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Gettysburg [PDF / EPUB] Gettysburg A masterful single volume history of the Civil War's greatest campaign Drawing on original source material from soldiers' letters to official military records of the war Stephen W Sears's Gettysburg i A masterful single volume history of the Civil War's greatest campaign Drawing on original source material from soldiers' letters to official military records of the war Stephen W Sears's Gettysburg is a remarkable and dramatic account of the legendary campaign He takes particular care in his study of the battle's leaders and offers detailed analyses of their strategies and tactics depicting both General Meade's heroic performance in his first week of army command and General Lee's role in the agonizing failure of the Confederate army With characteristic style and insight Sears brings the epic tale of the battle in Pennsylvania vividly to life.

10 thoughts on “Gettysburg

  1. says:

    “Young Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing graduated early from West Point in 1861 to meet the need for educated soldiers kept his guns firing steadily despite grievous losses among the crews ‘He was as cool and calm as I ever saw him’ recalled one of his men ‘talking to the boys between shots with the glass constantly to his eyes watching the effect of our shots’ But so many gunners were down that Cushing too had to call on infantrymen to help man the guns John Gibbon saw three of Cushing’s limber chests blow up at once sending up a huge column of smoke and fire and triggering ‘triumphant yells of the enemy’ Finally only two of Cushing’s 3 inch Ordinance rifles were still serviceable A shell fragment eviscerated one of the infantry volunteers who pleaded for someone to put him out of his agony When no one had nerve enough he pulled out a pistol and ended the agony himself Presently Cushing was painfully wounded in the shoulder and groin but stayed at his post His sergeant urged him to go to the rear ‘No’ Cushing said ‘I stay right here and fight it out or die in the attempt’” Stephen Sears Gettysburg Gettysburg is the most famous battle in United States history and among the deadliest It’s one of those rare events easily identifiable as a pivot in history Had the Union lost at Gettysburg shortly after a crushing defeat at Chancellorsville there’s no telling what might have happened Even if a Union defeat didn't lead immediately to collapse it certainly would’ve changed the details of the eventual outcome Militarily the Union was still in a strong position but politically it’s harder to say An easy way to go cross eyed is to start imagining the accumulation of the “terrible ifs” We can at least say with certainty that the Union victory changed the tenor of the Civil War After Gettysburg General Robert E Lee never took the offensive again; once he got knocked back on his heels the war became a mathematical process of elimination With General Ulysses Grant as the visiting professor the man who fully understood what must be done and the man who had the extraordinary self confidence to do it The outlines of the battle are well known Following Chancellorsville General Lee disengaged from the Army of the Potomac and moved north through Maryland and Pennsylvania using the mountains to screen his movements He intended to draw the Army of the Potomac into battle at a place of his choosing The Army of the Potomac Joe Hooker commanding soon to be replaced by George Meade gave chase taking care to keep between Lee and Washington The Union moved surprisingly fast all the surprising to Lee because his cavalry under JEB Stuart was too busy circling the Yankees to send back reports On July 1 1863 elements of AP Hill’s Corps under Harry Heth moved into Gettysburg on a reconnaissance mission and also to find shoes Heth was under orders not to bring about a general engagement; however when he ran into John Buford’s cavalry brigades he mistook them for local militia and attacked Buford held the high ground to the west of Gettysburg until he was reinforced by John Reynolds First Corps The Confederates brought up reinforcements as well and the battle was joined When Richard Ewell’s Confederate corps attacked from the north the Union lines broke Retreating back through town the Union army took up positions along a line of hills in the shape of a fishhook anchored by Round Top and Little Round Top on the south and Culp’s Hill to the north Ignoring the advice of his lieutenant James Longstreet Lee decided to press his gains at Gettysburg On the second day he launched attacks against the Union right and left flanks Due to Union General Dan Sickle’s criminal mishandling of his corps the Union left nearly broke It took a Yankee engineer Gouverneur Warren two amateur officers Strong Vincent and Joshua Chamberlain and one undersized regiment turned sacrificial lamb the 1st Minnesota to save the day But by nightfall both flanks held On the third day was Pickett’s Charge and the Confederate high tide This is well worn ground So why does Sears’ Gettysburg stand out? Simply put it is a masterwork of historical research Sears has synthesized all the available scholarship from the official records to diaries of private soldiers and molded it into a readable engaging tale He has added to that his own reasoned judgments and sharp analysis Most history books will tell you what happened or how fewer attempt to explain why Decisions are not made in a vacuum Very few people intentionally set out to make the wrong choice Instead decisions are pulled from a dense tangled web that includes current knowledge which might be faulty past history and personality Sears fully recognizes that human reality When say General Lee or General Ewell or even that dope General Sickles makes a decision that is clearly wrong in hindsight Sears explains why that particular road was taken Sears knows that we are all – Civil War generals included – constantly rationalizing our actions In the end a disaster is often a string of seemingly logical decisions that end in a heap There are a lot of blunders in war and Gettysburg was no exception Sears excels at showing the reasoned thought processes that led to those blunders Again none of these generals was trying to throw the battle as the result of a bet or dare He is relatively soft on the performance of General Lee who is generally indicted for his overconfidence He shows how Lee’s boldness his aggressiveness actually made sense Lee after all was fresh off his crowning victory over Hooker at Chancellorsville Today many historians will tell you that Lee should’ve followed Longstreet’s advice and tried going around the