Gettysburg--The First Dayby Harry W. Pfanz
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For good reason, the second and third days of the Battle of Gettysburg have received the lion's share of attention from historians. With this book, however, the critical first day's fighting finally receives its due. After sketching the background of the Gettysburg campaign and recounting the events immediately preceding the battle, Harry Pfanz offers a detailed tactical description of events of the first day. He describes the engagements in McPherson Woods, at the Railroad Cuts, on Oak Ridge, on Seminary Ridge, and at Blocher's Knoll, as well as the retreat of Union forces through Gettysburg and the Federal rally on Cemetery Hill. Throughout, he draws on deep research in published and archival sources to challenge many long-held assumptions about the battle.
Pfanz writes with a uniquely exuberant style, always selecting appropriate anecdotes that demonstrate a complete mastery of the battle's primary source materials. He has crafted a well-organized and thoroughly researched account. . . . A welcome addition to the library of any Civil War scholar or buff.Georgia Historical Quarterly
[Pfanz's] long experience on the battlefield and the battlefield archives [has] produced [a] meticulously-detailed [study] of the battle.Allen C. Guelzo, The Barnes & Noble Review
Pfanz's The First Day rises above [other] studies in its completeness of information and source interpretation. . . . An impeccably researched and extremely well-written narrative. . . . With Gettysburg-The First Day, Harry Pfanz demonstrates again that there is no one who better understands the Gettysburg battlefield and movements of the opposing troops. This eagerly anticipated study will undoubtedly become a classic and the standard work on the fighting of July 1.America's Civil War
Pfanz's long-awaited microstudy of the opening day of the battle of Gettysburg offers an outstanding narrative of the fighting west and north of that small Pennsylvania town on July 1, 1863. . . . Written crisply and occasionally with a wry wit, Pfanz's narrative draws upon a broad chorus of voices, from soldiers to civilians and from privates to generals. . . . Sets the standard for future examinations of July 1, along with offering astute warnings that some controversies always will remain unresolved.Journal of Southern History
A fast-moving narrative liberally sprinkled with anecdotes and fascinating details. . . . Extremely well researched. . . . Highly recommended.Civil War News
An exhaustive and intimate description of the tactical events of day one.Washington Post Book World
Read an Excerpt
Fredericksburg to the Potomac
Its drums were beating, its colors flying, as the 900 officers and enlisted men of the 26th North Carolina Regiment, "beaming in their splendid uniforms," filed from their camp at Fredericksburg, Virginia. It was a beautiful morning on 15 June 1863, and the 26th, with its three sister regiments of Brig. Gen. James Johnston Pettigrew's brigade, was heading off on its first campaign with the vaunted Army of Northern Virginia. "Everything seemed propitious of success," recalled a veteran in later years. It was heady stuff for the virtually unbloodied Tarheels who had been guarding the coastal areas of their native state from Federal invasion. But in a month their uniforms would be worn, and the North Carolinians would learn that war can be horror and hardship as well as beating drums and flaunted colors.
What People are Saying About This
No one knows and understands the battle of Gettysburg better than Harry W. Pfanz. Since he joined the National Park Service as a historian in 1956, he has never been far from what for the public is America's best-known and most controversial battle. His credentials as a researcher, raconteur, and historian par excellence are attested to by his applauded books on the battle's second and third days. Now, thanks to Pfanz and the University of North Carolina Press, GettysburgThe First Day fills a void and completes in masterful fashion a trilogy long needed and guaranteed to stand the test of time.Edwin C. Bearss, Chief Historian Emeritus, National Park Service
Meet the Author
Harry W. Pfanz is author of Gettysburg--The Second Day and Gettysburg--Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill. He served for ten years as a historian at Gettysburg National Military Park and retired from the position of Chief Historian of the National Park Service in 1981.
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Mr. Pfanz book is not for the faint of heart. It is for the hardcore fan or historian. For all of those that have read other books about Gettysburg and always wanted to know more about the fighting on the individual days this is the book for you. Mr. Pfanz breaks down the whole first days action in detial. This will apeal to military leaders as well. For me individually it was great and a book that I enjoyed. Going through each action in detail gave new insight into what and why it happened on that fateful July morning. Ewell's delay is explained in detail as well as the controversy between Hancock and Howard as to who really did rally the union soldiers on Cementary Hill. This was new to me as I never had heard of this debate before and the controversy lasted long after the battle as well. If you new to Gettysburg or a seasoned fan,I'm sure you'll find new insight into the battle like I did. I also recommend the other books written by Harry W. Pfanz.
I eagerly anticipated reading this lastest book by Mr. Pfanz. In his earlier books covering Gettysburg and the events of July 2nd, he often broke that action and movements of men and equipment down to a company or individual level. This book offers little of that in-depth research that marked his previous efforts. We are introduced to the various generals and some of the enlisted personnel. But, the actual movement of the troops and their subsequent positioning in the battle are left to a more generalized scope. If you are interested in a cursory examination of the events of July 1st, this is your book. If you seek the high level of detail that Mr. Pfanz provided in his July 2nd books, you will be disappointed.
If you are a re-enactor or a museum curator building battlefield dioramas, you will want this book. Who else will want to know that the 36th stood to the left of the 47th? Poorly written and verbose, this book is long as such tediouness and short on synthesis, analysis and insight. My advice: look elsewhere.