Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War

Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War

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Overview

Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War by Newt Gingrich, William R. Forstchen

The Civil War is the American Iliad. Lincoln, Stonewall Jackson, Grant, and Lee still stand as heroic ideals, as stirring to our national memory as were the legendary Achilles and Hector to the world of the ancient Greeks. Within the story of our Iliad one battle stands forth above all others: Gettysburg.

Millions visit Gettysburg each year to walk the fields and hills where Joshua Chamberlain made his legendary stand and Pickett went down to a defeat which doomed a nation, but in defeat forever became a symbol of the heroic Lost Cause. As the years passed, and the scars healed, the debate, rather than drifting away has intensified. It is the battle which has become the great "what if," of American history and the center of a dreamscape where Confederate banners finally do crown the heights above the town.

The year is 1863, and General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia are poised to attack the North and claim the victory that would end the brutal conflict. But Lee's Gettysburg campaign ended in failure, ultimately deciding the outcome of the war.

Launching his men into a vast sweeping operation, of which the town of Gettysburg is but one small part of the plan, General Lee, acting as he did at Chancellorsville, Second Manassas, and Antietam, displays the audacity of old. He knows he has but one more good chance to gain ultimate victory, for after two years of war the relentless power of an industrialized north is wearing the South down. Lee's lieutenants and the men in the ranks, imbued with this renewed spirit of the offensive embark on the Gettysburg Campaign that many dream "should have been." The soldiers in the line, Yank and Reb, knew as well that this would be the great challenge, the decisive moment that would decided whether a nation would die, or be created, and both sides were ready, willing to lay down their lives for their Cause.

An action-packed and painstakingly researched masterwork by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen, Gettysburg stands as the first book in a series to tell the story of how history could have unfolded, how a victory for Lee would have changed the destiny of the nation forever. This is a novel of true heroism and glory in America's most trying hour.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312309367
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 05/01/2004
Series: The Gettysburg Trilogy , #1
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 345,862
Product dimensions: 5.63(w) x 8.26(h) x 1.26(d)

About the Author

NEWT GINGRICH, former Speaker of the House, bestselling author of Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor, the longest serving teacher of the Joint War Fighting Course for Major Generals at Air University, and an honorary Distinguished Visiting Scholar and Professor at the National Defense University. He resides in Virginia with his wife, Callista, with whom he hosts and produces documentaries, including "A City Upon A Hill".

Dr. William R. Forstchen is the author of over thirty works of historical fiction, science fiction, young adult works, and traditional historical research. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in military history from Purdue University.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

June 28, 1863, 8:00 PM
Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

The shadows of twilight deepened across the orchards and wheat fields of the Cumberland Valley. The day had been hot, the air heavy with damp heat; now the first stirring of a cooling breeze came down from out of the hills. Fireflies danced through the branches of apple, peach, and cherry trees; crickets sang; and as he rode through the rows of the orchard he breathed the rich evening air of summer, feeling a moment of peace.

He looked up at the moon riding in the eastern sky, nearly full, glowing with an orange warmth, the cold light of the stars beginning to fill the heavens.

As he approached the knoll, the orchard gave way to pasture, the fence dividing the two fields broken down, the split rails so laboriously cut and laid in place gone, except for a few upright posts. He had spoken more than once about this, to not touch the property of these people, but after a hard day's march such fences were easy to burn, and the pasture ahead was dotted with glowing fires. An entire winter of a farmer's labor to fence this field gone now in a single night.

He reined in, not wanting to venture closer to where the troops were camped. Shadows moved about the flickering lights, the scent of wood smoke drifting on the cool breeze mingled with all the other scents of the army ... horses, men, food cooking, grease, sweat-soaked wool uniforms, oiled leather, latrines, the heavy mix both repugnant and comforting, the smells that had been his life for over thirty years.

Songs floated on the wind. A boy, Irish from the sound of him, was singing "He's Gone Away." He listened for a moment, feeling a cool shiver, "... But he's coming back, if he goes ten thousand miles."

The boy finished. The song had struck a nerve. More than one of the men coughed to hide the tears; there was a forced laugh, then another song; it sounded like "The Girl I Left Behind Me," but the lyrics were not familiar. He suddenly caught one of the stanzas. It was not the traditional song; it was one of the new verses that soldiers always enjoyed making up.

lHe listened for a moment, and in the shadows he allowed himself to smile. It wasn't as obscene as some and no worse than some of the songs he had sung when a cadet at the Point so many years ago.

