Gettysburg 1863: Campaign of Endless Echoes by Richard Wheeler

Gettysburg 1863: Campaign of Endless Echoes by Richard Wheeler
Publisher/Year: Plume, 1999
Format: Paperback
Pages: 302
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

It was a campaign waged from generals’ tents and presidential mansion–a battle fought by soldiers and civilians alike. Drawing on a lifetime of knowledge, Richard Wheeler, award-winning author of Witness to Gettysburg and Voices of the Civil War, combines authoritative research and authentic personal history to re-create the most pivotal episode of the Civil War.

Gettysburg 1863 follows General Robert E. Lee from the marshaling of his Confederate army in Virginia to his desperate last attempt against Union forces on Cemetery Ridge–the doomed and bloody Pickett’s Charge that gave the North a victory it scarcely knew it had won. It brings to life the ordinary men and women who played their part in turning the tide, from a seventy-year-old cobbler who put on his finest clothes and joined the defending Unionists to a wife who, disguised as a man, fell in battle beside her Confederate soldier husband. And there are the noncombatant citizens: the black Gettysburg residents in flight or in hiding, terrified of being captured into slavery; the woman killed by a stray bullet in her own kitchen–the battle’s only civilian fatality.

Illustrated with over a dozen maps and more than one hundred portraits and rare line drawings, Gettysburg 1863 offers a fresh and exciting look at one of the most significant events in American history.

What I thought

My first non-fiction read of 2021! And I really enjoyed it. As someone who has read extensively on this battle before, I didn’t learn anything new, but I did appreciate the narrative feel to this book. It made for easy reading, and I didn’t have to struggle with any dry, textbook style writing. And even though I might not have learned anything new, exactly, there were a number of interesting, moving, and even some funny anecdotes I hadn’t heard before. My sole complaint was that this desperately needed more and/or better maps of the actual battle. Other than that, I think this would make for an excellent read for a beginner to the Gettysburg campaign, and I think this holds value as a quick refresher for the more seasoned historian.

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
Publisher/Year: Random House, 2020
Format: Hardcover (B&N Bookclub Edition)
Pages: 410
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

A mother and daughter with a shared talent for healing–and conjuring curses–are at the heart of this dazzling first novel.

Conjure Women is a sweeping story that brings the world of the South before and after the Civil War vividly to life. Spanning generations, it explores the lives of three unforgettable women: Miss May Belle, a wise healer; her precocious and observant daughter Rue, who is reluctant to follow in her mother’s footsepts as a midwife; and their master’s daughter Varina. The secrets and bonds among these women come to a head at the birth of an accursed child, who sets the townspeople alight with fear, spreading superstition that threatens their newly won, tenuous freedom.

Richly imagined, brilliantly researched, magnificently written, Conjure Women moves back and forth in time to tell the haunting story of Rue, Varina, and May Belle, their passions and friendships, and how far they will go to save themselves and those they love.

What I thought

This novel was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020, so I was so excited when Barnes & Noble picked it as a book club selection. And I was not disappointed! As a debut novel, Conjure Women blew me away with its brilliance, and I have to admit, I am bummed to not have been able to meet and discuss this with my usual crew. There were so many layers to this story and so much to take away from it that this is one of those books where I feel like it’s almost necessary to read it again and again to truly grasp it all. And I absolutely could do that. Afia Atakora’s writing was so stunning and atmospheric that I was transported as I read. This was my ideal historical fiction read.

I could go on and dive into all the layers of this book, but I feel like I’d just end up rambling about how much I loved this book. I just cannot get over the fact that Conjure Women is a debut novel. If her first novel was any indication, I am immensely looking forward to whatever Afia Atakora writes next. Fans of historical fiction–get your hands on this one!

A Field Guide to Gettysburg by Carol Reardon & Tom Vossler

A Field Guide to Gettysburg by Carol Reardon & Tom Vossler
Publisher/Year: The University of North Carolina Press, 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 454
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

A Selection of the Military Book Club, Quality Paperback Book Club, and BOMC2 Online

In this lively guide to Gettysburg National Military Park, Carol Reardon and Tom Vossler invite readers to participate in a tour of this hallowed battlefield.

Includes:

  • Expert advice for touring the battlefield
  • 35 tour stops, each offering a detailed account of events
  • Orientation to key landmarks at each stop
  • Essential visual cues to help you picture the battle as it unfolds around you
  • 47 illuminating maps
  • Numerous photographs–including newly available views of the battlefield

Ideal for carrying on your trip to the park and as a comprehensive resource for the armchair historian, this book includes enlightening maps and authoritative descriptions of the action that will place you right in the heart of the conflict. Crisp narratives introduce key figures and events, and eye-opening vignettes help readers more fully comprehend exactly what happened and why. A wide variety of contemporary and postwar sources offer colorful stories and present interesting interpretations that have shaped–or reshaped–our understanding of Gettysburg today.

What I thought

Here’s a book that’s a little outside of my normal reading to share with you all today. For those that don’t know, I adore learning about history, and one era that I’m particularly interested in is the American Civil War. Gettysburg is near and dear to my heart, and I’ve been a frequent visitor since childhood. All of this is to say that Gettysburg is a topic I’m very fond of reading about.

