Gettysburg 1863: Campaign of Endless Echoes by Richard Wheeler
Publisher/Year: Plume, 1999
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.