From the acclaimed Civil War historian, a brilliant new history–the most intimate and richly readable account we have had–of the climactic three-day battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863), which draws the reader into the heat, smoke, and grime of Gettysburg alongside the ordinary soldier, and depicts the combination of personalities and circumstances that produced the greatest battle of the Civil War, and one of the greatest in human history.
Of the half-dozen full-length histories of the battle of Gettysburg written over the last century, none dives down so closely to the experience of the individual soldier, or looks so closely at the sway of politics over military decisions, or places the battle so firmly in the context of nineteenth-century military practice. Allen C. Guelzo shows us the face, the sights, and the sounds of nineteenth-century combat: the lay of the land, the fences and the stone walls, the gunpowder clouds that hampered movement and vision; the armies that caroused, foraged, kidnapped, sang, and were so filthy they could be smelled before they could be seen; the head-swimming difficulties of marshaling massive numbers of poorly trained soldiers, plus thousands of animals and wagons, with no better means of communication than those of Caesar and Alexander.
What emerges is an untold story, from the trapped and terrified civilians in Gettysburg’s cellars to the insolent attitude of artillerymen, from the taste of gunpowder cartridges torn with the teeth to the sounds of marching columns, their tin cups clanking like an anvil chorus. Guelzo depicts the battle with unprecedented clarity, evoking a world where disoriented soldiers and officers wheel nearly blindly through woods and fields toward their clash, even as poetry and hymns spring to their minds with ease in the midst of carnage. Rebel soldiers look to march on Philadelphia and even New York, while the Union struggles to repel what will be the final invasion of the North. One hundred and fifty years later, the cornerstone battle of the Civil War comes vividly to life as a national epic, inspiring both horror and admiration.
©2013 Allen C. Guelzo (P)2013 Random House
“Stirring . . . robust, memorable reading that will appeal to Civil War buffs, professional historians and general readers alike.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
“Few battles provoke debate like Gettysburg, whose bibliography exceeds 6,000 items. One more won’t settle the what-ifs, but Guelzo’s entry identifies key controversies, trenchantly advocates its interpretations, and rests on a sensible foundation, the confusion of a Civil War battle . . . [Gettysburg: The Last Invasion] reads like the battle might have been experienced . . . Guelzo demonstrates versatile historical skill in this superior treatment of Gettysburg.” (Booklist, starred review)
“Despite all that has been written about the battle of Gettysburg, Allen Guelzo provides new information and insights in this stirring account. Unafraid to challenge conventional wisdom, he praises General O. O. Howard, maintains that General George Meade did indeed contemplate retreat on July 2 but was persuaded otherwise by subordinates, and criticizes Meade for missed opportunities in the pursuit after the battle. Readers will find much to think about in this book.” (James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom)
This is a very good book that provides fresh information and insights on a subject that has been written about a great deal. The author brings a sense of immediacy and literary craftsmanship that provide the reader with an entertaining and informative experience. The narrator did a good job without trying to be the star of the show. The book ends with a short interview of the writer which added a nice personal touch.
The hallmark of the book is new information and a fresh outlook on all aspects of the most written about battle of the Civil War. The biographical information on the participants is a good example. I had never heard that the Union general Dan Sickles was one of the first persons to be acquitted of murder on a defense of temporary insanity. There is a lot of detail on the politics of both armies. Lee's army had a bias for Virginian officers and the split between the McClellan advocates and the Republican generals was still affecting promotions at this time. In his interview the author comments on Meade's bias in favor of McClellan's attitude against abolitionists.
The author points out that the legend of the 20th Maine was greatly aided by Joshua Chamberlain who lived until 1906 and wrote more than a few articles about the fight on Little Round Top. He neglected to mention the actions of the three other regiments that were there on the Union side.
I especially enjoyed the author's analysis of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. He uses comparisons with some of Lincoln's prior speeches and Lincoln's emphasis in all of his speeches on the principles of the Declaration of Independence.
This book has a unique combination of excellent scholarship and stellar writing. I heartily recommend it particularly for anyone interested in the Civil War.
I teach history at a community college and thus enjoy historical non-fiction. I also enjoy a good mystery novel from time to time.
I thought the book was very well written and also very well narrated. Listening to non-fiction audiobooks can be tricky at times because a good narrator can make a dull book better, but the opposite is also true. I thought this book did a good job blending the narration with the text. Overall I think this book gave a good overview of the Gettysburg Campaign. There really isn't a whole lot of "new" material out there on the battle, so writing a campaign study normally consists of rehashing a lot of previously heard stories. However, the author made this book seem fresh and offered some new analysis and conclusions. The narrator did a good job as well and made the listening experience a good one.
