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Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage Paperback – May 27, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Making comprehensive and sophisticated use of a broad spectrum of archival and printed sources, NPR executive producer Trudeau (Bloody Roads South) enhances his reputation as a narrative historian of the Civil War with what is to date the best large-scale single-volume treatment of those crucial three days in July 1863, elegantly reconstructing the battle and the campaign from the perspectives of the participants. Trudeau allows them, from generals to enlisted men, to speak in their own words, creating a thoroughly absorbing story of determination on both sides and at all levels. Robert E. Lee began the campaign intending to win a battle of annihilation. July 1 inaugurated some of the hardest, and the most exacting, fighting American soldiers have ever done. The operational narratives are remarkable for their clarity, especially Trudeau's presentation of the confused fight for the Union left flank on July 2. The text is supplemented by sketch maps of unit positions and movements that are also models of clarity a particular boon to nonspecialist readers. Trudeau defensibly concludes that the wide latitude allowed subordinates at all levels of the Army of Northern Virginia worked against it at Gettysburg. Further, his emphasis on contemporary sources instead of postwar retrospection and academic analysis shows that despite nearly equal losses totaling almost 50,000 men Gettysburg failed as Lee's battle of annihilation.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

An executive producer for National Public Radio, Trudeau (Like Men of War: Black Troops in the Civil War) opens his new book with no apologies, saying that the time is right for another comprehensive work on the Battle of Gettysburg. This book begins on May 15, 1863, and describes in minute detail the events leading up to the battle, the battle itself (often hour by hour), and Lee's retreat in the early hours of July 4. Trudeau skillfully intertwines his narrative with firsthand accounts using letters, diaries, memoirs, and after-action reports from local residents, soldiers, and officers. He offers new insights on familiar controversies such as Confederate General Ewell's role on the first day of fighting, Robert E. Lee's mood for battle, and Major General Meade's reluctance to fight. In addition, Trudeau unearths many little-known human interest stories and brings to light the trials and tribulations of ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances. The book includes 60 maps, a detailed roster of the opposing armies' command structure, and copious chapter notes. A monumental work, thoroughly researched and well written, this is the best recent single-volume history of the campaign. Highly recommended for Civil War enthusiasts and scholars. Robert K. Flatley, Frostburg State Univ., MD
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (May 27, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060931868
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060931865
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #507,903 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 80 people found the following review helpful By David W. Nicholas on August 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The battle of Gettysburg is probably better chronicled than any event in American military history, if not the world's. Writers have gotten tired of telling the history of the battle completely, and moved on to write "microhistories" of one part or another of the battle. The present book is billed as the first attempt at a complete detailed history of the battle since Coddington's The Gettysburg Campaign, a wonderful book published, if memory serves correctly, in 1968. Trudeau has a good reputation, and so I was looking forward to this, the first of his books I have read. I wasn't disappointed.
There is a considerable amount of information here, and it's quite well presented. The author writes clearly and concisely, and the action is explained well and is easy (at least for someone who's well-versed in Civil War history) to follow. Some of the other reviews criticize the maps, either for their format or the physical size. What they don't realize is that most publishers would be willing (even eager) to publish a book like this with perhaps three or four maps, thinking that sufficient. There are, instead, a plethora of them here (there's no list, but there must be three dozen) with details of unit positions and directions of movement. A key on the daily comprehensive maps showing which of the smaller ones covered what part of the battlefield might have helped a bit, though I had no problem. Then again, I'm pretty good with maps, and have read a lot on Gettysburg. One annoyance is that the maps are uncredited, which means we can't castigate or praise the cartographer.
The author has a writing style which apparently irritated some people. He writes in short passages, some only a paragraph long, some several pages, and they are arranged chronologically.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Richard E. Hegner on September 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have spent a large part of this summer reading a number of the histories of the battle of Gettysburg that have appeared over the past decade, and I have to say that I have read none that even approaches this wonderful book in quality, clarity, and comprehensiveness. Unlike many books that focus on a single battle or campaign, this one never bogs down in details, yet it provides a sufficient level of descriptive information to give the reader a true feeling of first-hand experience. Trudeau demonstrates a fine command of not just military details but also the English language. Unlike many military histories, this book also provides important insights into the civilian experience during the battle--for after all, through most of those three days in July 1863, Gettsburg was truly a town under enemy occupation. In addition, it presents the experience of all levels of soldier partipants--from the lowliest enlisted man to the high command. His obvious familiarity with and skillful use of contemporary material make the narrative seem all the more realistic, too.
The book offers a wealth of superior battlefield maps, charting all but the most minor incidents, and thus gives the reader a constant reminder of where the action is taking place and the "lay of the land." Trudeau also does a laudable job of relating what was happening at the same time on different parts of this extensive battlefield, by interspersing short contemporaneous passages on events from all over the area. He presents the battle in context, too--commencing the narrative just after Robert E. Lee's signal victory at Chancellorsville and carrying on to Lincoln's address at the commemoration of the national cemetery.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By B. Morris on April 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When looking for a one book study of the Gettysburg Campaign one in general has three choices, Trudeau, Sears and of course Coddington. If I had to put the three in order I would put Coddington first, Sears and then Trudeau.
There is no question that Trudeau is a fine scholor. His book is well researched and presented in a unique fashion. Instead of long chapters about different sections of the battle he writes shorter sections and jumps all over the battlefield so as to give the reader a feeling of what was going on at different parts of the field at the same time. It's an interesting way to approach writing about the battle and for the most part it works.
The main problem with this book is simply that Trudeau is not as good a writer as Coddington and Sears. To be truthful his writing is a bit on the dry side.
If you are new to Gettysburg and simply looking for one book to learn about the battle then I strongly suggest you pick up Coddington or Sears. Both are fine books and will do the job. Like I said, this book isn't a bad book but simply a bit dry and While I think the book belongs on the shelf of anyone seriously studying Gettysburg, I don't recommend it for those looking for their first book on the battle.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
With his new one-volume history of America's most famous battle, Mr. Trudeau has done a mighty service for Civil War buffs, and Gettysburg fans in particular. It is detailed - remarkably so - and may put off some newcomers to the battle's story, but it's depth and thoughtful approach make it the new standard for comprehensive histories of Gettysburg

I've read a great deal about Gettysburg, but Trudeau has managed to find first-person accounts that I've never heard before. They are woven together with incisive narrative and wonderful maps. Lots of maps. They give a real feel for the ebb and flow of the battle.

Trudeau nicely balances emotion and military detail. The first-person voices give the story heart, while the text and maps provide the historical anchor. This book needs to be on every Civil War collector's bookshelf.
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