He thought of Thomas Jackson. Thomas would have ridden straight into the camp and scattered them, then delivered a stern sermon about such sinful practices, urging the men to pray instead.

Thomas, how I miss you.

The voices around the nearest campfire stilled. Some of the men turned, were looking his way; he heard the whispers.

"Marse Robert. It's him, I tell you. It's General Lee."

He caught a glimpse of an officer stepping away from the fire, coming toward him.

No. Not now.

He lifted his reins; just the slightest nudge and Traveler turned, breaking into a slow canter, and he rode into the shadows. Tracing the edge of the pasture, he followed the broken line of the fence for another fifty yards, the ground rising ahead, climbing to a woodlot. At a corner of the field was a towering oak, gnarled, ancient, a remnant of the great forest that had once covered this land, spared by a farmer long ago, perhaps as a reminder of what the land had once been.

No one was about, and he stopped beneath its vast, spreading branches. Atop the knoll the Cumberland Valley spread out before him, a vast arc of farmsteads, villages, and his army, the Army of Northern Virginia. Ten thousand campfires glowed, spreading up and down the length of the valley, great blazing circles of light. Where the more restless had gathered, there was singing and laughing.

He remembered the night before the Battle of Sharpsburg last fall, the way the Union campfires had glowed on the far side of Antietam Creek and the surrounding hills. As he'd ridden to inspect their lines, he had commented to Jackson on the vastness of the Union host descending upon them.

"Won't be as many of their fires tomorrow night," Thomas had replied coldly.

"Thomas is dead." He whispered the words softly, a simple statement of fact that carried so much weight, perhaps the very outcome of the war.

You have lost your left arm, but I have lost my right. That is what he had sent as a message upon hearing of Jackson's wounding last month at Chancellorsville. And then he had died. How I miss that right arm tonight, he thought sadly. If Jackson were here, I would know without a moment's doubt how to react. But all had changed now.

Where was the Union's Army of the Potomac camped tonight? This morning he had thought they were a hundred miles off, still down in northern Virginia and around Washington. An hour ago he had learned the truth.

The Dutchman, his trusted commander of First Corps, Gen. James "Pete" Longstreet, had come to him with a spy. He had never liked spies, though they were as much a part of war as any soldier and at times far more important than having an extra division on the field. The spy was an actor Pete had hired on his own.

That in itself said something, that his second in command had spent a fair sum of money to send an actor across the fields, villages, and towns of Maryland and Pennsylvania in search of the Army of the Potomac. That was a job Jeb Stuart and his cavalry were supposed to perform, not someone who strutted upon the stage.

The Army of the Potomac was coming north. It was not in Washington; it was coming north and moving fast. By tomorrow night its campfires would be lit not thirty miles from here.

Stuart had failed him. Reports should have been flooding in, detailing the movement of every division in the Union army. There had not been a single word. For that matter he couldn't even tell for sure where Stuart was at this moment. There was the other side of the coin as well. If Stuart had failed to report in, he had most likely failed as well in his other task of screening the movement of this army. He had to assume that the Army of the Potomac might indeed know where he was, how his forces were spread out all the way from the Maryland border to Harrisburg ... and just how vulnerable he was.

I should have known three days back that those people were on the march and following, he thought bitterly. Not tonight, not like this, from a spy slipping through the lines to whisper his report, declaiming his lines as if I were part of a breathless audience hanging on every word.

The anger began to flare. "Damn!"

He knew that if those who followed him had heard that single word it would have sent a shock through the entire army. "The Old Man was so angry he swore," they'd whisper. Staff would have stood stock-still in stunned silence; generals noted for their command of Anglo-Saxon would have been rooted in place.

They make me too much a statue of marble, he thought. I have already become a legend to them. Legends can create victory. Convince your men that they can win, convince the enemy they cannot win, and the battle is half decided before the first shot is fired.

He dismounted, loosely holding Traveler's reins so that his old companion lowered his head to crop the rich clover of the pasture. He sat down under the oak tree, a mild groan escaping him as he settled back, resting his head against the rough bark, and he let the reins go.

They're coming North. That means a fight soon, maybe as early as two days from now, definitely within a week. It is, after all, what I wanted, but not quite yet. And not here, not on the Union army's terms.

