American Heritage History of the Battle of Gettysburg

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Gettysburg was the deadliest battle of the deadliest war in American history. More Americans fell during those thre days in July 1863 than in any other battle in any other war before or since, and its place has been lodged in the firmament of history as the defining moment of our nation's most dramatic conflict.

Now, in the classic tradition of the widely praised The American Heritage New History of the Civil War by Bruce Catton and James McPherson and American Heritage New ...

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2004 Trade paperback New. Book is New! Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 320 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade.

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Overview

Gettysburg was the deadliest battle of the deadliest war in American history. More Americans fell during those thre days in July 1863 than in any other battle in any other war before or since, and its place has been lodged in the firmament of history as the defining moment of our nation's most dramatic conflict.

Now, in the classic tradition of the widely praised The American Heritage New History of the Civil War by Bruce Catton and James McPherson and American Heritage New Hitory of World War II by Stephen E. Ambrose and C. L. Sulzberger, comes a beautiful, lavishly illustrated history of Gettysburg, written by acclaimed historian Craig L. Symonds. It offers a stirring narrative that captures the personalities and decisions of the generals in command and the struggles of the soldiers on both sides of the battlefield. Filled with hundreds of stunning color photographs, drawings, and maps, as well as a score of focused essays and eyewitness accounts, this is a book taht breathes new life into the battle that helped decide the fate of America.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Gettysburg is widely considered the pivotal battle of the Civil War. It was also the deadliest, and that grim reality is reflected in this American Heritage look at Gettysburg, written by noted historian Craig L. Symonds. This is an encyclopedic and intensely visual historical work that richly deserves its place in the American Heritage Civil War series, which is legendary among Civil War buffs for its volumes by Bruce Catton and James McPherson.
James M. McPherson
Why another book about Gettysburg? The reader will find out immediately by opening these pages and scanning the lucid narrative and superb illustrations. Both are unmatched in drama and richness. Even those who know much about Gettysburg will be unable to put this book down; newcomers will become hooked on the Civil War.
Library Journal
With these two books, American Heritage continues its tradition of captivating historical storytelling through readable narratives and hundreds of illustrations of contemporary paintings, photographs, and maps many in color. The New History of the Civil War is a reissue of the second edition, published by Viking in 1996, which updated the highly acclaimed classic The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (1960). Edited by McPherson (George Henry Davis Professor of American History, Princeton), it retains the style of the late Catton, known for award-winning histories that engage readers in understanding why Northerners and Southerners became passionately embroiled in America's deadliest war. What Catton did for the war generally, Symonds (history, U.S. Naval Academy) does for the Battle of Gettysburg, a monumental clash that marked the turning point of the war. Symonds focuses his narrative on the drama of battle, which lasted for three long days. Civil War aficionados and the curious will enjoy both books. Recommended for public and high school libraries, though libraries facing tight book budgets should stick with the New History of the Civil War for its panoramic coverage of the Civil War. Charles L. Lumpkins, Pennsylvania State Univ., State Coll. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060549336
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/1/2004
  • Series: Harper Perennial Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 9.18 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Taken at the Flood

(May 1-June 2, 1863)

The sequence of events that led to the Battle of Gettysburg began in May in a 300-square-mile tangle of scrub and undergrowth in Virgina just south of where the Rapidan River flows into the Rappahannock, an area known locally as the Wilderness. Since the previous spring, when Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston had pulled back from his Manassas bivouac to settle in behind the protective barrier of the Rappahannock River, the Rapidan-Rappahannock line had constituted what one scholar has termed the "dare mark" of the Confederacy. Federal armies crossed that line at their peril. One — the so-called Army of Virginia under Major General John Pope — tried in the summer of 1862 only to scuttle back to Manassas where it was routed in the Second Battle of Bull Run. Another — this one under Ambrose Burnside — tried in December, assailing the heights behind Fredericksburg for most of a day before Burnside reluctantly but wisely gave up the effort. In May 1863 yet another Federal general — Joseph Hooker — accepted the dare.

Hooker's trespass across the dare mark was the most carefully planned and skillfully executed of the three. Holding Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in place at Fredericksburg with two of his seven army corps, Hooker led the other five on a lengthy flank march upriver. They crossed the Rappahannock twenty miles upstream, then swung south and east across the Rapidan to take up a position ten miles behind Lee's army near a small Wilderness crossroads named for the Chancellor mansionand marked on the maps as Chancellorsville.