Yankee army That ignores the fact that Lee very nearly won at Gettysburg and that his tactics were generally sound though his inability to write clear orders nicely prefigures this age of misconstrued emails The most surprising thing about Sears’ Gettysburg is its elevation of Union commander George Gordon Meade In the years following the Civil War the political and military acolytes of the deposed Joe Hooker took turns trashing Meade’s reputation Meade wasn’t helped by an oddly ungrateful Abraham Lincoln who kept barking at Meade to follow up his victory and destroy Lee’s army which is uite unfair Meade had been in his job a week Later histories have followed this early lead attributing the Union victory to Lee’s mistakes or to a lesser extent the vitality of certain Yankee commanders such as Buford and Winfield Scott Hancock Heck if you watch the film Gettysburg based on Michael Schaara’s The Killer Angels Meade is barely to be found In a movie that is over four hours long Meade is only on screen for five minutes and in that time he is portrayed as a doddering old man who looks like he’s just walked over his own grave Sears tries to life Meade’s reputation up to where he thinks it belongs He demonstrates that Meade took an incredibly active part in the defense of Gettysburg More than that he was able to effectively counter all of Lee’s aggressive movements by adroit shifting of his men along the line He was also able to delegate local command to worthy subordinates such as John Reynolds killed on the first day and Hancock who held Cemetery Ridge Finally Meade was canny enough to know that not only was Lee going to attack on July 3 but also exactly where that attack was coming So much credit is given to Lee’s ability to gauge his opponents which allowed him to use his aggressiveness against passive foes such as George McClellan and Joe Hooker Here Meade used his knowledge of Lee’s aggressiveness to draw Lee into the center of his lines where his artillery chewed Pickett’s division into bloody bits Sears goes on to show that Meade’s pursuit of Lee while not as swift as possible or as swift as necessary to do the job was probably the best that could be asked for under the circumstances especially since Lee was begging for a fight where the Union army attacked his entrenchments Again there is a very human psychology at play here and Sears does not neglect this Meade had only been in command a week think of the last time you got a new job; did your boss ask you to save the nation? He had just won a white knuckle victory while suffering some 23000 casualties And not just any victory He’d defeated the Great Lee and he probably hadn’t slept in three days Lincoln’s protests aside I think Meade can be forgiven if he wasn’t super keen to press his luck right at that moment Indeed Lincoln should have been happy that Meade wasn’t running around in circles peeing on himself while pulling at his beard and yelling “Lee Lee Lee” in a high pitched voice Because that is how I would’ve reacted This is a big book on a single battle and it does an admirable job thoroughly covering the subject This includes helpfully setting the scene behind Lee’s invasion Still so much happened at Gettysburg that a lot of events get a short shrift For instance Chamberlain’s famous defense of Little Round Top gets about a paragraph as does the charge of the 1st Minnesota George Custer’s repulse of Stuart’s cavalry which protected the Union rear is almost treated as an afterthought While regrettable this is also inevitable There is a triad to great history writing 1 scholarship; 2 judgment; and 3 literary merit Sears nails the first two though the third element isn’t enough to push this book into greatnessIt’s not that Sears is a bad writer Bad writing is unclear ungrammatical strained dull plodding lifeless That’s not what I’m talking about here Sears is an accessible writer; he is lucid in his explanations; clear in his points; and he makes deft use of primary accounts to add that firsthand presence to the story However he doesn’t have the narrative power of Shelby Foote or Bruce Catton Foote author of The Civil War A Narrative brought a novelists immediacy to his work; however his scholarship and objectivity left a lot to be desired Catton on the other hand to whom Sears has been compared and whom Sears worked with at American Heritage managed to combine analysis with great prose Sure there are times in his books when Catton gets carried away but if there is ever a time for heightened rhetoric and soaring passages it is in a book about the Civil WarOf course I can’t fault Sears for not being Foote or Catton A person’s writing style is personal and you can’t force or fake it Still I think there were some little things that Sears could’ve done to make his narrative lively For example during Sears’ description of the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg he presents Union General Francis Barlow facing off with Confederat General Ewell Barlow had placed a battery of artillery on a small hill forming a salient This battery was commanded by nineteen year old Bayard Wilkeson Bayard’s father a reporter was at Gettysburg covering the battle for his paper Sears writes that Bayard was killed and then includes a sad uote from his father Then he moves right along This was a golden moment for Sears to bring a little intimacy to war Obviously Sears can’t describe every death for a variety of reasons space limitations sheer horror and the fact that most men died alone and unsung However in Bayard’s case we know the details of his death and they are astounding Start with the fact that Bayard was nineteen I don’t remember what I was doing at nineteen but I’m pretty sure it involved Miller High Life and did not involve me commanding artillery Bayard was hit in the leg by a cannon ball In response he fitted himself with a tourniuet and amputated his own leg with a pocket knife Again he was nineteen With a pocket knife Afterward he was carried to an almshouse where he died Sears certainly has the intellectual angles of Gettysburg covered However I truly think that the addition of a few humanizing details would have given Sears’ Gettysburg a bit of the breath of life Still this is not a deal breaker It merely marks the difference between great and really really good I’ve read a lot about Gettysburg and I’ve walked the battlefield twice and still after reading this book I found myself learning new things and thinking critically about old things and seeing a different vision of the battle unspool in my head And that’s one of the endlessly fascinating things about Gettysburg Depending on the teller the story is always different

