Read an Excerpt
Another book on Gettysburg?
A few years ago, a distinguished Civil War historian decried the continual flow of books, articles, and research on the battle of Gettysburg. As far as he was concerned, the energy poured into the battle directed attention away from other important events that needed scholarly attention. One of the books he focused attention on in his article was my own recently released Brigades of Gettysburg: The Union and Confederate Brigades at the Battle of Gettysburg (Da Capo, 2002). That title, and others like it, intoned the historian, was what was wrong with modern Civil War historiography. Although I respect his broad body of work, and own many of his books, I disagree entirely with his assessment.
First, no other campaign has uncovered so many first-person accounts of those pivotal weeks in 1863. These recollections make it easier for anyone writing on the subject to understand-at a much broader and deeper level-what really occurred during that campaign. This is true not only at the strategic level, but from the eyes of men who served in the ranks and from the perspective of ordinary civilians. Newly discovered accounts on this subject appear with regularity. As ongoing research turns up new sources, it is the historian's job to synthesize that material and produce something useful from it. The recently published and well received Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart's Controversial Ride to Gettysburg, by Eric J. Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi (Savas Beatie, 2006) is a classic example of what good historians can do with new material.
Second, the national interest in Gettysburg continues unabated. Attendance at the national park dedicated to memorializing the battle has fallen recently, but nearly 2,000,000 people still visit each year. Books on the subject continue to sell well because the interest in reading about the campaign remains vibrant.
All of this is a roundabout way of coming back to how this Introduction opened. In your hands is another book with Gettysburg in the title (twice). My own work on the subject is concentrated on topics I think others want to read more about, including reference material that will hopefully assist experts and laymen alike. I am a firm believer that plowing ground that will help others in the future is a worthwhile endeavor.
Researching and preparing Brigades of Gettysburg in the late 1990s was much more difficult than I expected it might be. A dearth of easy-to-read complete maps on the campaign made tracking the daily movement of the opposing armies and individual units much more difficult than it would otherwise have been. To understand fully any campaign or battle, a student must appreciate how and when the individual armies and their component parts marched to the battlefield and their proximity to one another along the way at any given time. Being able to visualize this information makes it come alive and weaves the threads of understanding together into a tighter picture that usually explains why commanders marched when and where they did, or why they made one decision and not another. Knowing the precise movements of the opposing forces also sheds light on why and when a particular battle took place. Understanding how the opposing armies reached the field of battle goes a long way toward explaining why the subsequent fighting unfolded as it did. This is true of every military campaign of every age.
When it comes to Gettysburg, readers have several cartographic works from which to choose. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Any serious study of Gettysburg must include time with John Bachelder's maps. These maps are invaluable for studying the battle. However, Bachelder's maps only cover the events on the field at Gettysburg, and although crafted with care, contain many inaccuracies. John Imhof's Gettysburg-Day Two: A Study in Maps (Butternut and Blue, 1997) is an outstanding work designed to cover only a slice of the battle (the second day); it does so admirably. Another similar study includes Jeffrey Hall's The Stand of the U.S. Army at Gettysburg (Indiana University Press, 2003). The topographical maps are impressive and helpful, but Hall's pro-Northern point of view, coupled with his sequential approach, makes it less valuable than it might otherwise have been.
The Maps of Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Gettysburg Campaign, June 3 - July 13, 1863 takes a different approach on two levels. First, its neutral coverage includes the entire campaign from both points of view. The text and maps carry the armies from the opening step of the campaign during the early days of June all the way to the battlefield in Pennsylvania, through the three days of fighting, and then south again until the Army of Northern Virginia crossed the Potomac River in mid-July. My purpose is to offer a broad and full understanding of the complete campaign, rather than a micro-history of one day or one sector of the battle itself.
Second, The Maps of Gettysburg dissects the actions within each sector of the battlefield for a deeper and hopefully more meaningful experience. Each section of this book includes a number of text and map combinations. Every left-hand page includes descriptive text corresponding with a facing right-hand page original map. An added advantage of this arrangement is that it eliminates the need to flip through the book to try to find a map to match the text. Some sections, like the defeat of the 157th New York north of Gettysburg on July 1, are short and required only two maps. Others, like the prolonged bloody combat in the Wheatfield on July 2, required a large number of maps and text pages. Wherever possible, I utilized relevant firsthand accounts to personalize the otherwise straightforward text.