Hooker's maneuver was little short of brilliant. Indeed, it was so effective that Hooker himself was convinced that it would compel Lee to give up his position at Fredericksburg — indeed, give up the line of the Rappahannock altogether and fall back to the next logical defensive position, at the North Anna River. On May 1, Hooker halted his army in the wilderness area around the Chancellor mansion and waited for his enemy to retreat. When he received a report from his III Corps commander, Daniel Sickles, that a column of Confederate infantry was moving southwesterly across his front, Hooker accepted this as evidence that Lee was in fact retreating, and he resolved to let him go.

But Lee was not in retreat. True to his character as a commander who was willing to take long chances, Lee had dispatched his most trusted lieutenant, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, on a maneuver at least as brilliant as Hooker's, and even more daring. Leaving himself with only about 15,000 men to face Hooker's main body, Lee sent Jackson's corps on a daylong twenty-mile march, first southwest, then northwest, to find the enemy rear. The column that Sickles's men had spied moving across a gap in the tree line was part of that movement. The flanker was about to be flanked.

At approximately five o'clock in the afternoon of May 2, the soldiers of Oliver O. Howard's XI Corps were gathered about their campfires cooking dinner when Jackson's Valley veterans smashed into their unprotected flank. Howard's men did not immediately break and flee despite later such charges. Division and brigade commanders scrambled to reorient their forces to face the onslaught; a few units made heroic stands, inflicting a thousand casualties on the attackers and buying the Union army valuable time. But the attackers had both numbers and momentum. When Howard's men finally gave way, the gray — and butternut-clad soldiers poured after them with Jackson driving them onward. True to his character, Jackson wanted not merely to defeat the Federal army but to annihilate it. "Press on! Press on!" he urged his subordinates. "Press the enemy until nightfall," he ordered one brigade commander.

But nightfall was the problem. Difficult as it was at any time to maneuver forces effectively in the uneven terrain and dense foliage of the Wilderness, it was impossible to do so in pitch darkness. Regardless of that, Jackson was determined to sustain his momentum, and at about nine o'clock he rode out ahead of his troops in the inky darkness hoping to discover some route by which he could cut the Yankees off from their line of retreat across the Rappahannock. Having discovered a secondary road that he thought might suit his purpose, Jackson was returning to his own lines when Confederate infantry mistook his group of mounted horsemen for Federal cavalry and opened fire. Jackson was hit three times. The wounds did not appear to be serious, but at the very least they removed Jackson's furious will from the battlefield. This fight, at least, would have to go on without him.

Hooker made good his "escape" across the Rappahannock. A bolder man might have tried a counterattack, for the Federals still had numerical superiority, but Hooker's nerve was shattered. Not only had the tactical situation become utterly unglued but he also experienced a personal brush with death the next morning when a Confederate artillery shell exploded against a column on the porch of the Chancellor mansion while he was leaning against it. Rather than attempt to recoup the situation, Hooker gave orders for the army to fall back. Once again a Federal army had crossed the dare mark and had suffered for it.

American Heritage History of the Battle of Gettysburg. Copyright © by Mark Burnell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: A Town at the Crossroads 7
Chapter 1 Taken at the Flood 13
Chapter 2 The Eyes and Ears of the Army 29
Chapter 3 Invasion 49
Chapter 4 McPherson's Ridge 69
Chapter 5 The Shadow of Stonewall 89
Chapter 6 The Best-Laid Plans 109
Chapter 7 A Tale of Two Generals 121
Chapter 8 The Assault Begins: Devil's Den and Little Round Top 135
Chapter 9 Confederate Breakthrough: The Wheat Field and the Peach Orchard 155
Chapter 10 The Struggle for the High Ground: Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill 173
Chapter 11 The Calm Before the Storm 195
Chapter 12 The Grand Assault 213
Chapter 13 The Cavalry 243
Chapter 14 The Endgame: Retreat and Pursuit 261
Epilogue: The Last Full Measure 283
Order of Battle 294
A Portfolio of Gettysburg Battlefield Monuments 298
Selected Bibliography 308
Acknowledgments 310
Illustration Credits 311
Index 313
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First Chapter

American Heritage History of the Battle of Gettysburg

Chapter One

Taken at the Flood

(May 1-June 2, 1863)

