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Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War Hardcover – June 12, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This well-executed alternative history imagines a Confederate victory at Gettysburg. Former House speaker Gingrich (Contract with America) and historical fiction author Forstchen (Down to the Sea) create a plausible scenario: Robert E. Lee resolves to command, rather than merely coordinate, the efforts of that gaggle of prima donnas known as the high command of the Army of Northern Virginia. Thus, when he leads them into battle against the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, he does not commit his soldiers to a desperate head-butting on the ground chosen by the Union's General Meade. Instead, he maneuvers around the Union flank, placing his tightly run army between Meade and Washington, D.C., scooping up Union supplies and forcing Meade to launch desperate attacks with disastrous results for the Union cause. The authors show thorough knowledge of the people, weapons, tactics and ambience of the Civil War, though their portrayals of historical figures like Lee, Meade, James Longstreet and Richard Ewell betray a certain bias (the Confederate men are noble and wise, the Union leaders hot-tempered and vindictive). The novel has a narrative drive and vigor that makes the climactic battle scene a real masterpiece of its kind (it's not for the weak of stomach). The military minutiae probably makes the book inaccessible to anyone who's not a Civil War buff or military fiction fan, but those two sizable groups will find this a veritable feast.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, the universally acknowledged turning point in the Civil War, by which the forces of Robert E. Lee were turned back from their invasion of Northern territory and from which the Confederacy was never to recover, is endlessly studied, most recently in the definitive, compelling Gettysburg by Stephen Sears [BKL My 1 03]. Historian and former speaker of the House of Representatives Gingrich and cowriter Forstchen, a veteran author of historical fiction, present an alternative version of this famous and consequential battle; in their intriguing scenario, General Lee finds success in routing the Union army. The authors' thorough understanding of what did actually happen at that fateful confrontation obviously stands behind their imaginative revision; what went right for the Union army and wrong for the Confederate forces is believably switched here. How the real turn of events could have turned out otherwise is carefully offered in vivid battle descriptions and well-considered alternative strategies. Readers should be forewarned, though: they may come away from this exciting novel believing events really did happen this way. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 463 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (June 12, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031230935X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312309350
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (226 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #401,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Barbara J Tyler on June 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I did not buy this book, a friend who is crazed about anything related to the Civil War subtlety recommend it by putting it in my hand saying really, "you will like it". Unconvinced that I would be interested in a Civil War battle of anything by Newt Gingrich for that matter, I took it home. This book takes hold of you unmercifully, and in my case reluctantly, and does not let go. The character development is remarkable. You will fret over every agonizing decision and cringe at every gory, and I do mean gory, detail. Three cheers for Gingrich and William Forstchen on their alternative history, I'm convinced - they can tell a great story.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By R. W. BELL on September 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In 1853, Robert E. Lee understood that drastic measures were needed to bring the Civil War to a conclusion favorable to the Confederacy. Although the Army of Northern Virginia was blessed with often brilliant generalship, Lee knew that the Union's ability to endlessly churn out soldiers and war materiel meant that even with mediocre leadership the North would eventually grind down the Confederate forces by sheer force of numbers. Lee could win only by destroying the Union's will to fight, and this would not be done by fighting a strategically defensive war strictly on Southern soil. These considerations led to Lee's fateful decision to invade the North.
We all know how that venture ended. Lee, in an uncharacteristic tactical lapse, decided to stand and fight against a well-supplied, entrenched Union force that occupied superior defensive ground south of Gettysburg. Under the circumstances it should not have required brilliant Union leadership to successfully repulse Lee's attacks, but Lee's efforts to take Little Round Top on Day 2 came within a hair's breadth of succeeding. Had Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain failed in his now-famous last-ditch defense of the Union left, the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg might have been very different.
'Gettysburg' takes the "what if" scenario a step farther. What if Lee, instead of making the bullheaded decision to stand and fight at Gettysburg, had withdrawn after the chaos of Day 1 to mount a flank attack designed to draw the Army of the Potomoc to him on ground that gave the rebels all the advantages? Such a strategy seems more consistent with Lee's reputation for audacity and creativity, and co-authors Newt Gingrich and William Fortschen play out the premise in fascinating detail.
The authors obviously know their Civil War.
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47 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Gainor on June 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I am a lifelong Marylander and raised in the midst of tons of Civil War history. Gettysburg, especially, has always fascinated me. In addition, I am a huge fan of author William Forstchen. Even with both of those points, I was unprepared for just how fantastic this book truly is.
The book begins with detail worthy of a true history book, but done in such a well-written way that you are soon with both armies as they prepare for their epic conflict.
You can see the fields filled with soldiers in both blue and gray, hear the roar of the cannons and almost smell the smoke. The people and places are described so well that they almost jump off the page.
The battle begins just as it really did. For those of us who love history (and alternate history), it draws us in beautifully. But then events begin to change. There comes a moment when history, as we know it, is altered.
Now it is up to the soldiers themselves -- officers and enlisted men as drawn believably by the authors -- to act as they would have done. What will Lee, the master tactician do now? How will Meade react, so new to command?
I can't tell you and I'd love to, but I won't spoil one page of this book. Just know this: Buy the book. You won't regret it. (As an aside, I almost never bother with these online reviews. I like the book so much, I just had to.)
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful By steven l. ettenheim on May 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
There are many reasons for reading this book. Although an historical novel, it reads like a mystery thriller. I found myself reading as fast as I could to find out the ending. Another reason is, although a novel, the historical accuracies are many. I became much more familiar with the localized geography of the Gettysburg towns, rivers, bridges, hills, and valleys. There are also the breathtaking accounts of charges and maneuvers and skirmishes, not to mention details of military life during battle. I felt, at times, that I was right there and could smell the sickening odor of decaying and singed human and horse flesh, could actually see myself in hand-to-hand combat or running forward with hundreds of other Union soldiers (I'm a Yankee) in a line stretching 1/4 mile over crests and down gullies, through streams and parched, dusty fields, jumping over fallen comrades, and feeling the absolute knowledge that as I ran toward the Rebel fortifications, there was no place to hide and the only thing preventing a shard of lead slamming into me and ripping me apart was mere chance.
These are reasons enough. But they are not the main reason. George Santayana once said, "Those who do not learn from history, are bound to repeat it." And this is why this book is invaluable -- for reading this type of "history" makes one contemplate the "what ifs." What if the South had defeated the Union Army at Gettysburg? Would Lee have marched on Washington forcing the Union to sue for peace? Would the South have entered into the economic and political sphere of Great Britain? (Confederate delegates were in London trying to accomplish this during the 1860's.) What if the South had won the war?
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