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Barksdale's Charge: The True High Tide of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863 Hardcover – August 7, 2013

3.8 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Author Phillip Thomas Tucker's writing style leaves never a dull moment.  Each scene is filled with heroic sallies, intriguing backstories, and elucidating quotes from and about various soldiers.  The book is extensively researched [and] is an excellent account of one of the most successful but unfortunately mostly ignored actions of the war."
--San Francisco Book Review

"Though long overshadowed by the more famous Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge of July 3, 1863, the advance of Barksdale's men from Seminary Ridge, through the Peach Orchard, and across Plum Run toward Cemetery Ridge has been referred to as "the grandest charge ever seen by mortal man."
Here for the first time is the story of Barksdale's Mississippians and their gallant charge
told with the detail and passion it so richly deserves. Phil Tucker has produced a wonderful addition to the library of the most discerning Gettysburg collector."
--Terrence Winchel, Historian (Retired), National Park Service

"In Barksdale's Charge, Tucker, author of Irish Confederates, Burnside's Bridge and many other works on American history, argues  rather effectively the point made in his sub-title, the real "High Tide" of the Confederacy was the grand assault of James Longstreet's troops on the Union Third Army Corps on July 2, 1863, and in particular the attack of William Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade . . . Tucker writes well.  He shifts agilely between armies, individuals, and incidents, and knows how to use an anecdote to help make a point, while giving us a seamless account of the events as they unfolded . . . his careful retelling of the events makes Barksdale's Charge a valuable read for those interested in the Civil War, and an absolute necessity for students of Gettysburg."
--Strategy Page

"This is a superb book covering the charge that was made by Barksdale's Mississippians on July 2nd 1863.  This is a 'must have' book."
--Lone Star

"At times, the reader is almost rooting for the boys from Mississippi . . . This is a tribute to the earnestness of the writing and ability of the author to capture the personal stories, complexities and humanity of both the leading and the minor players and the thousands of swirling dramas that followed when the armies of the North and South collided near the small town of Gettysburg."
--Open Letter Monthly

"Thanks to Tucker's incisive analysis of the facts surrounding Gettysburg, Barksdale's Mississippians will now stand tall . . . a detailed look at an event of a battle about which so much has been written."
--Civil War Round Table of the District of Columbia

"Tucker is a prolific writer . . . while Pickett's Charge, on day three of Gettysburg, has received numerous book-length treatments . . . Barksdale's charge [unfortunately] has not . . . Tucker sets his narrative within the context of the battles and personalities leading up to that day of near victory for the Confederacy."
--Library Journal

"Wonderful writing with splendid pacing propels the author's vivid account, Barksdale's charge was the precise moment the Confederate cause reached its apex on that day that truly decided the state of the Union and the future of the nation."
--Toy Soldier and Model Figure

""This is a detailed history of the men that charged and those who stopped them.  The author lets them tell the story with extensive quotes from their letters and diaries . . . This is solid old-fashion battle history where heroics are commonplace . . . a good tactical history of how regiments and brigades fought . . . This is a fine addition to your Gettysburg library, well written, easy and fun to read."
--TOCWOC

"Phillip Thomas Tucker, who has written on topics as varied as the Alamo, the Revolutionary War, and African American soldiers, takes up Barksdale's charge with a vigor that would certainly have won the old fire-eater's approval . . . His narrative is thickly sprinkled with commentary from diaries and letters . . ."
--Allen C. Guelzo, Gettysburg College

Though long overshadowed by the more famous Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge of July 3, the advance of Barksdale's men from Seminary Ridge, through the Peach Orchard, and across Plum Run toward Cemetery Ridge has been referred to as "the grandest charge ever seen by mortal man." Here for the first time is the story of Barksdale's Mississippians and their gallant charge told with the detail and passion it so richly deserves. Phil Tucker has produced a wonderful addition to the library of the most discerning Gettysburg collector." (Terrence Winschel, Historian (retired), Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg, Mississippi)

"While Pickett’s Charge, on day three of Gettysburg, has received numerous book-length treatments and become a phrase for the ages, Barksdale’s charge the day before has not. Gen. William Barksdale, former secessionist U.S. Congressman, was in command of four Mississippi regiments in Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s corps, directed to attack from the woods, wheel northward, and break the Union lines. Barksdale got the go-ahead to charge as dusk approached. On his horse driving his troops onward, he seemed to have the Federals on the run. It was this moment, says Tucker quite reasonably, that was really the high-water mark for the Confederacy rather than Pickett’s Charge the next day. Had Barksdale paused to regroup and then charge again, perhaps, perhaps.... But he spurred his troops on, was mortally wounded, and the Union forces were able to hold on to fight another day. Tucker sets his narrative within the context of the battles and personalities leading up to that day’s near victory for the Confederacy."― (Library Journal)

