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Friday, 10 July 2009
Top 10 Gettysburg books (I know I’m late on this but…)

I can't hold off any longer. Too many of our fellow bloggers have participated in TOCWOC's Top 10 Gettysburg Books poll for me to ignore. I have enjoyed all of their lists and am now aware of some new titles I need to add to my library. Although I live and work in the Fredericksburg area, Gettysburg remains my favorite tour stop and "pleasure" topic. The choices below are based strictly on books I've read. Mr. Schulte... here are my entries Sir.

1. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara I am fortunate enough to have a friendly relationship with Jeff Shaara and I am sure that he hears all the time how his father wrote one of the best books, let alone Civil War books, in the 20th-century. After all, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1975. This is the kind of book that takes a casual reader and turns him into a Civil War buff. The "voice" of Shaara's pen is riveting and the way he captured the ‘character' of the battle is remarkable. I give this winner the top spot for the mass influence it had on the public. How many Civil War buffs can trace their interests back to this title?

2. Stars in Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign, June-July 1863 by Shelby Foote I must admit that I am a huge Shelby Foote fan. His writings have always bridged that gap (IMO) between solid research and pleasurable narrative. He wrote non-fiction like a novelist and made history read like a play. This book is entirely self-contained and would be a great introduction or overview to give someone with little knowledge of the event.

3. Gettysburg--The Second Day by Harry W. Pfanz As a former historian at Gettysburg National Military Park, Mr. Pfanz authored what could be the single best study of the July-2 portion of the battle ever published. Although I am by no means a military historian or schooled in tactics, I could easily understand the engagement from that perspective due to the masterful descriptions of the land and the men who fought to possess it. Easily the closest thing I've ever come to a "staff ride." Pfanz's book on the first day is also supposed to be good, but I never read it.

4. Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart's Controversial Ride to Gettysburg & ONE CONTINUOUS FIGHT: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 by Eric J. Wittenberg,  J. David Petruzzi, Michael F. Nugent I am combining both of these outstanding books into one entry. I have both personal and working relationships with the authors and do not want to appear too biased by giving them two slots. Honestly, "Plenty of Blame" was the best book I read in 2006 and the follow-up volume did not disappoint. These gentlemen have a talent for writing really enjoyable history that leaves all judgments up to the readers. The inclusion of GPS-data for driving tours is phenomenal. All history books should do that.

5. The Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech That Nobody Knows (Simon & Schuster Lincoln Library) by Gabor Boritt I've never been much of a Lincoln scholar, but this book was a wonderfully fresh and original study of a familiar subject. I actually did not think that I would like this book when I first opened it. That said, Boritt's way of teaching me (the reader) about something I thought I had a full appreciation for was startling. I probably learned more new information about G'burg from this book than perhaps any other on this list. The author also does an excellent job of painting the scene after the battle and reminding readers of what the town went through.

6. The Maps of Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Gettysburg Campaign, June 3 - July 13, 1863 by Bradley M. Gottfried As one who thinks and works in visual media, this book is a real treat. The detailed maps are wonderfully illustrated and superbly depict the battle's most significant areas and engagements. This is also a great reference source to refer to when walking the field in person. This book (IMO) is similar to the Electric Map in that it visually explains the battles movements and tactics in a way that people can easily understand.

7. THE COMPLETE GETTYSBURG GUIDE: Walking and Driving Tours of the Battlefield, Town, Cemeteries, Field Hospital Sites, and other Topics of Historical Interest by J. David Petruzzi w/ Maps by Steve Stanley I know this is a brand new release, but our friend JD and Mr. Stanley have combined to create a wonderfully designed and incredibly useful book. Frankly, I can't believe this has never been down before. The wealth of information on G'burg's monuments and sites is priceless. I can't wait to take this book to Adams County and walk through it myself. If you can't book a tour with an expert like J. David Petruzzi, this is the closest you can get.

8. Gettysburg: The Final Fury by Bruce Catton This book would be much higher on my list if it was not so slim. The narrative is classic Catton whose storytelling style is among the best. The maps and photos that compliment the text in this one are equally enjoyable. And although there are far better books in the Catton catalog, a Top-10 Civil War book list would not be complete (IMO) without his name being included. His illustrated book "The Battle of Gettysburg" that was published by American Heritage is also a childhood classic.

9. The Civil War: Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide by Champ Clark and The Editors of Time-Life Books Say what you will about those cheesy silver-coated covers from the 1980's, the CW collection by Time-Life Books still has some of the best stories and images out there. I was fortunate enough to purchase the entire series and I could spend days flipping through a pile of these gems. Champ Clark did an excellent job presenting the fight and the three-dimensional map depictions really give you a sense of the terrain. I would not hesitate to include a TLB book on any list.

10. The Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama: A History and Guide by Sue Boardman and Kathryn Porch This wonderful coffee-table book is not only a fact and photo filled gem on the complete history and restoration of the prized painting; it is also the ONLY book on the subject. In addition to including all of the original promotional pieces, programs and ticket stubs, this book outlines the entire cyclorama movement that took place at the turn of the century. This is one of those books that you find yourself flipping through with a big smile on your face as you recall your own childhood visits to G'burg.

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 10:45 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 10 July 2009 10:59 AM EDT
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