Allen C. Guelzo

Allen C. Guelzo has the advantage of living on the battlefield he writes about — Gettysburg. In Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, he offers a moving and evocative account of the Civil War’s epic battle. A noted biographer of Abraham Lincoln (and two-time winner of the Lincoln Prize for Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America), Guelzo builds on a vast array of diaries, letters, memoirs, and a hefty library of historical studies of the battle over the 150 years since it was fought. If Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War, it is also the magnet for some of the greatest American historical writing. Here are a few of his favorites.

High Tide at Gettysburg
By Glenn C. Tucker

“This was my first Gettysburg book, and it remains in my view the single best one-volume overview of the battle you can read. Originally published in 1958, it has remained a hardy and perennial favorite through many reprintings. Tucker first encountered Gettysburg as an officer in World War One, using contour maps of the Gettysburg battlefield to learn how to read terrain.  A journalist by trade, Tucker was enviably thorough and patient in his research, and compassionate in his judgments, especially about the battle’s Confederate ‘scapegoats,’ Longstreet, Ewell and Stuart.”

Gettysburg: The First Day
By Harry W. Pfanz

“Harry Pfanz was a long-time National Park Service staffer at Gettysburg in the 1950s and ’60s, and a chief historian for the NPS. His had been a field artillery officer in World War II, and his long experience on the battlefield and the battlefield archives produced three meticulously-detailed studies of the battle, of which Gettysburg: The First Day  was actually the last to be published. If there was a Gettysburg source that Harry Pfanz did not consult, it probably isn’t worth looking for.”

Pickett’s Charge: The Last Attack at Gettysburg
By Earl J. Hess

“Earl Hess, who teaches at Lincoln Memorial University, has written landmark studies of such technical aspects of the Civil War as trenches and fortifications, politics and combat. This is his only foray into the wilds of Gettysburg, but it easily stands above all comparable accounts of the last fatal act of the Gettysburg drama. In many respects, it rounds out the series of Gettysburg books by Harry Pfanz, especially since Pfanz never wrote a final volume in his own series on the third day of the battle — not only as thoroughly researched, but even better written.”

Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign
By Kent Masterson Brown

“There is nothing in a title which promises to be more deadening than the word logistics. And if that is the conclusion you draw about Retreat from Gettysburg, you could not have made a more egregious mistake. Logistics is, so to speak, the grease which lubricates the movements of armies; an army without good logistics probably won’t be good for much else, either. Not only does Brown give a bravura survey of the internal mechanisms of the Confederate forces in the Gettysburg campaign, he also provides a moving entrance into the mind of defeated army, trying to hold itself together, and find some way to escape and fight another day.”

Pickett’s Charge in History and Memory
By Carol Reardon
“An eminent military historian at Penn State, Reardon devotes only the opening of her book to the actual charge. What she is much more interested in — as you will be, too — is how the survivors of what is surely  the most famous half hour in American history kept on fighting with each other for the rest of their lives about who-did-what, who deserved praise, and who would be buried by blame. This is a skillful and compelling example of the way an event whose story we think we know turns out to be as mobile as quicksilver when we try to put a finger down for certain.”