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

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

by Thomas A. Desjardin, Lewis Grenville
     
 

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The legends and myths that have shaped our national memory of the most important battle in American history-and our very notion of "hero."

Ever since the guns of Gettysburg fell silent in July 1863, and Lincoln stepped away from his two-minute speech on the same battleground four months later, the story of this three-day conflict has become an American legend, a

Overview

The legends and myths that have shaped our national memory of the most important battle in American history-and our very notion of "hero."

Ever since the guns of Gettysburg fell silent in July 1863, and Lincoln stepped away from his two-minute speech on the same battleground four months later, the story of this three-day conflict has become an American legend, a cultural icon. American memory has established Gettysburg as the greatest, biggest, most important, most heroic, most savage, bloodiest battle this nation has ever fought. It has become our Waterloo, our battle of Marathon, our siege of Troy. The soldiers who fought there have become heroes in our national pantheon: They fought the hardest, endured the worst, and achieved the most, nothing less than saving the United States from self-destruction. Gettysburg has become the defining conflict in our history.

How did the story of Gettysburg evolve? How did the battle become a legend? And how much truth is behind the myth? Thomas A. Desjardin, a prominent Civil War historian and keen cultural observer, shows how flawed our knowledge of this enormous event has become, and why that has happened. It is, in effect, the extraordinary biography of a story-the story of Gettysburg. It also shows how Americans 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.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780792732099
Publisher:
BBC Audiobooks America
Publication date:
05/28/2004
Product dimensions:
7.06(w) x 6.44(h) x 1.57(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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