Thanks to Tucker’s incisive analysis of the facts surrounding Gettysburg, Barksdale’s Mississippians will now stand tall, claiming from Pickett’s Virginians long-deserved recognition for having achieved the Confederacy’s true zenith. Presenting an exhilarating narrative based on rigorous re-interpretation of historical sources, scholars and lay readers will soon recognize the Southern nation’s high water mark as the second day at Gettysburg. (Darryl E. Brock, co-author of Cubans in the Confederacy)

“The author of the acclaimed Exodus from the Alamo does more “mythbusting” in this superbly argued book. “ (Armchair General)

“…thoroughly researched…, analysis of the attack by Brigadier General William Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade against Union forces in the Peach Orchard on the afternoon of July 2 presents substantial evidence for his claim that Barksdale's attack "came closer to achieving decisive success and winning it all for the Confederacy than any other assault of the battle."… takes a detailed look at an event in a battle about which so much has been written.” (Gordon Berg, The Civil War Round Table of the District of Columbia)

“Wonderful writing with splendid pacing propels the author’s vivid account of Barksdale’s charge and the precise moment t he confederate case reached its apex on the day that truly decided the state of the Union and the fate of the nation” (Toy Soldier and Model Figure)

"..a well researched, very readable book..an enjoyable read. The history of the Mississippi brigade and its contributions is worth the purchase price. I think the historians have already decided Pickett charge was more important than Barksdale’s, but it made me reevaluate" (Kepler's Military History)

"Phillip Tucker's well-researched book provides a breathless account of what one Union officer called 'the grandest charge ever seen by mortal man.' . . . Some 1,600 men raced across Emmitsburg Road and into the Peach Orchard, assaulted the salient created by Sickles' move forward, and drove Union forces back more than a mile. . . . But the complete breach of Maj. Gen. George Meade's left-center, and an unobstructed path to Cemetery Ridge, was not to be." (Civil War Times)

"Launched from Seminary Ridge in the late afternoon as part of Longstreet's assault, Barksdale's brigade, with Barksdale himself riding at the head, overran the Sherfy farm and the Peach Orchard, captured the Trostle farm, and very nearly broke through the wreckage of the 3rd Corps to the Taneytown Road. In that event, the Army of the Potomac might have had little option but retreat. . . . Barksdale, frantic at how near he was to a complete breakthrough, was cut down by Union bullets. . . . Phillip Thomas Tucker takes up Barksdale's cause with a vigor that would certainly have won the old fire-eater's approval. (Alan C. Guelzo, author of the New York Times bestseller Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, in "Civil War News")

This is a superb book covering the charge that was made by Barksdale’s Mississippians on July 2nd, 1863. This is a “must have” book for your Confederate library. (Lone Star Book Review)

"...Tucker gives a good sense of the men who led and fought in the Mississippi Brigade, He provides excellent detail on the areas they came from, as well as their socio-economic , demographic, religious and work backgrounds.... well researched and well written. It is an excellent addition to the library of those interested in the Battle of Gettysburg and Civil War enthusiasts in general. (Blue and Gray Vol XXX11, #2)

Barksdale’s Charge tells a tale of immense valor at the brigade level frustrated by the ill-coordinated tactical decisions of division and corps commanders: “while the army’s commander and his top lieutenant had been badly outgeneraled on July 2, the Mississippi Brigade had not been out-fought by any unit on either side” (244). Hood wrote after the war, “Thus it was that the 21st Mississippi Regiment bore the Stars and Bars to the very farthest point reached in the enemy’s line on the bloody field of Gettysburg” (243). Meade wrote in his after-battle report that “Sickles’ unauthorized advance to the Peach Orchard was ‘an error which nearly proved fatal in the battle’” (259). Phillip Tucker has demonstrated in detail the truth of these judgments.

