Saturday, June 1, 2013

Review: Gettysburg, Turning Point Of The Civil War

Edited by Kelly Knauer

In his introduction “Why Gettysburg Matters,” James M. McPherson explains Robert E. Lee and the leaders of the Confederacy believed a Confederate victory on Northern soil would force Ulysses S. Grant to loosen his strangle-hold on Vicksburg, Mississippi, the tide of Northern sentiment would turn against the war, and Abraham Lincoln would be forced to sue for peace or be defeated in the following year’s election.  If the Republican Party was defeated in large numbers in the 1864 elections, Lee believed the newly installed President of the United States would have no other option than to capitulate and give the Confederacy her freedom.  In short, Lee’s second invasion of the North was a vital component of the Southern campaign to win the war.

Having established the importance of the July 1863 battle, the book’s creators take a step back in time and to look at the bigger picture.  In the chapter, “The Road to Gettysburg,” the divisive issue of slavery is cited as the primary cause of the regional divisions in the United States.  After decades of debates and compromises, John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, was the match that lit the fuse, and the election of Abraham Lincoln was the explosive detonation that caused the Union to fracture as one Southern state seceded after another.

Moving forward in time to the summer of 1863 the next chapter, “Lee Invades the North” follows what is now known as the Gettysburg Campaign: the Army of Virginia’s northward movement through Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and into Pennsylvania with the Army of the Potomac at it heels.

The battle took place over three days, July 1-3, 1863, and each day of the battle is covered in one chapter of the book.  Each of these chapters includes a “Battlefield Guide,” giving its readers a reference point for information which follows in the chapter’s successive pages, namely a glossary of military terms and a timeline of day’s events; annotations about time, and the organization of infantry and artillery units are also included.  On the opposing page is a map detailing the day’s action.

Interspersed throughout the book are articles covering Abraham Lincoln’s search for a general able to defeat Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Civil War Medicine, the Gettysburg Cyclorama, Death and the Civil War, and Lee’s escape south after the battle.

The final chapter “Gettysburg in Memory,” brings us from the immediate aftermath of the battle to the conclusion of the war up to the present day.  It delves into the realm of recent of study, the Civil War in Memory; with articles covering Civil War photographers and photography, Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address, and the Civil War in movies.

Many of the officers who lead troops on both sides of the conflict have become historical icons.  “Gettysburg, The turning Pont of the War” features lengthy biographical sketches of some of the battle’s notable participants: Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, George G. Meade, Joshua L. Chamberlain and James Longstreet.  Also included are shorter biographical sketches of those commanding of the opposing armies: for the Confederacy A. P. Hill, Jubal Early, Henry Heth, Richard S. Ewell, John Bell Hood, Richard H. Anderson, Edward “Allegheny” Johnson, William Barksdale, George E. Pickett, Lewis A. Armistead, Isaac H. Trimble and J. Johnston Pettigrew; and their Federal counterparts Francis C. Barlow, Solomon Meredith, Winfield Scott Hancock, John C. Caldwell, William J. Colville, Alfred Pleasonton, Henry Hunt, John Buford and John F. Reynolds

First person accounts of the battle are also included in the book from civilians Elizabeth Masser Thorn and Tillie Pierce; Confederates Colonel William C. Oates of the 15th Alabama Infantry, Sergeant Valerius C. Giles of the 4th Texas Infantry and Captain Henry T. Owen, of the 18th Virginia Infantry; and Federal troops, Lieutenant Charles A. Fuller of the 61st New York Infantry, Captain Edward R. Bowen of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry and Lieutenant George G. Benedict of the 12th Vermont Infantry

Using its linear narrative of each day’s action in combination with first person accounts and a liberal use of photographs, artworks and maps, “Gettysburg, The Turning Point of the War” gives its readers a panoramic view of the largest battle ever to take place in the Western Hemisphere, sets it into its proper historical context, and explores how we choose to remember the battle and the Civil War.

ISBN 978-1618930538, Time, © 2013, Hardcover, Dimensions 10.5 x 1 x 11.5 inches, 192 pages, Maps, Photographs, Illustrations, Picture Credits & Index. $29.95.  To Purchase the book click HERE.

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