A shower of sparks swirled up from the nearest campfire as another rail was tossed onto the flames, another song started, "Lorena."

He listened, humming absently.

"The years creep slowly by, Lorena,

"The snow is on the grass again ..."

His wife, Mary, loved that one; so had his daughter Annie, the memory of her stabbing his heart.

"'Tis dust to dust beneath the sod;

"But there, up there, 'tis heart to heart."

Dear Annie, to think of her thus, returning to dust. His youngest daughter dead at twenty-three the winter before. She had gone off to North Carolina to marry, and now she was gone forever.

Only last week a major from a North Carolina regiment had come to his tent, nervous, respectful. He had been home recovering from wounds and just wanted to say that Annie was buried in the churchyard of his village, that the grave was well tended, fresh flowers placed upon it by the local women. The officer had actually choked back tears as he spoke, then saluted as he retired. He thanked the major, closed his tent flap, and silently wept, a rare luxury, to be alone for a few minutes to cry for a lost child before others came, looking for orders, for advice, looking for a commander who could not be seen to weep.

He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out the letter he had been writing to his wife, Mary, until yet again command had interfered, Longstreet arriving with his spy. Though it was dark, he knew the letter by heart already, having labored over it, trying to find just the right tone to still her fears.

My dearest wife,

I take pen in hand praying that this missive finds you well, and that the protection of our blessed Savior rest upon you.

I write to you this evening with news which we must bear calmly. As you know from my last letter our son Rooney was wounded on June 8th in the action at Brandy Station. As I assured you then his injury was not serious; neither bone nor artery was damaged. I stayed with him throughout that night before leaving to embark upon this campaign the following morning. I was just informed this day, however, that Rooney was taken prisoner last week. Captured in the house where he had been resting and has been sent to Fortress Monroe. Thankfully our young Robert, who was tending to him, was able to escape capture and is safely back in our lines.

My dear wife, do not be overly concerned. Though this bitter and terrible struggle has divided our country, it has not severed all bonds of friendship between old comrades nor has it stilled all sentiments of Christian charity. I am certain that friends of old on the other side, upon hearing of our son's plight, will come to his aid and insure his well being and restoration to health.

Though I can ask no special favors, I am certain that our beloved son will soon be listed for exchange and returned safely to our loving embrace.

I know that your prayers are joined with mine for the protection of our son. That we pray, as well, that this campaign shall bring an ending to this bitter conflict.

He folded the letter up, looking back across the valley. No father should be asked to fight a battle into which his own sons must be sent. When first he had seen them carrying Rooney back from the fight, features pale, thigh slashed open, he had feared the worst and nearly lost his composure. And though he was certain that friends would indeed intervene to ensure Rooney's protection, nevertheless there were some who might do him harm. It was obvious that the cavalry raid to capture Rooney had been launched for no other reason than to seize his son.

So far we've managed to keep the deeper darkness at bay, he thought. In most civil wars Rooney would have been hanged, if for no other reason than to bring me pain. We've fought so far with some degree of chivalry, the memories of old comradeship tempering the fury, but for how much longer can we do that? It has to end soon. It has to end; otherwise the rift will become too deep. It has to end as well, he realized, because if not, we will surely lose.

The song "Lorena" ended; a harmonica struck up a jig; some of the men began dancing, the firelight casting cavorting shadows across the pasture.

He wished he could give them another week, better yet two weeks, of this easy campaigning, living off the rich land, fattening up, getting ready for what lay ahead, but Longstreet and his actor had changed all that.

But while he would have preferred another week, he knew, as well, that he was not up here for a leisurely march; ultimately he was here to fight, and this time to fight a battle that would end the war.

That was the plan he had laid out before President Davis a little more than a month ago. It started when Secretary of War Seddon suggested that part of Longstreet's corps be detached and sent west to relieve the besieged city of Vicksburg on the Mississippi. He had gone down to Richmond to meet with President Davis and the cabinet to present a counterproposal to win the war through a decisive victory in the East.

He tried to remember this Grant who was emerging so rapidly as the Union leader in the West and who had been so aggressive in besieging Vicksburg. So many other faces he could recall: comrades of old from Mexico; from the west plains of Texas; from the parade ground at West Point; John Reynolds, who was Commandant of Cadets at the Academy; Winfield Hancock; Fitz John Porter, his old aide-decamp, all now stood against him-and yet he could fondly remember their voices, their laughter, their friendship.