  2. says:

    A very detailed account of the battle If you want a blow by blow person by person narrative this is it Well written I found the politicking of the generals interesting Some things never change Despite the fact it's life and death for the common soldier many generals still are interested in their careerThe dry narrative hides the horror of this kind of battle; the bodies torn and destroyedI used this book as a reference for my Gettysburg mission in Independence Day Time Patrol Independence Day because I needed to know why the Union didn't counter attack on the 4th of July The day after Pickett's Charge Lincoln was certainly pushing for it I agree with the author and with General Meade though that an attack on Lee's forces on Seminary Ridge would have been a disaster Certainly Meade could have pursued Lee uickly after that but it's easy to critiue in hindsight What's amazing is that Meade won despite having been in command less than a weekI also found it interesting that Lee could never really admit that he made a mistake not he 3rd preferring instead to lay the blame on the execution not the orders

  3. says:

    Sears' Study Of GettysburgThe Civil War particularly the Battle of Gettysburg retains its hold on the imagination of Americans We seek to understand our country by studying the events of these terrible but formative years The Civil War did indeed lead to a new birth of freedom in the United States We still struggle to understand and to develop the implications of this new birthStephen Sears is a distinguished military historian of the Civil War who has written in this book an outstanding account of the pivotal battle of Gettysburg July 1 July 3 1863 This battle ended the Confederacy's second invasion of the Union the first invasion ended with the Battle of Antietam in September 1862 Coupled with the Confederacy's surrender of Vicksburg Mississippi on July 4 1863 Gettysburg ended the South's ability to wage an offensive war and probably ended as well its chance of winning the warSears gives a full account of the battle and of the events leading to Lee's second invasion of the North beginning with Lee's victory over the Union Army at Chancellorsville in May 1863 Sears explains well how the invasion was linked to the impending Confederate loss at Vicksburg General Lee put forward the invasion to Jefferson Davis as a calculated gamble and a means to counteract this lossThe book offers detailed pictures of the march into Pennsylvania of the preludes to the Battle of Gettysburg of the battle itself and of Lee's subseuent retreat into Virginia There are excellent discussions of each of the three days of the battle beginning with the two great armies stumbling on each other on day one continuing with the ferocity of the Southern charge on the Union left Little Round Top on day two and concluding with General George Pickett's doomed charge at the center of the Union line on day three I found the story of Pickett's charge dramatically and poignantly told The book describes Lee's retreat and Meade's pursuit into Virginia following the battle Sears in general exonerates Meade from the charge that he failed to pursue Lee adeuately following the battle to destroy Lee's army and to bring the War to an endAt least as important as the factual development of the events of the campaign Sears gives the reader an analysis of why events developed as they did In particular Sears views the battle as a result of Southern overconfidence and arrogance hubris resulting from the many victories attained by the Army of Northern Virginia in the early years of the War General Lee felt contempt for the fighting spirit of the Union Army and for its leaders which led him to underestimate the spirit of the Federals especially when they were called upon to defend their own landSears also points out many failures in the Confederate High Command during the invasion The primary failure I believe involved Lee and his cavalry commander Jeb Stuart Stuart left the invading army at a critical time and as a result Lee was deprived of knowledge of the whereabouts of the Union Army its size and of the terrain at Gettysburg The Union enjoyed an overwhelming field position during the second and third days of GettysburgThere is a great deal made in Sears's' book of Lee's relationships