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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.