The Maps of Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Gettysburg Campaign, June 3 - July 13, 1863 plows new ground by breaking down the entire Gettysburg campaign in 146 detailed full page original maps. These cartographic creations offer students of the campaign a unique and fascinating approach to studying what may have been the climactic battle of the war. Sarah Keeney of Savas Beatie LLC recently interviewed author Bradley Gottfried about his new book.
: Thank you for discussing your new book with us today, Dr. Gottfried.
JAG: It’s my pleasure.
: I think you addressed my first question, and what some readers may be wondering themselves, in the first sentence of your Introduction to the book: “Another book on Gettysburg?”
BMG: (Laughing) Yes, I thought it was best to address that question right at the beginning. As I explain in the Introduction to The Maps of Gettysburg, it is true that books on the Gettysburg campaign are plentiful, but people need to understand that Gettysburg is in many ways a very useful model for fighting a battle. And what sets this battle apart from others is the rich array of primary sources available to writers—much more than for any other campaign. Writers can therefore mine these treasures to explain how a battle is fought, how this particular battle was fought, examine leadership approaches, localize small unit actions, and explain what it was like to be a soldier on the march and in battle during the Civil War.
: And you used this abundance of sources to help create The Maps of Gettysburg.
BMG: Yes. Now that I have gotten that off my chest, I can answer your question. Using this storehouse of primary and secondary sources, I was able to do what I do not believe has ever been done before—thoroughly explain a Civil War campaign using original maps. I have always believed that to understand a campaign/battle, you must visualize it through maps. I learned a lot while preparing these detailed maps and the accompanying text, and I believe even the most well informed reader will, too.
: How did you develop the concept of explaining the campaign using a series of maps with accompanying text?
BMG: I believe the only way to really understand the movement of units, whether marching to a battlefield, or engaged on it, is through maps. You can read about it, but trying to keep track of who is where when can be very frustrating—especially when the book you are reading has few or no maps, or when their placement hinders easy movement to and from the text. As I prepared my book Brigades of Gettysburg, I realized how ideal it would be to have a book that easily linked maps and text. I had a lot of fun researching and creating the maps in The Maps of Gettysburg.
: Have you had the opportunity to use your own maps yet?
BMG: As a matter of fact, yes! I have reached for this book many times in the past couple weeks. I guess that’s a good sign!
: On that note, let’s talk some more about how the book is laid out. It is a really interesting concept that I think readers will enjoy. You tell the story of the Gettysburg Campaign through 144 full-page maps, divided into sections. Can you explain this?
BMG: Yes, I have divided the campaign into twenty-nine “action sections” or “Map Sets.” Each section contains anywhere from two to twenty-one maps detailing that portion of the campaign. The maps are arranged chronologically, from the opening movements to Gettysburg on June 3 through the three-day battle. The maps then trace the armies southward until the last Confederate troops withdraw across the Potomac River on July 13-14. Many of the maps bore down to the regimental-battery level and also show detailed information on vegetation, elevation, and fence types. (Note: To view sample maps, please click here)
: The format of text versus map is also important.
BMG. Yes, it is. It is important readers realize this is not just a book of maps. Each full page map is printed on a right page, with double-column text (about 650 words or so per page, which is quite a bit) on each facing left page. So the text, which is footnoted, correlates exactly with each map on the facing page.
: Can you provide a couple examples of Map Sets in the book?
BMG: Certainly. For July 1, there is a set on the attack and defense of Seminary Ridge, two separate sets on the fighting on McPherson Ridge, Oak Hill, and so forth. For July 2, there are sets on Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, the Peach Orchard, Cemetery Hill, Culp’s Hill, and so on. For July 3, there is, of course, a set on the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge, the two main cavalry actions at opposite ends of the battlefield, and the early morning fighting on Culp’s Hill.
: When someone picks up The Maps of Gettysburg for the first time, which map section do you think they will flip to first?
BMG: Gosh, that is so hard to answer because I find all of the sections so interesting! The immediate answer is the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge—people never seem to tire of looking at graphics of that assault. The July 3 cavalry actions come to mind, though, because so little has been written about them and they are confusing to understand. On the other extreme, the Wheatfield fight is well-known, but can also be confusing as so many units were fed into the fight at different times. I think that the maps really clarify what happened there.
: I think the text accompanying the maps will really help readers understand the action and ebb and flow of the campaign. Can you tell me a little more about this aspect of the book?
BMG: Thank you, I think so too. The Maps of Gettysburg greatly benefited from the research I conducted for my earlier Brigades of Gettysburg. I try to use first-person observations in my books as much as possible to flesh out text about units, personnel, movements, and combat. I believe that the most effective way of describing events is to use the words of the participants.
: You mentioned earlier that the book contains maps for the entire Gettysburg campaign, including the march from the Fredericksburg-central Virginia region to the battlefield, as well as the retreat back to Virginia. Do you cover cavalry actions in addition to the infantry?
BMG: The general answer is yes—with a caveat. The cavalry actions during the march to Gettysburg are discussed in the text, but I did not provide detailed maps for each battle. I thought that was a bit beyond the scope of the book. Some readers agree, others disagree, and that’s fine. There are two map sets covering the direct Gettysburg cavalry fighting: General Jeb Stuart’s fight with General George Custer and other Federal troops northeast of Gettysburg on July 3, and General Judson Kilpatrick’s fight with Confederate infantry south of Little Round Top.
: What was the most challenging part of writing the book?
BMG: Definitely the maps. I worked consecutively with two cartographers and there were difficulties with both that I don’t need to go into here. Let me just say that cartographers are very creative people and there can easily be differences when they are brought on as co-authors as opposed to professionals who are just producing the maps. I decided that the only way to realize my vision was to learn how to use a computer to generate maps myself. It was a difficult task, but as time went on and my proficiency grew, so too did my enjoyment of the process. Producing the accurate maps was, without a doubt, the most difficult part of the project.
: Who is The Maps of Gettysburg geared toward?
BMG: I truly believe that whether you have a strong interest in and knowledge of the campaign, or just a passing interest, you will enjoy the book and benefit from it. It is designed in an easy-to-use and very user-friendly format. The text placed on the page facing the map allows one to easily read a paragraph and then see the events on the corresponding map. As I mentioned earlier, I think and hope that everyone can and will learn something from this book.
: I imagine a lot of readers will take the book with them on trips to the battlefield, too.
BMG: Yes, I think so. I know Ted (Theodore Savas, director of Savas Beatie) took the galley with him to the field and many people asked him how to obtain one when they saw him using it on the ground. It is always hard to understand what went on when you are touring the battlefield at ground level, and having The Maps of Gettysburg will put the events in perspective. It was not written specifically as a tour guide, or as a definitive history of the campaign. I would suggest people read the appropriate sections before they visit the battlefield if at all possible. I think the maps will help them discover something interesting and allow them to sharpen their interest accordingly.
: From gathering the pertinent information to creating the maps yourself, is there anything about the project you wish you had done differently?
BMG: Nothing really of substance. Ted Savas is a tough taskmaster, and together we crafted a project that we hope fits a real need. I’m excited about the book!
: I know many Gettysburg enthusiasts are as well and it is available just in time for the 144th anniversary! Thank you for your time and best of luck with the book.
BMG: You’re welcome.
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