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Lee's Real Plan at Gettysburg Hardcover – July 1, 2003
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Top Customer Reviews
Harman's thesis is straightforward: Lee's real plan at Gettysburg was to gain control of Cemetery Hill. His argument is cogently and logically presented; one point flows into, and provides a foundation for, the next. Beginning with the opening of the battle, Harman explains the importance of Cemetery Hill and why Lee focused on it. From there, he spends a great deal of time--indeed, the bulk of the book--on the battle's second day, July 2, and places the rebel assault, particularly Longstreet's, within the Cemetery Hill scheme, rather than in the affirmed version that depicts the day's action as an assault on both Union flanks. Lee's day-two objective was the Peach Orchard, from which artillery could fire on Cemetery Hill, and thus Sickles's moving his III Corps is seen as somewhat less foolish. Moreover, as Harman posits, Lee did not aim for Little Round Top; rather, the fight for it occurred quite by accident when the intended Confederate attack up the Emmitsburg Road diverted to the right and toward the Round Tops after Hood was wounded. Finally, day three and Pickett's Charge receive treatment. The objective of the attack was Cemetery Hill, which commanders such as Longstreet and Hancock understood, and Harman explains at length how the "copse of trees" came to be seen as Lee's focus.
Harman supports his points with the words of the participants, with his intimate familiarity with the lay of the land (from his experience as a Park Ranger), and with his rigorous analysis and close-reading of sources. So much of this book's fun is seeing Harman build up his argument piece by piece and assemble Lee's tactical strategy into a coherent whole. It is a joy to read. Except for a minor quibble here or there, I find Harman's thesis convincing. More than that, his insightful and refreshing ephemeral-versus-affirmed approach has fundamentally changed the way I look at history; I will now view the past through that lens. As others have said, this is not a book for the neophyte, but anyone interested in Gettysburg, willing to think, and willing to re-consider traditional understandings should enjoy this book.
Anyway, at 1,723 locations long, it's not the biggest work, but it's a good read about Gettysburg, and has a good collection of maps, pictures and sketches. I don't pretend to know if the author is right, but he definitely is about the impact of time on memories and geography.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What a different perspective. I have studied the battlefield for years and yet this theory never occurred to me.