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Gettysburg: The Last Invasion

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

22 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

Dr. Guelzo's book finds new ground to break on the much-trodden

Dr. Guelzo's book finds new ground to break on the much-trodden subject of the Battle of Gettysburg. Deftly switching from the eyewitness perspective in the form of hundreds of personal quotations and recollections to the overall command view of the actual invasion, Dr....
Dr. Guelzo's book finds new ground to break on the much-trodden subject of the Battle of Gettysburg. Deftly switching from the eyewitness perspective in the form of hundreds of personal quotations and recollections to the overall command view of the actual invasion, Dr. Guelzo keeps each development in its proper context, raising new questions about both the true key points of the battle, and the intended objectives of the key leaders of both armies. Unafraid to tackle several myths and misconceptions, including the oft-repeated mis-characterization that the Civil War was 'The first modern war', Dr. Guelzo brings a new and fresh voice to the topic, doing so in a manner both eloquent and masterful. This is book will take its place in the ranks next to the works of Keegan and Holmes and represents a truly ground-breaking look at the face of American war in the 19th Century.

posted by Anonymous on May 14, 2013

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

   

   

posted by Anonymous on May 31, 2013

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  • Posted July 3, 2013

    1863 in the Civil War was a year of turning points, such as the

    1863 in the Civil War was a year of turning points, such as the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, the battle Gettysburg, and the sieges of Vicksburg and Chattanooga. Readers may think that publishers would overwhelm the marketplace with related books, yet it is not so. No other Civil War battlefield park is visited as much as Gettysburg and this year there is only one book that takes up the challenge to comprehensively present the battle. Gettysburg: The Last Invasion meets the challenge. Written in a style that is friendly for general readers, Guelzo’s work also meets the standards of scholars. It is a remarkable achievement.

    At Gettysburg College, Allen C. Guelzo serves as the Henry R. Luce III Professor of the Civil War Era as Director of the Civil War Era Studies Program, and is the author of 11 books of Lincoln, emancipation, the Civil War and American Christendom. In Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, he sets forth the story in a clear, concise and compelling manner. From the conception of the campaign in the minds of Confederate military leader Robert E. Lee and Confederate Presiden Jefferson Davis through President Lincoln’s delivery Gettysburg Address, Guelzo looks at the campaign and battle from several interesting perspectives.

    Those who are only familiar with Gettysburg because of a school visit or the film Gettysburg will be comfortable with Gettysburg: The Last Invasion. Guelzo’s account is straightforward and does not require extensive familiarity with the battle. Those who have read Noah Trudeau’s 2002 Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage or Stephen Sears’ 2003 Gettysburg will be delighted by the amount of new information and perspectives in Guelzo’s work.

    One of the enjoyments of Gettysburg: The Last Invasion is the constant attention Guelzo gives to individual combat soldiers, commanders, and civilians. There is rarely a paragraph that does not contain direct remarks from participants. Describing the fighting during the morning and afternoon of July 1, Guelzo offers the testimony of many soldiers and seven civilian witnesses.

    At the college, student Martin Colver watches an artillery barrage from a third classroom window and is interrupted by a professor leading blue coated signalmen with flags and telescopes to the cupola. The college’s president Henry L. Braugher resigns himself to the failure of students to maintain attention during his lecture and dismisses them; soon a cannonball strikes the cupola where the signalmen are.

    Guelzo offers new and interesting remarks regarding a variety unique circumstances. He describes the non-combat duties performed by Africans Americans in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Guelzo estimates the changing fog of war by calculating the time it takes to transmit an order from the division commander to the brigade commander, then to the regimental commander. Confederate troops’ discipline included their viewing five executions for desertion after the invaders crossed the Potomac River and enter Maryland. Looting the dead and wounded occurred during the battle. After a successful attack, enemy corpses with their trouser pockets turned out immediately appeared. While being assisted away from the firing line, mortally wounded North Carolina colonel Henry Burgwyn nearly had his vest pocket watch stolen by a South Carolina lieutenant who is helping him off the field.

    Overall, the author drives his narrative forward with taut observations of the soldiers. Rebels “fell all over themselves with laughter” when they discover that Pennsylvanians believe there are secret handshakes and facial expressions that will spare them the invaders’ depravations. Federals soldiers along the roads “began to straggle and brigades leaked clots of exhausted soldiers”. Federal army commander George Meade remained cordial with corps commander John Reynolds “but privately his letters curdle with envy” when Reynolds received a promotion in 1862.

