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Receding Tide: Vicksburg and Gettysburg- The Campaigns That Changed the Civil War Hardcover – May 18, 2010

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Receding Tide: Vicksburg and Gettysburg- The Campaigns That Changed the Civil War + Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War + Petersburg Campaign, The: The Eastern Front Battles, June - August 1864, Volume 1
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic; First Edition edition (May 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426205104
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426205101
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Among Bearss’ many roles over decades of activity in the Civil War arena—as author, field excavator, and preservationist—is that of battlefield guide. His perambulating commentary was converted to print in Fields of Honor (2006), a tour of the 14 clashes between the Blue and Gray, and this sequel does the same for Bearss’ excursions to Vicksburg and Gettysburg. Set in the present tense, Bearss’ text plunges readers into the flow of unfolding events, from Confederate leaders pondering strategic options after Lee’s spectacular victory at Chancellorsville in May 1863, to generals’ orders to their units, to soldiers North and South clashing in Mississippi and Pennsylvania. Wounded in WWII, Bearss imparts the look and emotion of combat so that his reader can imagine, for example, Johnny Reb’s feelings as he steps off on Pickett’s Charge. Bearss’ presentation lacks only the author’s growl and quasi-mystical storytelling manner—but the audience will conjure those, too, as Bearss was one of the historian-stars of Ken Burns’ documentary The Civil War. For buffs, Bearss’ book hits the bull’s-eye. --Gilbert Taylor


"The wealth of detail, Bearss’ astute judgments and the flowing narrative combine to make Receding Tide an excellent and highly recommended book."—Civil War News

“Establishing a standard for literary excellence.” –Army magazine
"A smooth narrative of compelling force...Bearss’ experienced eye for human interest stories is evident throughout the book." –Civil War News
 “For buffs, Bearss’ book hits the bull’s-eye.” –Booklist
“For more than half a century, prolific writer and battlefield historian Bearss has more than covered the Civil War…Here he tells the story of these two important battles…” –Book News

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Customer Reviews

Very well researched and well written.
Bob Haus
And the detailed descriptions of individual battles are superb.
Dial Parrott
Highly recommend this book to Civil War "buffs".

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
With his passion for his subject, knowledge, and flair for presentation, Ed Bearss (b. 1923) is America's premier Civil War tour guide. A former historian at Vicksburg and Chief Historian of the National Park Service, Bearss continues to give selflessly of his time to increase understanding of one of the defining moments of American history. In 2007, the National Geographic Society published "Fields of Honor" Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War a book of transcripts of Bearss' tour presentations for several major Civil War Battlefields. In this new book, "Receding Tide", readers receive the benefit of more Bearss tours but with a focus. The book concentrates on the conflict during late 1862 to mid- 1863. The focus is on Vicksburg and Gettysburg, "The Campaigns that Changed the Civil War", but the campaign in Tennessee during this time period also receives much attention.

Other than books that give an overview of the Civil War, most books that explore the military conflict in depth focus on one campaign or the other. Thus, there are many books on the Gettysburg campaign and a smaller though still substantial number of books about Vicksburg. I have read many books about individual battles and about the Civil War, but Bearss' book taught me a good deal. He weaves together the stories of the three primary theaters of the war: the East in Virginia and Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Vicksburg and the Mississippi River and shows their interrelationship. The narrative shifts back and forth among the different theaters and various points and helped me understand how they held together.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Dial Parrott on June 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Receding Tide by authors Ed Bearss and Parker Hills is a splendid work which will fascinate readers new to the literature of the Civil War as well as those who have already delved deeply into the subject. In addition to its gripping presentation of the Vicksburg and Gettysburg campaigns, the book offers an excellent overview of the entire first two years of the war. The simultaneous day-by-day accounts of the Confederate and Union efforts in Mississippi/Arkansas, Virginia/Pennsylvania and Tennessee are outstanding and tremendously informative, a bonus feature I have not encountered in previous books. And the detailed descriptions of individual battles are superb. For instance, I have read many accounts of the Day Two fighting at Gettysburg, but before reading Receding Tide, it had always been difficult to make sense of the constant succession of surge and retreat that raged during the late afternoon of July 2 in the area between the Peach Orchard, the Stony Hill and the Wheatfield. Both authors are expert guides to the terrain on which the battles were fought as well as the critical (and all-too-often neglected) routes by which the armies arrived at the fields of actual conflict. Under their masterful direction, a reader can see the evolving battles (and the unceasing demand to make crucial decisions in a state of uncertain knowledge) as the commanders on the field saw them.

Highly recommended.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well known Civil War historian and National Park Service legend Edwin Bearss is the primary author of a detailed examination of the battles at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. The Union victories at both battlefields essentially marked, in the book title's terms, a receding of the Confederate tide. J. Parker Hills, a military officer with considerable knowledge of the Civil War adds his commentary (in italics). The addenda by Hills help to fill out details. . . .

The receding tide was, according to Bearss, a function of the double defeat of the Confederate States of America--the defeat at Gettysburg and the surrender at Vicksburg.

This book is characterized by great detail and deep knowledge by the author of these two campaigns. It was fun to follow the detailed discussions.

While the details regarding the run up to the battle at Gettysburg do not add great insights into our understanding of that battle, his discussion of the events between July 1 and July 3 give great insight into the combat there. He gives a sense of the specific events taking place (his discussion of Longstreet's attack on Day # 2 is concise but also filled with enough detail to make sense of events); he also gives insight into the larger strategic decisions made by Lee and Meade. Thus, one gets an "on the ground" view--but also a view from "30,000 feet." All without being drowned by detail.

Bearss' presentation of the stages of the Vicksburg campaign added a great deal to my understanding of events. He did a nice job of summarizing the "experiments" by Grant, although I'm not sure that I learned anything new. Then, a very lucid description of Grant's venture south, below the guns of Vicksburg. The coverage of the campaign after that is delightful.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Anthony D. Gunter on September 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Most battle histories have a very narrow focus, and tend to be a bit myopic. Inevitably, a military campaign is affected by events beyond the reach of the commanders in the field. Receding Tide takes a unique view of the Vicksburg Campaign by covering not only the material previously published in Bearss' Vicksburg trilogy, but also the events in Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington that were shaping or being shaped by the Vicksburg Campaign. For those that have never seen these three theaters juxtaposed in this way, this book can represent an epiphany. After all, the Gettysburg Campaign can be viewed as an extension of the Vicksburg Campaign, as Lee was trying to relieve pressure on Johnston and Pemberton by threatening Washington. The text reads like a battlefield tour, and holds one's interest well.

If the name Ed Bearss means nothing to you, then you're probably unfamiliar with Civil War history. He is a commanding presence, a legend in the world of history, a battlefield tour guide with a growl of a voice whose lectures have been likened to Homeric monologues. This book represents the splicing together of recorded tours given by Ed Bearss at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. Unfortunately, Ed's popularity lends itself to hagiography. As such, subsequent historians have been loath to alter Ed's story in substantial ways.

As a result, I cannot recommend this book to serious students of the Vicksburg Campaign. Ed Bearss original work leans heavily on the Vicksburg National Military Park collection (an assortment of verbal history collected 50 years after the war) and on the O.R. Both of these sources have major gaps in the material, gaps which Ed is quick to fill with supposition.
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