About the Author

Phillip Thomas Tucker, Ph.D., has authored or edited more than 20 books on various aspects of the American experience, especially in the fields of Civil War, Irish, African-American, Revolutionary, and Southern history. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, he has earned three degrees in American history, including a Ph.D. from St. Louis University in 1990. In 1993 his biography of Father John B. Bannon won the Douglas Southall Freeman Award for the best book in Southern history. For more than two decades, Dr. Tucker has been a military historian for the U.S. Air Force. He currently lives in the Washington, DC area.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Casemate; First Edition edition (July 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612001793
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612001791
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #253,428 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Tucker's plausible thesis is that Brig.-Gen. William Barksdale's charge on July 2 was potentially more significant than the much better known one under Pickett the next day, which never had a realistic chance of success. The average person with some awareness of the Civil War associates July 2 with Little Round Top, to which Tucker pays little attention - this may be the only book about the second day of Gettysburg which doesn't mention Col. Joshua Chamberlain, and some readers may find the author's perspective too much from the Confederate side. He does mention the other famous Union action that day, Maj.-Gen. Dan Sickles' advance without orders to the peach orchard. It was Barksdale's brigade that proceeded to cut through Sickles' corps and almost reached Cemetery Ridge - although without infantry support it's not clear what it could have accomplished there. While Tucker's tale is told largely from the Confederate viewpoint, it is not a mythological one. He is unsparing in criticism of almost the whole rebel high command, from Gen. Robert E. Lee on down. Much of this fascinating history will be unfamiliar to the average reader. For example, Barksdale's charge was finally stopped by a Union counter-charge of a brigade which had surrendered at Harper's Ferry and was out to redeem itself, led by Col. George Willard under orders from Maj.-Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock. Both Willard and Barksdale were killed in this climactic encounter. In an equally interesting sidebar, one of Barksdale's regiments, led by Col. Benjamin Humphreys (later an unreconstructed governor of Mississippi), separated from the rest of the brigade and did great damage on its own. It was driven off by a charge from Willard's reserve regiment, the Garibaldi Guards of New York. They were almost entirely immigrants under a Prussian commander, Maj. Hugo Hildebrandt. Such are the extraordinary true stories that come to life in a good detailed study, like this one, of Civil War history.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I really wish I could give this book a 5-star rating because it fills a void in the Gettysburg literature, is well researched, and a lot of time and energy on the part of the author went into creating this. However, the repetition in the book made this very difficult to read and I would probably have put the book down if I wasn't so interested in the subject matter, especially with so little detailed information in other sources on Barksdale's Charge. I know that longer books have been written about Pickett's Charge which was shorter in duration, but this seemed like the charge that never ended while the units involved seem to be on a treadmill going nowhere despite charging non-stop for 3 hours.

Without being overly repetitive myself since others have covered the same issues in the book, I have to say if I read the phrases "decisive victory" or "win it all" one more time I was going to scream. One of those is on almost every page, and sometimes multiple times. After the 20th or 30th time, yes we realize that the author truly believes that this single brigade was capable of bringing "decisive victory" for the Confederacy so there's no need to continue to pound it in our heads...but he continues to remind us of this literally for another 200 pages.

And that belief and statement is fundamentally flawed which makes it hard to constantly read and re-read. Despite the heroics, even if Barksdale's Brigade had made it to Cemetery Ridge it really wouldn't have instantly brought "decisive victory". It's not a video game where once you reach a certain goal, you win, game over. The Army of the Potomac was already cut in two during most of the charge, and even if they had gone farther it really wouldn't have mattered...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Phillip Tucker's book "Barksdale's Charge" contains lots of interesting details about this famous attack drawn from primary sources. But, sadly, he also relies on and even quotes at length from other authors' published works on Gettysburg, including Sears, Coddington, and Trudeau. The book has two enormous flaws: first, its purple prose is so awful and repetitive as to make one wince. All the Mississippi soldiers are brave, intrepid lads--aggressive but humble, and excellent shots, a standard description he uses over and over again. Barksdale is a classic hero, even when acting as a bully boy fistfighter in support of Preston Brooks's caning of Charles Sumner on the floor of the United States Senate. . The real flaw in the book is its premise: that Barksdale's four regiments could have split the Army of the Potomac in two on July 2 , accomplishing more with a single (and soon dangerously depleted) brigade than what the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble charge of the following day was unable to accomplish with more than two divisions. His secondary premise, that the Barksdale charge has been relegated to secondary consideration because of the Virginian cabal's post-war highjacking of Confederate history to favor Pickett's men, is also just downright silly. He goes so far as to fault LaSalle Corbell Pickett's fanciful post war writings as being a culprit in the Virginians' hijacking of the glory that should have gone to Barksdale.

Barksdale's charge is one of the most brilliant and successful attacks of the Civil War, but Tucker's treatment of it is both belabored and ridiculously overstated.
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