- Publisher: Old Soldier Books (June 1988)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0942211170
- ISBN-13: 978-0942211177
- Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,678,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Guns at Gettysburg
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The author, an artilleryman himself, tells the tale of the men in both blue and grey who served the guns in the largest battle ever waged on the North American continent. From Calef's horse artillery battery that rode with Buford, through Pegram's Battalion and the Washinton Artillery of New Orleans, and finally to the great prepatory cannonade that failed to pave the way for Pickett's doomed attack on the third day of battle, the tale is told of men and animals sho served and pulled the guns and their supporting vehicles. Gallant battery commanders, one badly wounded and amputating his own leg with a pen knife, another told to hold at all costs, losing his battery to an overwhelming southern assault on the 2d day of battle, being wounded and taken to safety by his faithful trumpeter, and finally to gallant, Medal of Honor winning, Alonzo Cushing, swearing to give Armistead's infantry 'one more round' before being shot dead with the lanyard in his hand. None of the stories, however, is as stirring as the one of Hazlett's battery being ordered to the crest of Little Round Top, an almost verticle face on the rear of the hill without roads or trails of any kind. Calmly turning to his trumpeter to sound 'Forward' one can almost imagine the looks on the faces of his gunners and NCOs as they launched their battery at the gallop to and at the eminence. Horses strained at the harness, gunners dismounted to pull with the animals, now frothing at the mouth in their desperation to do their master's bidding. Finally, the battery's guidon crests the hill, the guns cresting the ridge along with the panting artilleryman and the exhausted, trembling horses.
One aspect the author does not leave out and that is the contribution of the horses to the guns, men, and the final effort. So well-trained that they maneuvered without any human direction save the calls from the battery trumpeter, they stoically endured murderous artillery and musket fire, dying in their harness, or mourning a lost companion after the action, their drivers sharing their grief. These loyal, magnificent animals should never be forgotten, and the author gives them their just due.
Even though this volume is out of print, it is a very important contribution to Civil War literature, and belongs on every historians shelf and in any bibliography of Gettysburg.
Downey's book includes good information on the various forms of artillery weaponry, including Civil-War era drawings and models. The appendix to the book includes a list of artillery weaponry in use at Gettysburg and their capabilities, U.S. army regulations explaining the use of artilery, and the reports on the Battle of Gettysburg submitted by Generals Henry Hunt and William Pendelton, the chiefs of artiillery for the Union and the Confederacy.
The greater part of the book is devoted to an examination of each of the three days of the Battle with a discussion of how each side used -- or misused -- artillery. The discussion of the first day of the Battle focuses on the support Lieutenant John Calef's battery offered to the leader of the Union cavalry, John Burford, in the opening stages of the conflict. Then in the afternoon portion of the first day's battle, Downey discusses the heroics of Captain Hubert Dilger of the Federal XIth Corps whose bravery helped slow the Confederate onslaught on day 1 and allow the Union troops to retreat in safety.
In the second day of the Battle, Downey discusses the actions Lieutenant Charles Hazlett, whose troops and horses successfuly brought thier guns up the rocky slope of Little Round Top to help stem a fierce Confederate attack. At the Peach Orchard, Downey describes the actions of the Ninth Massachusetts and Captain John Bigelow whose isolated battery resisted a strong Confederate onslaught and bought precious minutes for Union reinforcements. Downey also describes the artillery battle at Culp's hill on the right side of the Union line and the heroic but doomed efforts of the Confederate "boy major", Joseph Latimer, in his opening artillery attack from Benner's Hill.
The book devotes a great deal of attention to the Southern cannonade that proceeded Pickett's charge on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Most students of the battle know that much of the Confederate cannonade overshot its intended mark and was relatively ineffective. But Downey explains as well how the positioning of the Confederate artillery was faulty (and how the South failed to use all its available guns) and how its fire failed to concentrate on those portions of the Union forces that could do the impending infantry assault the most damage. This was a clear and valuable treatment of a matter I did not understand before reading this book.
The single most impressive figure in this book is General John Hunt, the Union's head artillerist. Hunt was courageous and cool under pressure. He seemed to cover the entire battlefield during the three days and was able to have his guns and reinforcements in the right place and in the nick of time. Confederate Colonel Porter Alexander, chief of artillery for Longstreet, also receives deserved high praise.
Downey points out the fortitude shown by artillerists for both the North and the South, while emphasizing the North's superiority in weaponry, numbers, discipline, and shot. Probably most importantly, the Union effectively coordinated its artillery efforts during the Battle, while the Confederacy, following the pattern for the Battle as a whole, was unable to do so in its efforts.
This book does not explore broad political or military issues of the American Civil War or even of the Battle of Gettysburg. But it tells an important part of the story of Gettysburg objectively and eloquently. Downey writes with an obvious knowledge and love of his chosen subject. This is an essential book for those readers with a burning desire to learn as much as they can about the Battle of Gettysburg.