    Wisely Guelzo does not attempt to definitively answer contentious problems. Did Confederate cavalry commander J.E.B. Stuart lose the battle by “galloping off on a senseless joy-ride” as the invasion began? Did Confederate corps commander Richard Ewell lose the battle because he lacked the energy and the ruthlessness to drive the Federals off Culp’s Hill during the evening of July 1? The author puts forward his reply to these and other questions. Guelzo believes that both reason and self-interest contend for readers’ opinions on these questions. He is not argumentative; he states his case on moves on.

    The author takes full advantage of a pair of remarkable resources. Gettysburg is the only battle to have its own magazine. Gettysburg Magazine, founded in July 1989, has published 47 issues of new scholarship on the battle and campaign. In its 24 years, it has offered troves of recently found diaries, reports, and changing interpretations on topics such as African Americans in the Gettysburg campaign, cavalry battles surrounding the main battlefield, the gathering of military intelligence and the farmstead hospitals. Also, Gettysburg National Military Park regular presents a scholarly seminar and publishs the conference proceedings which Guelzo regularly cites.

    Both George Gordon Meade's and Robert E. Lee's backers may disagree with Guelzo's conclusions. He believese that Lee never had a clear grasp of the terrain and the tactics to deal with an enemy and Meade was reluctant to fight on July 1, 2, and 3. Also, the July 3 cavalry battle, Farnesworth Charge and the advance of the the Pennsylvania Reserves brigade after the Grand Assault are described as they may have been. Guelzo does provide insights into the Virginia clique in the Army of Virginia and to the Peace Democrat generals of the army of the Potomac.

    Gettysburg: The Last Invasion is enjoyable, not only for its scholarship but also for its storytelling. “The sun soon came up, a dim blood-red disc behind the clouds on the eastern horizon” is reminiscent of the best writing in Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage. Suspense is still found in the familiar story of Gettysburg. “So, rather than wait to be hunted by the Yankees . . . Lee would go hunting himself for the climatic victory he had always wanted” writes Guelzo. Gettysburg: The Last Invasion is indeed a remarkable achievement.

    19 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 10, 2013

    A worthy addition to the numerous volumes on Gettysburg

    A well researched and well written account on the immediate actions before, during, and after Gettysburg. The timeline is concise--one of the best "what happened when and where accounts" of the battle I've read. Especially interesting is the detailed description of the maneuvering of the two armies before the battle; these are glossed over in many if not most books on Gettysburg. The description of the battle itself is also superb; I gained a much better understanding of what was happening on different parts of the battlefield at different times, and a greater understanding of how the battlefield shifted from day to day. The description of what happened immediately after the battle is somewhat weaker in comparison, although the epilogue, pertaining to the Gettysburg Address, is quite good describing the physical state of the town, it's inhabitants, and the battlefield itself at the time of the address.

    A particular strength of this book is the numerous anecdotes of the soldiers, generals and townspeople, which helps bring a sense of what not only happened, but what it was like to be there. Another strength is the author's take on misperceptions of who was responsible for what deeds, (Joshua Chamberlain comes to mind), and how some actions of importance, such as Stuart's ride around Meade's army, may have been misinterpreted in how and why they happened, and overblown specifically in regards to the outcome of the battle.

    My main criticisms are twofold. The maps are extremely difficult to read on a nook or nook HD, and would gain immensely by simply being made larger. Also, when the maps are of relatively small areas of the battlefield, it can be difficult to determine where the action is taking place in the overall scheme of the entire battlefield--if maps such as these were accompanied by a map of the entire battlefield, with the area in question shaded in, it would help to quickly put what was being described into perspective geographically. My other criticism is that the author tends to be repetitive on certain subjects (i.e. that Dan Sickles wasn't perhaps the nicest human being, or ablest general), but it's a relatively minor criticism.

    Overall a book worthy of any serious library on Gettysburg.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2013

    Recommended with reservations.

    Very detailed (almost laboriously so) but accurate and informative if one is really into the War and the events of July 1-3, 1862.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2013

    Chractr Characters revealed

    I enjoyed learning and understanding the lower command characters i had not before known and how the attacks segued throughout the battle. Well done.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2013

    Willmake Awsome

    101% good

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2014

    Very in depth look at Gettysburg

    If you are going to make the trip to Gettysburg or just got back, you should read this book. It's a very in-depth look of what happened and all the whys. It gets a little wordy and you can tell a history prof. wrote it. He could easily slice 100 pages out and not miss much. But it's a very complete look at the battle.

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    Posted February 25, 2014

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