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Pfanz' final book in his trilogy of Gettysburg covers a relatively forgotten area of the Battle of Gettysburg. Granted, while I have visited Culp's and Cemetery Hill during each of my Gettysburg visits, I tended to spend most of my time around the second day's fighting (Little Round Top, Devil's Den, Wheatfield, Rose Farm and Woods, Peach Orchard, Trostle Farm) and Pickett's Charge. Pfanz has done the public a great service by providing a book of the actions around Culp's and Cemetery Hill. Indeed, no one probably knows more about Gettysburg than Pfanz.

As usual, he provides sometimes overwhelming details of the actions. His narrative is interesting and I enjoyed reading anecdotes of the main characters (Greene, Steuart, Howard, Meade, Ewell, Early, etc.). Pfanz describes terrain features, battle participants, battle actions, and other details like only he can.

However, there is one sticking point that I have noticed in other Civil War books and have noted in other reviews - there simply are not enough maps. While the maps provided are of excellent detail and contain helpful summaries of the actions represented in the maps, there could have been at least 10 more. I believe there are about 15 maps in the book - there easily could have been 25. I say this because of Pfanz' attention to detail - having more maps to support the battle actions would have made it easier for me to follow the actions. On more than one occasion I was bug-eyed trying to follow what Pfanz was describing!

I am certainly not a military expert (although I am an ex-Air Force Officer) nor an armchair general. I simply enjoy reading more about the heroic actions of soldiers on both sides during a tragic period of our great nation's history.

Complaint aside, I highly recommend Pfanz' title as the definitive account of Culp's and Cemetery Hill. Read, enjoy, and be prepared to follow the large amount of detail - you will need to put on your thinking cap for this and the other Pfanz titles!
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on May 2, 2001
In Gettysburg: Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill, Harry Pfanz sheds light on one of the lesser known aspects of the Battle of Gettysburg. In the common history of the battle, much attention is paid to actions like Buford's stand, the attack on Little Round Top, and Longstreet's Second Assault (Pickett's Charge). In the shadows of these momentous events is the action on Cemetery and Culp's Hills. Ironically, these two hills formed the anchor of the Union line-the reason for fighting at Gettysburg in fact-yet the battles for them are nearly forgotten. Pfanz reminds us of their importance in this informative but somewhat lengthy tome. There can be no argument; Pfanz knows what he is talking about. His attention to detail, and the extent of his knowledge is truly impressive. However, when the entire Gettysburg Campaign can be explained thoroughly in 575 pages as Codington did, it can be somewhat tedious to read a 375-page book on two days of that campaign, and which only involved between fifteen and twenty percent of the combined armies. This is really the only shortcoming of the book. The story could have been better presented in fewer pages with less mind-boggling details. One is often confused when Pfanz shifts between brigades, regiments, and companies, while trying to remember the names of all their commanders. It appears that Pfanz was trying to please too many people with this work, and did not have the same skill of weaving the common soldier's story into the battle history that someone like Stephen Ambrose has. Aside from those technical complaints, the book is very informative and enjoyable to read if you take your time. There is nothing very controversial, as this is primarily a narrative. Pfanz does a good job of presenting all the facts available, allowing the reader to make their own decisions for the most part. On the whole, Pfanz' book is nothing spectacular, just good, informative history-a stepping-stone for further study and analysis.
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on April 19, 1999