This field guide was an eager purchase for me when it first came out, and I’m very glad to have finally gotten around to reading it. For newbies to the battlefield and veterans alike, this field guide is an invaluable resource to bring with you on your visit. Each stop is presented in a clear, concise way with pictures, maps, and helpful driving directions.

While you might wish to pair this with a more in depth history of the battle to get the full understanding of each day’s events, this field guide will still give you a comprehensive overview of the battle’s events at the various locales. I’d say this would be an excellent tool to take with you on the field–whether as a jumping point for an intro into the battle’s history or as a more in-depth, in-person look at the battle.

I, for one, am now itching to get back to Gettysburg to take this guide with me on a tour of the battlefield. I like that my copy is lightweight but sturdy, too, so I can carry it with me. If you do decide to take this with you on your visit (and you should), I will say that it will probably take you a good couple of days to “work” through the guide, so just make sure to give yourself enough time.

All in all, this is an indispensable guide to Gettysburg, and I’m more than happy to add this to my collection on the topic. A must-read for fans of Gettysburg history!

Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom

Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom
Publisher/Year: Simon & Schuster, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 370
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

A man must risk his life and make a dangerous journey into his secret past to fulfill a promise and rescue a friend.

Jamie Pyke, son of the master of Tall Oaks plantation and his kitchen slave, is passing as a wealthy white aristocrat in Philadelphia. His secret identity and even his life are threatened when he is compelled by a promise to travel back to the South–where he is still being hunted as an escaped slave–to rescue a beloved young boy named Pan who has been kidnapped and sold into slavery. Pan is unprepared for the brutal life of the slave quarters until he finds an ally in the compassionate nurse, Sukey, and she hatches a plan to help him escape through the Underground Railroad. Jamie manages to locate Pan and Sukey just as the ruthless slave hunters are closing in on him. Together, the three make a run for freedom, but there is a grave price to pay.

Confirming her extraordinary storytelling talent, Kathleen Grissom has written a novel that is at once a breathtaking thriller, a tragic love story, and an inspiring testament to our essential need for freedom that casts “glory over everything.”

What I thought

It’s been several years since I’ve read The Kitchen House, but reading Glory Over Everything certainly reminded me why I love Kathleen Grissom’s writing so much. I just adore good historical fiction, and if you’re also a fan of the genre, this is one you won’t want to miss.

One of the things I enjoyed so much about this book was simply the writing. Kathleen Grissom’s writing is so atmospheric that I just got sucked into the story. The story builds slowly in the beginning, but then it hit a point where I found it impossible to put down. I couldn’t read fast enough for fear of what was going to happen to these characters.

Another aspect of Grissom’s writing that I loved was how evocative it was. Going into this one, especially after having read The Kitchen House, I knew it wasn’t going to be an “easy” read. And I so appreciate the fact that Grissom didn’t try to sugarcoat the horrors and brutality of slavery. I often read with tears in my eyes–both because of the appalling way that humans were treated and also because of the strength and hope they held onto in spite of that.

Additionally, I love Grissom’s writing of Jamie’s character–I felt it was very interesting what she did there. I didn’t always like him. In fact, there were many times I did not. But a character doesn’t always have to be “likeable.” They’re still human, and we are not always likeable. Jamie’s internal dilemma with his own heritage and his outward demeanor to others at times was fascinating to me, even if it did make me cringe at times. And by the end, there was definitely some growth evident. I’m certainly curious about Jamie’s future.

Before I end, I also want to add that I just love Pan and Sukey–two wonderful characters that I know I’ll carry with me.

In the end, even though I can see some loose threads that could be potential future stories here, I do feel satisfied with the end. Of course, at this point, I’d read anything Katheen Grissom writes. You don’t need to read The Kitchen House prior to reading this, but I highly recommend that you do. I can’t praise this enough. If you’re looking for an absorbing historical fiction, look no further than Glory Over Everything.

Gettysburg Battlefield Hauntings by Lawrence J. Gavlak

GETTYSBURG BATT20170415_111724LEFIELD HAUNTINGS by Lawrence J. Gavlak
Publisher/Year: LJ Gavlak Publishing, 2008
Format: Paperback
Pages: 112
Rating: 🌟🌟
Goodreads

 

Synopsis

Contains spine-tingling stories of ghostly encounters from the Battlefield at Gettysburg. Several photos take the reader visually to where each encounter occurred! The ‘Bonus Section’ contains tales from selected other sites.

What I thought

I’m gonna keep this review short & simple, as this book is short & simple. I enjoyed this book for what it was, but I will say I think there are “better” Gettysburg ghost books out there. The stories here are simply entertaining & interesting, so I won’t say I disliked the book. I wish some of them had included more details. I will say, I really did like the author’s attitude about respecting the battlefield & remembering to honor those that fought there. Overall, I’m glad I have this book to include with my Gettysburg collection although it isn’t necessarily one of my favorites. I met the author & he seemed like a pretty nice guy. This would be a good book to read around a campfire at night!