Reviews

Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

The sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg has generated an array of new books and articles, but few will have the impact of this title by Gettysburg College professor Guelzo. By dusting off some old debates for new scrutiny, he reinvigorates the discussion of the Battle of Gettysburg, already the topic of many monographs over the decades. As the title suggests, Guelzo characterizes Lee's Pennsylvania campaign as a true invasion of the North, with the goal of ending the war. The subsequent campaign featured mistakes leading to lost opportunities as well as questionable command decisions by both respective commanders, Robert E. Lee and George G. Meade. Guelzo provides a suitable prelude and a postscript to the battle, as well as comprehensive (but not overwhelming) descriptions of the clashes between the two armies. In addition, he presents plenty of biographical information about each major participant mentioned in the book to facilitate understanding of the motivation for their actions, although his consistent use of political bias to explain Union command decisions is perhaps overdone. His research is impeccable, and the book contains a suitable number of maps and diagrams to complement the text. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. S. J. Ramold Eastern Michigan University


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* Few battles provoke debate like Gettysburg, whose bibliography exceeds 6,000 items. One more won't settle the what-ifs, but Guelzo's entry identifies key controversies, trenchantly advocates its interpretations, and rests on a sensible foundation, the confusion of a Civil War battle. A noisome cacophony opaque with smoke, the Gettysburg battlefield allowed officers and soldiers only fragmentary glimpses of the action, limiting their situational awareness to their immediate surroundings. Wary, moreover, of postwar memoirists' tendencies to justify themselves or fault others, Guelzo constructs his Gettysburg as much as possible from contemporaneous sources like orders, reports, and letters. His result reads like the battle might have been experienced, as an episodic series of terrifying minibattles directed by colonels and fought by regiments, whose clashes guided the outcome more than anything done by the respective army commanders on the scene. Rather dismissive of Union general Meade, Guelzo derogates Confederate general Lee less for his decisions at Gettysburg than for failing to strategically arrange a defensive battle and falling into the offensive one that developed. A political historian of the Civil War (Lincoln and Douglas, 2008), Guelzo demonstrates versatile historical skill in this superior treatment of Gettysburg.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist


Library Journal
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Much ink has been spilled over the Battle of Gettysburg. Readers might think there is little left to say and no fresh way of saying it, but Guelzo (Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era, Gettysburg Coll.; Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation) proves such skeptics wrong with his riveting account of both the events leading up to the battle and the battle itself. Refreshingly, he makes clear that this account is his own: in any battle analysis a historian must weigh unclear and sometimes contradictory accounts by participants who could only see and interpret (or misinterpret) events in their own immediate vicinity. Using a wealth of 19th-century sources, from letters and diaries to regimental histories to the indispensable "Official Records" series, Guelzo has composed a narrative that is detailed and compelling on a human level but easy to follow on an operational and tactical one. Readers will discover Guelzo's own distinctive positions, defended by citations, such as that bayonet charges were frequent and often effective in 19th-century warfare. The lack of a bibliography will be a sore point for some serious readers. VERDICT A triumph of source use and presentation, engaging for the general reader but rigorous enough for the scholar. Highly recommended.-Richard Fraser, Univ. of California, Los Angeles, Libs. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.