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These Honored Dead: How the Story of Gettysburg Shaped American Memory

Overview

Ever since the guns of Gettysburg fell silent, and Lincoln delivered his famous two-minute speech four months after the battle, the story of this three-day conflict has become an American legend. We remember Gettysburg as, perhaps, the biggest, bloodiest, and most important battle ever fought-the defining conflict in American history. But how much truth is behind the legend? In These Honored Dead, Thomas A. Desjardin, a prominent Civil War historian and a perceptive cultural observer, demonstrates how flawed our ...

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Overview

Ever since the guns of Gettysburg fell silent, and Lincoln delivered his famous two-minute speech four months after the battle, the story of this three-day conflict has become an American legend. We remember Gettysburg as, perhaps, the biggest, bloodiest, and most important battle ever fought-the defining conflict in American history. But how much truth is behind the legend? In These Honored Dead, Thomas A. Desjardin, a prominent Civil War historian and a perceptive cultural observer, demonstrates how flawed our knowledge of this enormous event has become, and why. He examines how Americans, for seven score years, have shaped, used, altered, and sanctified our national memory, fashioning the story of Gettysburg as a reflection of, and testimony to, our culture and our nation.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
For many Americans, the name Gettysburg conjures up images of the greatest battle ever fought on American soil, where the country's fate was ultimately decided. A former archivist and historian at Gettysburg himself, Desjardin explores the building of this legend and explains that many of the battle's stories are in fact myths perpetuated for political, social, and often egotistical reasons. Examples include the battle's origins (not the result of large stockpiles of shoes), the importance of the last day of fighting (in many ways, Day 2 was more pivotal), and the demonizing of Longstreet because of the delayed "dawn attack" of July 2 (there is no evidence that Lee actually ordered a dawn attack). He also examines the major players who have shaped our perception of the war. The book is well researched and enjoyable to read, although some significant legends are only briefly explored (e.g., Ewell's decision to stop fighting on the night of July 1). Sure to be controversial among Civil War buffs, this work is highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Robert Flatley, Kutztown Univ., PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306813825
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,187,593
  • Product dimensions: 0.65 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas A. Desjardin holds a Ph.D. in American History and has been an archivist and historian for the National Park Service at Gettysburg. He is currently Historic Site Specialist for the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and is a frequent television commentator on Civil War topics.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 The Many Meanings of Gettysburg 1
2 Infirm Foundations 11
3 The Struggle over Memory 41
4 Rascality and Stupidity 61
5 The Self-fulfilling Prophecy of John Badger Bachelder 83
6 Lost in the Lost Cause 109
7 Constructing the Consummate Gettysburg Hero 127
8 The World's Largest Collection of Outdoor Sculpture 153
9 Where's Buster Kilrain Buried? 177
10 American Valhalla 193
Notes 207
Bibliography 227
Index 233
Photo Credits 245
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 28, 2009

    History is -- maybe -- not what we thought.

    As a Civil War, especially Gettysburg, fanatic, I missed this book when it first came out and only found it as a listed resource in some other, more recent works. It riveted my attention immediately. Anyone who wants a good, analytical look at how Gettysburg became Gettysburg (!) will enjoy this work. Well-researched and thought-provoking it certainly explains how some accepted "facts" about the battle seem to clash with the remembered realities of those who actually fought it. It belongs in any Gettysburg scholar's library and is exceptionally interesting to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2008

    Unmasking the real Gettysburg

    A great story. Very easy to read. Having just gotten back from a trip with high school teachers to Gettysburg - the reading was fresh, contemporary, and informative. I highly suggest it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2006

    You CAN handle the Truth!

    This is one of the most fascinating books about Gettysburg I have ever read. Please read this book to learn more about what went on and how the myths came about! Just terrific....Please, Thomas Desjardin, if you read this....write more and more books of this type! Let the truth be told!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2003

    A bold, enlightening book!

    This is really quite a bombsehll of a book and the author has considerable courage in writing it. It essentially exposes much of what people believe about the battle of Gettysburg as myth. More than that, however, he pulls each legend apart and describes where it came from, revealing how easy it is to shape history in a certain way. You don't have to be a Gettysburg, or even Civil War, nut to enjoy this. It is very well written, entertaining and even funny in places. Not the kind of stodgy old historical book you may be used to.

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