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Shaara’s work, which was developed into the 1993 movie Gettysburg, has inspired tens of thousands of Americans to make the journey to Gettysburg to relive those three epic days in July 1863.
It’s done with a passion for completeness, and it’s also the first book that took notice of the significance of the fence rails on either side of the Emmittsburg Road—a point that got me thinking about the larger meaning of the fences in the whole Gettysburg battle.
The judgments about the most famous attack in American history are careful and judicious; Hess is not in love with Longstreet, and, on the whole, he does not consider the attack to have been some ghastly error on Lee’s part.
Its weakness is its plodding, tedious style, which often makes it a book more recommended than read.
High Tide at Gettysburg is a journalist’s rather than a historian’s work, and for sheer readability, there is no other single-volume history of the battle to match it.
He is precise on timings, locations, and even heads of cattle brought off, and he is remarkably generous in estimating that while Lee may have lost the Battle of Gettysburg, he salvaged a good deal from the campaign (including 45 road miles’ worth of captured stores).
This is the first of three books that Pfanz, a longtime presence with the National Park Service staff at Gettysburg and the NPS chief historian, wrote about Gettysburg.
Tucker is long on personalities (which interested him the most) and short on military chitchat (there are, for instance, no maps), and he breathes a gentle but definite spirit of admiration for the Army of Northern Virginia, and especially for James Longstreet.
Hess’ study is the model of a Gettysburg micro-history.
With a rich sense of character development and good storytelling, this beautifully written book integrates the experiences of immigrant soldiers, women, and African Americans into the tale of the war’s most storied battle, offering a profound meditation on its legacy.
Excellent recent books about the battle by Stephen Sears and Allen Guelzo beat Coddington in terms of readability, and I would probably recommend them to anyone beginning their study of Gettysburg.