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GETTYSBURG, audio
by Stephen W. Sears
Recorded Books, June 2003
Unabridged audio pages
$39.99
ISBN: 1402555997


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

After two years of manhandling the northern Army of the Potomac, Robert E. Lee's Confederate forces met their match and were fatally bested in a three-day battle near the little town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. July 1, 1863 began badly for the troops of General Meade, commander of the Union army. Orders by Meade to General Dan Sickles were misinterpreted or possibly simply disobeyed when Sickles positioned his gun batteries in Joseph Sherly's peach orchard near Emmitsburg Road, stretching the Union line to an indefensible limit. Other Union troops took up positions in a wheat field where protection was minimal at best. Officers unfamiliar with the territory became confused over sites bearing similar names. Orders to occupy Cemetery Hill, Cemetery Ridge, and Seminary Ridge baffled some men while others had difficulty differentiating between two hills, Roundtop and Little Roundtop. Union troops suffered heavy casualties that first day as the Confederates pounded Sickles' position and tore through the front lines in the wheat field. The casualties mounted when the retreating Union soldiers refused to withdraw without a fight. By the end of the day, Lee's generals thought they'd won the battle.

Lee's failure to immediately follow up on the first day's success led to his eventual downfall. July 2nd saw the Union army reposition itself and strengthen its hold on the territory. Meade had the upper hand by the third day of fighting when Lee ordered the devastating attack now known as Pickett's Charge. Ill conceived and ill planned, the frontal attack became a nightmarish event that cost the lives of thousands of Confederate soldiers. A mutual retreat by both Lee and Meade then ended what has become one of the most famous battles of the Civil War.

Stephen Sears is a leading Civil War scholar and author of the book, Chancellorsville. He pulls together information from hundreds of sources, including letters by both generals and enlisted men and the records of a post-war Congressional investigation, to illustrate the battle at Gettysburg. He tells of General Longstreet's vain attempts to wean Lee from his plan for Pickett's Charge and gives credence to the belief of many that Lee was not fully in charge of either himself or his forces that day. He also speaks of the will of General Meade to stand and fight despite the mistakes of the first day of battle. Using quotes from soldiers on both sides of the conflict, he givers readers a sense of the horrendous nature of this battle in which 60,000 men were either killed or wounded. Due to the time Sears gives to extensive listings of brigades, divisions, companies, and their leaders, this is not a book for those who want to hear a quick version of the battle. Rather, it is for those who have substantial knowledge of the Civil War and desire to delve deeper into the background leading up to the fight and the military tactics employed by both sides. As a work of historical merit, Sears' Gettysburg will undoubtedly rank among the best sources of information available on the subject.

Reviewed by Mary V. Welk, August 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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