Another fasinating read by Pfanz. The book compliments his earlier work of Gettysburg The Second day. Pfanz gives the reader the events leading up to the "showdown" at Culps and Cemetary Hill, an important event during the climatic battle of the Civil War. His detail for the commanders, unit and soldiers compliment the account, not confuse the reader. I HIGHLY reccomend this book to any Civil War Historian, or anyone curious about the greatest battle fought on American Soil.
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on January 7, 2001
It wasn't until reading this book by Harry Pfanz, that I came to better appreciate just how pivotal the areas of Culp's and Cemetery Hills were to the outcome at Gettysburg. I've read MANY accounts of the battles of the 1st day (west of town), and the second day's contests at Little Round Top, Devil's Den, Cemetery Ridge, etc.... and, of course, Pickett's Charge on July 3rd. But, all too often, the two hills south east of Gettysburg have been over-shadowed by the afore-mentioned arenas. Phanz shows clearly how the two hills effected the outcome of the battle, and how the fighting in these sectors directly effected what happened on the ridges and hills to its south and west during the three days.
I enjoyed reading this book immensely. It was one of those books on the battle that I just could not put down once I started. Phanz combines historical accuracy and fact along with many human interest vignetts, and bio's on the leaders and their roles during the actions that their respective commands took part in. What I truly appreciate most about this book is how Phanz helps dispells two myths:
1.) The Union 11th Corps has received a bum rap throughout history - that many 11th Corps units fought heroically and tenaciously both on the second day as well as the first day. And... 2.) That the commanders and enlisted men of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia were not invincible warriors who could take any situation and turn it into glorious victory. They were men who, when faced with overwhelming odds, could fail. As I read this book, I aquired a much clearer view of just what happened at Gettysburg: The Confederate chain of command broke down - and with disasterous results. Much in the same way that their beleagured counterparts in the Army of the Potomac had done nearly every time prior to the great showdown in Pennsylvania.
For some, this book will undoubtedly raise that never-ending question: Had Stonewall Jackson been there, would the Confederate Army have met with greater success on July 1st? Perhaps. But, Phanz clearly shows with facts and accounts how the Confederates of Ewells's corps were just as exhausted and disorganized as the Union defenders on Cemetery Hill were at the end of July 1st. At any rate, I don't pay too much heed to the "what if-ers" of Civil War speculation. What I say to those people is that "if only General Grant been commander of the Union forces at Antietam - if HE was the one with Lee's plans in his hands - the war would have ended in Maryland a year earlier."
But, reality is reality - and what made Stonewall Jackson a great commander is also what got himself killed at Chancellorsville. There's a reason for everything. If not at Gettysburg, the Union would have prevailed somewhere else. And, in this book, Phanz relates how the Commanders and the rank and file of Army of the Potomac rose to meet the crisis... and how they were always worthy opponenets of their southern adversaries. So, with that being said...
Buy this book if you want a thorough, exciting, and reality-based account of the struggles that ocurred on Culp's and Cemetery Hills at Gettysburg. I will be so much more informed, and I will have such a better grasp of history as I walk along the slopes of Culp's and Cemetery Hills on my next visit to the battlefield.
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on December 12, 2005
I found Harry W. Pfanz's book to be well written, well researched and highly informative on the events that took in and around Culp's Hill and Cemetary Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg. Its pretty obvious to anyone who read this book that the author have great deal of understanding and knowledge of this part of Gettysburg and he spared no expense in writing about it.

