high ground.

Then, about 4 p.m. Sept. 22, Brig. Gen. George Crook’s Corps moved along North Mountain to outflank Early and attacked, he said. The Confederate cavalry offered little resistance, and the startled infantry were unable to face the attacking force.

The Union lost 456 men who were wounded, killed, or captured and the Confederate side lost 1,235 men, he said.

“You look at the Battle of Fisher Hill and it is probably one of the grandest Union successes of the war,” he said. “It was such a huge and decisive victory that came at such a small cost, relatively speaking.”

One of the subjects relating to the battle Noyalas enjoyed exploring was the fact that the battlefield was used by Union and Confederate soldiers for reunions and reconciliations for years afterward.

“It really becomes an example of how men who were once shooting at each other in 1864 could put aside their differences for the sake of the nation,” said Noyalas of Martinsburg, W.Va.

Noyalas is the director of LFCC’s Center for Civil War History. He is also the author or editor of nine books on Civil War era history and has contributed articles, essays and reviews to a variety of publications.

The cost of “The Battle of Fisher’s Hill: Breaking the Shenandoah Valley’s Gibraltar” is $19.99.

Sally Bennett

When Bennett, 81, of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., decided to write a memoir about her early years, her goal was to share something of the immigrant experience.

Although she was born in Yorkshire, England in 1932, Bennett’s family was living in Portugal when they immigrated to the United States in June 1940.

The immigrant experience is “pretty universal” regardless of where someone comes from, Bennett said. “The fact that you are taken away from or leave the place you were born leaves an indelible impression. I have always been affected by that.”

The family returned to Europe after the end of World War II, but the devastation there was too widespread, she said. “Europe right after World War II was in shambles. There was rationing and fuel shortages. It was not an easy place to live.”

In 1947, they returned to the United States, settling in Winchester. Bennett — then Sally Pratt — attended Handley High School, where she graduated in 1951.

She worked in a dress shop in high school and then for a law office and the city health department until she married in 1955. That’s where the book stops, she said.

“The book spans from my birth to 1955, but it also includes background material on my mother’s and father’s families into the previous century,” she said. “I see this particular large chunk of my life as something I really wanted to write about.”

Bennett self-published her memoir in June, feeling her experiences were worth sharing with people.

She said it was an English teacher she had at Handley, Edith Garrabrandt, who later inspired her to become an English teacher. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Syracuse University and a master’s degree in writing from Vermont College.

The cost of “Immigrant: A Memoir Across the Atlantic” is $15.95.


The Winchester Book Gallery, 185 N. Loudoun St., will have a book signing from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday for Sally Bennett’s “Immigrant: A Memoir Across the Atlantic” followed by a signing from 3 to 5 p.m. for Jonathan Noyalas’s “The Battle of Fisher's Hill: Breaking the Shenandoah Valley’s Gibraltar.”

For more information, contact 540-667-3444.

— Contact Laura McFarland at