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Gettysburg Paperback – November 3, 2004
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"A fine study, detailed and challenging, that complements such popular accounts of the battle as Bruce Catton's Glory Road and Shelby Foote's The Stars in Their Courses." Kirkus Reviews
"The book's strength is the consistent and striking characterizations of the many generals and commanding officers involved in the battle." Library Journal
"Readers thrilled by the minute details of battlefield maneuvers will be thoroughly engaged." Booklist, ALA
"Sears does much more than reconstruct events. He gives battlefield maneuvers deeper meaning and purpose because of his deep appreciation for context and the human dimension of history." --Peter Carmichael, American History Magazine
"[Sears gives] us a panoramic view, and in his vivid portrayal the day unfolds in all its horrible detail." --Jay Winik The New York Times Book Review
"A first-class writer and splendid historian--a combination to be cherished--gives us the best book on America's most famous battle." The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
- Publisher : Mariner Books; Reprint edition (November 3, 2004)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 640 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0618485384
- ISBN-13 : 978-0618485383
- Item Weight : 1.4 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.98 x 1.6 x 8.9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #119,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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No two armies could have been more similar and yet more different than the Army of the Potomac and Army of Northern Virginia. For the first time, the two armies neared manpower parity. While Lee’s army was supremely confident, even contemptuous of its opponents, George G. Meade’s army had no illusions about the coming fight. Its men were eager to prove they could win a victory.
Where Lee’s command was rife with disagreement, miscommunication, apathy, and poor decision making, with some exceptions the leadership of the Army of the Potomac had its finest hour. Sears convincingly demonstrates that the Union army’s leadership simply out classed their counterparts, at least on this battlefield.
Much has been made over the years of Confederate cavalry commander Maj. General J.E.B. Stuart’s absence during the critical days leading up to the battle. Sears in some ways exonerates Stuart. Stuart was following Lee’s orders when he rode around the Union army, capturing supplies and disrupting communications.
“The very concept of Stuart’s expedition was fueled by overconfidence and misjudgment at the highest command level,” he argued. While frustrated with Stuart’s absence, Lee made no effort to rectify the situation until after the battle was underway.
The Army of Northern Virginia lost many of its finest men and officers at the Battle of Gettysburg. It would never recover. Faced with opposition from his generals for the first time, particularly Lt. General James Longstreet, Lee dug in his heels and stubbornly refused to budge. This inability to properly manage his subordinates was at the heart of the campaign’s failure. Where Lee failed at managing his subordinates, Meade succeeded. Sears concludes, Meade “thoroughly out generaled Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg.”
In some ways, Sears judges the Army of Northern Virginia too harshly. Despite some missteps, the first day was a stunning victory for the Confederates, and the second day was at worst a draw. The Union army occupied a strong defensive position on high ground. It is questionable whether any Confederate army could have dislodged it. Still, Pickett’s Charge on July 3 was an inexcusable disaster that everyone except George Pickett and Robert E. Lee seemed to know would fail.
Perhaps no Civil War battle has been written about more than Gettysburg, but Sears still manages to break new ground. There are no factual bombshells here–it is a familiar story, but the author’s analysis is as insightful as his writing style is clear, concise, and at times even poetic. This is truly a masterwork.
I have visited the actual battlefield five times over the course of my 72 years, taking guided bus tours, self-guided tours and personal guides who rode in my vehicle. I could not begin to enumerate the books I've read on the battle or the Civil War in general. Mr. Sears' book has many tidbits of information I'd never before read of or heard about.
My reading was distracted by continued use of "prolonge", "Minnie ball" and "sidel". Prolonge is French for our prolong (obvious, but why not use the more familiar term?). I struggled to find a decent explanation for "Minnie ball" but the closest I could come was "minni ball"; most references directed me back to "Minie ball" . A few references just seemed to make the same error, as other spellings appeared in the same work. "Sidel" foxed me, Google and several online dictionaries. "Sidle" is the proper English spelling; perhaps Mr. Sears threw some more French my way?
Setting that aside, I intend to buy the rest of Mr. Sears' works with the minor regret that I did not start reading him in chronological order.
Top reviews from other countries
The author strikes a perfect balance for the modern reader seeking detailed information delivered at a much quicker pace than the histories of old. Our attention spans are down! Authors need to work continually to keep our interest engaged. This one succeeds.