To my knowledge, no single source until now has pulled together the myriad of movements and events of this mammoth campaign and offered it in a cartographic form side-by-side with reasonably detailed text complete with end notes. I hope readers find this method of presentation useful. Newcomers to Gettysburg should find the plentiful maps and sectioned coverage easy to follow and understand. Hopefully, it makes digesting what is an otherwise complex campaign easier to grasp in its broad strokes. The various sections may also trigger a special interest or two and so pry open avenues for further study. I am optimistic that readers who approach the subject with a higher level of expertise will find the maps and text not only interesting to study and read, but truly helpful. If someone, somewhere, places this book within reach to refer to it now and again as a reference guide, the long hours invested in this project will have been worthwhile.
The Maps of Gettysburg is not the last word or definitive treatment of the campaign, battle, or any part thereof-nor did I intend it to be. Given space and time considerations, I decided to cover the major events of the campaign and battle, with smaller transition sections to flesh out the full campaign story. For example, a light overview of Jeb Stuart's orders and subsequent ride to Gettysburg is included, but I did not dedicate space to the major combats and skirmishes he waged along the way. The important cavalry actions on the field of Gettysburg, however, are discussed in great detail in two separate sections.
Original research was kept to a minimum. My primary reliance was upon firsthand accounts, battle reports, and quality secondary scholarship. I am also intimately familiar with the entire battlefield, having walked nearly every yard of it many times over the years. Thus, there are no new theories or evaluations of why the campaign or battle unfolded as it did.
Whenever a book uses short chapters or sections, as this one does, there will inevitably be some narrative redundancy. As far as possible, I have endeavored to minimize those occurrences. I am also keenly aware that Gettysburg is a very hot topic of debate in many circles, and even relatively bland observations can spark rancorous discourse and a challenge to a duel with pistols at dawn. And of course, the sources can and often do conflict on many points, including numbers engaged and casualties. I have tried to follow a generally accepted interpretation of the campaign and battle, and (I hope with some success) portray the information accurately and with an even hand.
Inevitably, a study like this makes it likely that mistakes of one variety or another have slipped into the text (or on a map) despite my endless hours of proofreading. I apologize in advance for any errors and assume full responsibility for them.
* * *
Many obstacles stood in the way of the completion of this project. Discussions with publishers and editors early on were problematic as they struggled to understand the project as I envisioned it should be. At best, they wanted to modify its scope dramatically. Theodore P. "Ted" Savas, who had signed on to publish my Brigades of Gettysburg book in 1999 before selling Savas Publishing Company to an east coast conglomerate, took an immediate interest in the project because he understood my vision, saw a need for the book, and believed in its potential. Ted has been all that an author could ask for in a publisher and developmental editor. With a mixture of tough-love and encouragement, he saw the project through to fruition. This book would not have been possible without his ongoing support and interest.
Ted arranged to have David Wieck thoroughly review the text and edit where necessary. David is a government analyst and independent editor with a strong background in historical, technical, and governmental materials. He is also co-author, with David Shultz, of The Battle between the Farm Lanes: Hancock Saves the Union Center: Gettysburg July 2, 1863 (Ironclad, 2006). David's suggestions were always helpful, and his keen eye and knowledge of the battle helped make this a better book.
Many others also graciously assisted me. Cavalry experts Eric J. Wittenberg and J. David (J.D.) Petruzzi (Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart's Controversial Ride to Gettysburg, 2006) read the sections dealing with mounted operations, identified some key mistakes, and made this work that much stronger. J.D. then took it upon himself to review the entire manuscript, bringing to the table his familiarity of the entire campaign and battle. Jay Jorgenson (Gettysburg's Bloody Wheatfield, 2001), Dr. David G. Martin (Gettysburg: Day 1, 1995), and Dr. Earl J. Hess (Pickett's Charge: The Last Attack at Gettysburg, 2000) perused sections dealing with their areas of expertise and offered a wide variety of observations and ideas for improving this study. I cannot begin to thank each of these gentlemen enough.
And then there were the maps. I initially intended to co-write the book with a cartographer. My goal was to focus on the text and rough out scores of maps before turning both over to an experienced mapmaker to breathe life into my crude renditions. Two cartographers signed on over the course of several years. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending upon one's perspective now that the heavy labor is over), creative differences ended each collaboration. My options narrowed quickly. I could either scuttle the project entirely or learn how to produce the maps myself. Linda Nieman, one of my coworkers, encouraged me to take the plunge and learn how to draft them on my own. She also helped me learn a computer graphics program. There would probably not be a book without Linda's patient instruction and encouragement.
In addition to the learning curve for the software, it took literally hundreds and hundreds of hours to complete the scores of maps. In spite of the more than occasional tedium of working long hours after midnight with a drawing program, I actually enjoyed preparing them.
Bradley M. Gottfried