Many of the younger ones had been cadets at the Point when he was superintendent, a memory that burned hard when he read the casualty lists in the Northern papers and saw more than one name from those days, a boy who had come to a Sunday tea at his home, or one whom he had gently chided for a minor infraction and was now dead, in effect killed by him.

Grant, though, was someone he did not know enough to understand and therefore could not second-guess; and if Grant should win at Vicksburg, he knew they'd bring him east. No, it had to end before then.

He had argued against reacting directly to Grant at Vicksburg. By the time they deployed Longstreet west, the fight might very well be over. Besides, that would leave him with less than fifty thousand men, and surely the Army of the Potomac would come swinging in again, especially if they knew that a third of his forces were gone.

No, take the war into the North. Get into the rich farmlands of Pennsylvania to feed his troops, threaten a state capital, perhaps even take it. That would bring the Army of the Potomac out into the open. We then pick the place, lure them in, and finish it.

Up here in Pennsylvania there would be no falling back; it would be a fight in the open, a chance for an Austerlitz, a Waterloo, the two great battles taught at the Point as classic examples of decisive victory. Do that and end it. Such a victory would leave Washington open for the taking, could perhaps even swing England and France to our side and end the war before winter.

Such a thing, however, required the crucial first step, another slaughtering match with the Army of the Potomac.

Copyright © 2003 Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen

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Gettysburg 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 52 reviews.
mleesdad More than 1 year ago
This series (there are 3 books) tells of how history may of turned if Lee had acted on Longstreet's suggestions of going around the Union army during the Gettysburg campaign. This books starts with the actual history and then statrs the turn down the other possible track. If you are interested in a good story that could have shown a different road to the civil war then this is the series for you
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read all three books. Very interesting analysis of the politics and decisions that happened during the Civil War.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The authors do an excellent job changing one decision made by Lee and seeing the battle through to a very probably conclusion. The charactors are brought to life, and even if your loyalties lie with one sie or the other, you find yourself identifying with individuals on both sides of the battle. Very realisitic and well done. A must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found a very plausible alternative to Gettysburg. I loved the characters, the fundamental possibilities, and the detail the authors went into. They put me in the trenches along side the likes of Longstreet, Lee, Meade, and especially Henry Hunt, who, In my opinion, plays an important, colorful character. Having studied Gettysburg myself several times, I found myself immersed in the 'did or did not' really happen syndrome, blurring history in my mind. I found the character development superb. I highly recommend.
solo More than 1 year ago
In this novel Lee listens to Longstreet and decides against sending Pickett against the Federal lines- from that point on history takes a new turn and the tide of the war changes. A must read for Civil War buffs. The fairness and evenhandedness to both sides is striking.Really enjoyable!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I Could not put this book down. Most Civl War book have some dry chapters but, not this book I enjoyed the whole thing
Guest More than 1 year ago
When Newt Gingrich and Bill Forstchen created Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War, they created a spectacular illustration of alternative history.Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War is a great eye-opener for understanding how one change in the sequence of events could could alter the entire outcome of the Civil War. Whether you are a Civil War buff or not, I highly recommend reading Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War, by Newt Gingrich and Bill Forstchen.
goldenboat on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Kind of a guilty pleasure, about on the order of Cornwell's Sharpe books. I was dubious of this one, but it swept me up. Good characterization and pretty good battle scenes. The last fifty pages or so suffer for pulling out too wide and trying to afford a God's-eye view of the battle ... I liked it better when each section of the campaign was more intimately viewed through the eyes of a single viewpoint character. What I didn't expect to enjoy so much about this book was the alt-history aspect ... it really added to the experience by not knowing what was going to happen next. You have to be a Gettysburg geek to get the most out of this one, but if you've walked the battlefield and read Killer Angels a time or two, you will likely find someting to enjoy here. And I suppose I will read the next one in the series, too ...
MikeD on LibraryThing 8 days ago
Gingrich's novel of what may have happened if the South was victorious. Historically accurate as to the places, people, and times. An interesting hypothisis that is well thought out and based on letters and documents of the era.
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this is the only book I read so far in this series. Very good book .Really interesting on how many people died in the battles up to Gettysburg.
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