with his other generals particularly General James Longstreet Longstreet objected vigorously to Lee's plans of battle on the second and third days even while carrying out faithfully and aggressively his duties as a subordinate officer when the decisions had been madeSears contrasts the Southern command with that of the Union commander George Meade who had assumed command only four days before the battle Meade was cautious and thorough He assumed personal command of the Union operations at Gettysburg unlike Lee who delegated heavily consulted with and listened to his subordinates and performed both brilliantly and stolidly at the time of the Union's great needThe writing style of this book is outstanding It flows inexorably from one chapter to the next and from event to event The reader can follow the story from the complexities of the troop movements to Sears's discussions and reflections on his story It is a style suited to a prose epic and it kept me riveted throughoutThis is an excellent treatment of the Battle of GettysburgRobin Friedman

  4. says:

    I was visiting Gettysburg the weekend I started reading this book and brought the book along as my textbook I've read other books about Gettysburg but I understand this is an especially good overview of the battle During the weekend I was in Gettysburg I got to see the monument that commemorates the first shot fired at Gettysburg It's easy to miss because it's uite small and until recently was on private land The Park Service recently purchased the house and property on which the monument stands It was farther west of Gettysburg than I had anticipated I didn't realize that the Union's initial position began three ridges out from Seminary Ridge I highly recommend hiring a licensed tour guide at the visitors' center when you visit the battlefield If you do and focus on a day of the battle at a time the guide will share uirky little tidbits about the battlefield that most people miss I spent my time on the first day of the battle July 1 1863 during my visit but ended my visit there by watching the sunset from Little Round Top I have another trip to Gettysburg coming up in November and am going to set this book aside until I get closer to that visit

  5. says:

    I will finish down the road I am just behind with updating

  6. says:

    An excellent book about the most famous battle of the Civil War Sears does a great job of covering every last bit of the battle in depth He includes the lead up to the battle with Lee's initial discussions with Jefferson Davis about invading Pennsylvania and the fallout from Chancellorsville in Hooker's army which eventually leads to Hooker's resignation and replacement by Meade when he is in the midst of chasing the Rebel armyThe book paints uite an interesting picture of the suabbling and failings of the Confederate commanders at Gettysburg while being favorable to Meade than history has sometimes beenI thought one of the most interesting tidbits was Pickett's Charge had precedent to work 4 years earlier the French had broken the Austrian center with an intense artillery bombardment followed by an infantry assaultEven the 3rd day fighting at East Cavalry Field gets a fair shake; while Sears doesn't put forth the master plan suggested in Lost Triumph it does suggest Stuart was indeed trying to access the Union rear some historians have blown the whole thing off and suggested Stuart was merely covering the Confederate flank with no larger intentionsSuperb book I'm going to be reading of Sears' worksEDITI originally read this book in 2009 after visiting the Gettysburg battlefield It started a great deal of reading on my part about the Civil War and a return to college where I completed a History BA Now in 2013 after reading Gettysburg A Testing of Courage I decieded to reread this book to compare and see if my opinion of it had changed While I found a few points to nitpick and few typos on this second reading my overall opinion has not changed I still think this is an outstanding book He may be a little less entertaining than Trudeau but Sears is still a great writer and this book is has insight and information than its peer The author's best work probably the best single volume on the battle and still one of my favorite history books ever Highest recommendation