The sequence of events that led to the Battle of Gettysburg began in May in a 300-square-mile tangle of scrub and undergrowth in Virgina just south of where the Rapidan River flows into the Rappahannock, an area known locally as the Wilderness. Since the previous spring, when Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston had pulled back from his Manassas bivouac to settle in behind the protective barrier of the Rappahannock River, the Rapidan-Rappahannock line had constituted what one scholar has termed the "dare mark" of the Confederacy. Federal armies crossed that line at their peril. One -- the so-called Army of Virginia under Major General John Pope -- tried in the summer of 1862 only to scuttle back to Manassas where it was routed in the Second Battle of Bull Run. Another -- this one under Ambrose Burnside -- tried in December, assailing the heights behind Fredericksburg for most of a day before Burnside reluctantly but wisely gave up the effort. In May 1863 yet another Federal general -- Joseph Hooker -- accepted the dare.

Hooker's trespass across the dare mark was the most carefully planned and skillfully executed of the three. Holding Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in place at Fredericksburg with two of his seven army corps, Hooker led the other five on a lengthy flank march upriver. They crossed the Rappahannock twenty miles upstream, then swung south and east across the Rapidan to take up a position ten miles behind Lee's army near a small Wilderness crossroads named for the Chancellor mansion and marked on the maps as Chancellorsville.

Hooker's maneuver was little short of brilliant. Indeed, it was so effective that Hooker himself was convinced that it would compel Lee to give up his position at Fredericksburg -- indeed, give up the line of the Rappahannock altogether and fall back to the next logical defensive position, at the North Anna River. On May 1, Hooker halted his army in the wilderness area around the Chancellor mansion and waited for his enemy to retreat. When he received a report from his III Corps commander, Daniel Sickles, that a column of Confederate infantry was moving southwesterly across his front, Hooker accepted this as evidence that Lee was in fact retreating, and he resolved to let him go.

But Lee was not in retreat. True to his character as a commander who was willing to take long chances, Lee had dispatched his most trusted lieutenant, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, on a maneuver at least as brilliant as Hooker's, and even more daring. Leaving himself with only about 15,000 men to face Hooker's main body, Lee sent Jackson's corps on a daylong twenty-mile march, first southwest, then northwest, to find the enemy rear. The column that Sickles's men had spied moving across a gap in the tree line was part of that movement. The flanker was about to be flanked.

At approximately five o'clock in the afternoon of May 2, the soldiers of Oliver O. Howard's XI Corps were gathered about their campfires cooking dinner when Jackson's Valley veterans smashed into their unprotected flank. Howard's men did not immediately break and flee despite later such charges. Division and brigade commanders scrambled to reorient their forces to face the onslaught; a few units made heroic stands, inflicting a thousand casualties on the attackers and buying the Union army valuable time. But the attackers had both numbers and momentum. When Howard's men finally gave way, the gray -- and butternut-clad soldiers poured after them with Jackson driving them onward. True to his character, Jackson wanted not merely to defeat the Federal army but to annihilate it. "Press on! Press on!" he urged his subordinates. "Press the enemy until nightfall," he ordered one brigade commander.

But nightfall was the problem. Difficult as it was at any time to maneuver forces effectively in the uneven terrain and dense foliage of the Wilderness, it was impossible to do so in pitch darkness. Regardless of that, Jackson was determined to sustain his momentum, and at about nine o'clock he rode out ahead of his troops in the inky darkness hoping to discover some route by which he could cut the Yankees off from their line of retreat across the Rappahannock. Having discovered a secondary road that he thought might suit his purpose, Jackson was returning to his own lines when Confederate infantry mistook his group of mounted horsemen for Federal cavalry and opened fire. Jackson was hit three times. The wounds did not appear to be serious, but at the very least they removed Jackson's furious will from the battlefield. This fight, at least, would have to go on without him.

Hooker made good his "escape" across the Rappahannock. A bolder man might have tried a counterattack, for the Federals still had numerical superiority, but Hooker's nerve was shattered. Not only had the tactical situation become utterly unglued but he also experienced a personal brush with death the next morning when a Confederate artillery shell exploded against a column on the porch of the Chancellor mansion while he was leaning against it. Rather than attempt to recoup the situation, Hooker gave orders for the army to fall back. Once again a Federal army had crossed the dare mark and had suffered for it.

American Heritage History of the Battle of Gettysburg. Copyright © by Roger American Heritage. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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