However, its pretty clear that this book was not written for novice reader on the battle. Its highly detail, at time almost tedious in some areas, so much information that someone who may not be familiar with Gettysburg may have some sort of an information overload. I would recommend that anyone who's starting out on this battle, should skip this book until later on.

But on the other hand, if you're a experience Gettysburg reader, then this book is for you. I think its probably the best book written on the subject matter at hand, which was the actions around Culp's Hill and Cemetary Hill.

The book comes well illstrated with black and white paintings and photos of leaders. The maps are very useful and detail but I agreed with one previous reviewer, we could use more maps. The book is thick and but I would recommended it highly to any experenced Gettysburg reader who wishes to know more about this battle.
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on May 9, 2002
Like his other outstanding books Pfanz continues the superior details backed by biographies and personal accounts. Pfanz briefly explains the 1st Day battle and how it basically shaped Union and Confederate positions around Cemetary and Culp's Hill. After bringing the reader into position Pfanz brings you to the frontlines as General Ewell and General Howard collide. Ewell and the Confederates seize the town and sharpshooters abound on roof tops while artillery battles take place between Cemetary Hill and Benner's Hill. Pfanz then captures General Johnson's attack and the Confederate repulse as the Confederates struggle to take Culp's and Cemetary Hill and the final attacks fail and continue to cause extreme bloodshed. Maps are also included to assist the reader with positions and movements which completes this fine book. As with all of Pfanz's work, be prepared for a huge amount of detail followed by descriptive action!
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VINE VOICEon January 12, 2001
If you don't like detail than this is not your book . This book pinpoints all the key occurrences and strategies and major participants and their units. Without being judgmental, Pfanz lays all the facts before Ewell at the time he received Lee's order to take Culp's Hill. It's more plausible to understand why he didn't particularly with a phantom enemy on his northeastern front. Keys well on the Generals involved, who was really the smart General who choose Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill to make a stand, Howard vs. Hancock. A wonderful description of the retreat through the town, the combat around the town, the valiant attacks by Johnson's corp and near success and all the skirmishing that occurred in front of the key hills and to the north and east. After reading about the stoic charges by the confederates uphill, across open fields and the strong defense by the Union it is a wonder that the Confederates could limp away the evening of July 4. Pfanz also brings out how frustrated Lee was in attempting to consolidate his line and move Ewell's corps further south/west without success. The role of Ewell and Early in this failed attempt is discussed. Also, notable that Rode's attack with Johnson on the second day was difficult to coordinate due to the town and geography. This failure looms very large and demonstrated how difficult it was to move large forces of men around terrain with impediments (lots of fences) and moving against artillery. If Lee's left wing could not coordinate it's own attack with success on the second day across fields and into artillery on Rode's side of the field, it seems too impossible for Longstreet's attempt the next day. The controversies of Longstreet's Charge (misnamed Picket's) have often over shadowed the great controversy of the Ewell and his generals problems taking the hill's the first day and Rode's disaster and poor timing of the second. The timely union movements that won the battle of the hills told together with accidental movements that almost lost the hills is told so well had you not known the outcome, you would be on the edge of your seat. By identifying the units on the field, Pfanz demonstrates that north and south maryland units actually fought each other. Pfanz's telling demonstrates how hard the war was, the advantages of concentration, the geography of the land and tremendous courage on both sides. P.S., any CW book that Gary Gallagher (editor) is involved with is a collectable.
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on November 28, 2004
This is an outstanding and complete account of the events that occured on the Culp's Hill/Cemetery Hill line during the battle. This is not for the passing reader but a must for those serious about the battle. For best use of the book, read it THEN take a day and actually walk the Hills using the book as a reference. Far to many people visit the battlefield and never know what occured here or even visit this part of the field. Few know of Gen. George Greene and his role but all who read about the battle know of Col.'s Vincent and Chamberlain. Even fewer know that at one point a Confederate brigade was only a few hundred yards from the Baltimore Pike and for an hour the unguarded Federal Artillery Reserve. W. Culp couldn't have died on Culp's Hill if Co. B, 2nd VA was across Rock Creek on the skirmish line with elements of the 1st NC. Careful study of this material and the times will bring out many not so well known facts that occured on this "forgotten" part of the field and prove other myths wrong.
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on March 14, 2000
This is the best book I have ever read about Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill in my 30+ years of studying and visiting Gettysburg. Pfanz, a professional CW historian and head historical researcher at Gettysburg NMP, surely knows more about Gettysburg than any person alive - and he put a LOT of that information into this book. He describes the grand scheme, yet manages to add brief anecdotes that make the book "comfortable", as if you are part of the action on the battlefield. He reviews all the information at hand, offers his opinion, but let's the reader make up his/her own mind. I learned MANY things in this book that I have never read or heard elsewhere. My sole regret was that the book was not twice as long - or even longer. (I wish that I could get a copy of the unedited version and his notes!) This is a great book and I highly recommend it to anyone with more than a passing interest in Gettysburg.
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on December 5, 2008
Gettysburg: Culp's Hill & Cemetery Hill is the second of a three volume set by Harry Pfanz former Chief Historian of the NPS. This volume in my opinion is the best of the three in that the writing, while formal in style, is much clearer and easier to understand.

The book deals basically with the largely forgotten aspects of the battle, the combat for Cemetery and Culp's Hill and contains an extensive account of the operational thinking of Generals Lee and Ewell as to whether to not to assault Cemetery Hill at the conclusion of the first day's combat. I have read many books on Gettysburg and this is the only one to deal with the events following the collapse of the 11th corps and the capture of the town in detail along with the preparations leading up to events of July 2nd. Why this material was not included in the final volume, Gettysburg the First Day, is unknown but as an historian I am glad to see it finally come to light. From this point we begin the story of July 2nd and the assaults that were made late in the afternoon and early evening on both hills.

This is not a book for the casual Gettysburg reader as it can be, at times, a difficult read. The maps, while excellent, are too few in number and one often finds himself flipping back and forth to view a situational map, which leads to a loss of though. It is well documented and leaves no question as to what is happening. It is a serious study for the serious reader and the best of the three volume set.
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