  7. says:

    I think I see the value of Sears' work He is not an exacting historian He is not an archive rat who will prove the precise location of a regiment in an obscure battle He also has defined bias aganist certain men who can seemingly do nothing right in this book Howard Slocum Pleasanton Kilpatrick etc He is also not a person to overturn the existing orthodoxy This does not mean he does not have original insights His take on Hooker is fresh and solid although some of Hooker's less savory actions are ignored he was the man who prodded Sickles and Butterfield to attack Meade However Sears' writing is clear and evocative Although he concentrates on the actions of the commanders and his analysis here is usually fair he will always make clear the hellish nature of warfare For these reasons I see him as the heir to Bruce Catton and one of the best Civil War historians out there

  8. says:

    Very solid very thorough recounting of this key battle including the immediate lead up and aftermath While there is a tremendous amount of they went here and did this it doesn't generally get bogged down A few illustrationsbattle maps would have been helpful but most readers should be able to follow the flow of battle in their head The book dealt a lot with the personalities interactions and foibles of the men who led the troops If you want a soldier's viewperspective you won't get that here but the high level interactions were really interesting and added a lot of context and so that's why to historical events that I previously knew about but couldn't really put in context As for the accuracy I can't really say I'm just not enough of a Civil War buff to say whether the author's explanations for howwhy things happen fit the current consensus I can say that the book is highly critical of Lee though in a forgiving how could hewhy would he make these mistakes? and certainly highly critical of other generals on both sides If there's a main weakness it's that the author focused on personalty and personal interactions at the cost of some discussion of strategy and background information If you don't know about Civil War era weapons tactics euipment etc well you won't after reading this either It's not a major flaw in the realm of no authorbook can cover everything but that may be a meaningful omission to some readers who don't know as much about that era

  9. says:

    This is an outstanding compilation on the Gettysburg campaign I have read the Landscape Turned Red Chancellorsville and now Gettysburg I enjoyed every page of every book This book explains Lee’s reason for the invasion of Pennsylvania first the Army of Northern Virginia needed food and supplies for their men and forage for their horses and secondly the South needed a victory to offset the pending loss of Vicksburg Lee believed reinforcing Vicksburg would do nothing than dilute the overall war effort Instead Lee proposed a 2nd invasion of the north to fight what Sears refers to as a strategically offensive campaign but tactically defensive battle Similar to Hooker's plan at Chancellorsville This was Lee's last chance to take the offensive Then why did Lee not fight the defensive battle he proposed? Sears accuses Lee of being passive at Gettysburg He says the same about Lee's new Corp commander’s AP Hill and Ewell Also Lee was left blind by Stuarts ride around the army of the Potomac It seems like the Union’s cavalry coming of age thanks to men like Gregg Buford and George Armstrong Custer played a large part in leveling the playing field But the biggest factor may have been The Army of Northern Virginia’s overconfidence If you read Sear’s Chancellorsville the Army of the Potomac with the exception of the 11th Corp was on par with the Army of Northern Virginia The only problem I had with this book is that it had to end Read the book You’ll love it

  10. says:

    I am going to Gettysburg this autumn and plan to read or re read several of the most authoratative books of the battle Sear's has written an excellent and gripping chronicle of the battle and the military and political context around it His source material for the military intelligence and command decisions of Army of the Potomac is excellent On the other hand there is not any new insight or perspective on the reasons for the most controversial actions of Lee's army Lots of speculation and references to accounts written years later but he did not take a position on some of the enduringly perplexing actions taken by Lee or his commanding generals Nevertheless a superb book

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