Hesitant at first because I have read a few versions of the Battle of Gettysburg, this work strikes me as the best one yet. The author treats all the major sub-battles with perfect detail (but not extreme detail if you know what I mean). I gained a much better appreciation for the entire battle and the realization of how close the Union came to losing. This was truly a turning point in history. The narrator is superb.
Longstreet's redemption confirmed
This is a work of non-fiction. The question is inappropriate.
Dean's measured pace and expressive manner of speaking make sure that I hear more of the words of a book than I might see with my own eyes. His voice keeps me from skipping forward too quickly, and I don't regret that one bit.
Yes, it was, and that's rare. I am quite familiar with the battle, have visited and photographed the battleground, fought the battle on military board games, and read books such as "Stars in Their Crowns", but this is now my favorite retelling. I particularly appreciate the way the author challenges Lee's decisions and rebuilds Longstreet's reputation and legacy. Lee was right to tell Pickett's survivors, "It is all my fault."
Obtain at least one good map of the movements of the troops on each day of the battle. It will help to "see" the battle unfold as Dean narrates.
Even if you think you know about that crucible you don't unless you've read this book.
Surprising in so many differing ways. The South did not lose that war the first day or at little Round Top or certainly Pickets' charge. It lost the battle and arguably the war during the afternoon of the second day, as a result of Lee's philosophy of command, and Professor Guelzo does an outstanding job of allowing the listener in on this "secret".
No I have not but I will be looking for him.
This is so much better than "The Killer Angels" and it, not that text, should have been made into a movie. I doubt if Hollywood will but it by God it should. Better yet, a short TV series not unlike "Band of Brothers".
The book is very specific, probably best suited for use as a manual at West Point. What could be attempted are computerized graphics inserted in the text like "Berlin 1961, The Most Dangerous Place In the World" (title probably wrong but I read it sometime ago, clearly the future of eBooks).
Pivotal, Courageous, Horrific
The detail is magnificent, expertly researched/documented and heart-rendering. The author is clearly devoted to explaining and judging, impartially imputing plausible rationale for the decisions made by the many combatants on both sides during the battle.
Mr. Dean is able to adroitly portray the sayings from the quotes in a manner befitting the nuances spoken while separating them from the text, clearly and cleanly.
No because the details are far too complex for just one sitting and at over 22 hours listening that would be nearly impossible. Possibly Allen G. was able to do this but why? The reading can be enjoyed over and over again.
I suggest strongly for all readers to visit and thoroughly walk/bicycle the Gettysburg Battle sites before listening/reading this book, or better yet, visit and do the complete reading while there, visiting as many of the battle sites that are reachable. Also, suggest not to drive a vehicle around (unless it's a motorcycle) in order to experience what the combatants experienced. As another reviewer noted, I made my own sketch of the full deployments (not visible in the reading of course) to better understand where each unit mentioned, was during the action. The maps provided in the text were not complete enough for my taste and certainly didn't live up to the dialogue/descriptions but were adequate enough to see the larger units/leaders.
I must've read 50 books on Gettysburg alone in the last 25 years. Well, maybe not that many but quite a few. The last book I read before this was by Earl J. Hess (Pickett's Charge - The last Attack at Gettysburg), and before that I read Noah Andre Trudeau's "Gettysburg - A Test of Courage. Both were really good though I would put Hess's book on top...And again when compared to this one.
Gettysburg: The Last Invasion does a really good job of not rehashing what we already know but also...rehashes what we already know. It was pleasant to read thru the summer of the 150th anniversary and I will probably listen to again though I might have to be coaxed by another hot summer July day to do so.
This is a decent choice if you need your Civil War fix, though I would still put Hess as the primer for the July 3rd tell-all.
I loved the detail, the amount of background information, and the authors encyclopedic knowledge of the Civil War, especially the Battle of Gettysburg. My only advice is: before listening to this book, it may be helpful to go to the Wikipedia website and down load maps from the Gettysburg Campaign. It helped me understand the complexity of moving thousands of men and materials, as well as what goes into preparing for battle, and how the battle was played out.
The Iron Brigade of the Union Army because they stood and fought longer and harder, suffering the most devastating losses, than anyone else on the Union side.
No, but the narration was excellent.
No, but the description of the carnage was cringe-worthy.
The best thing to listen to when you are facing what seems to be an overwhelmingly difficult time in your life.
I've read many histories of the Battle of Gettysburg and when I first saw The Last Invasion hitting bookstores, I said I've read enough and decided not I wasn't going to get the book but as I flipped through it in the bookstore, I realized that it did a really good job of reviewing the strategic elements of the battle, and the steps that led both armies involved to the fields of Gettysburg, with balancing the stories of soldiers on the field. Then, when I joined Audible, I decided to listen to the audio version of the book so I picked this book as my first choice as an Audible listener. I enjoyed the reading of the book and the Q&A session at the end with the author. Definitely an audio book I'll listen to again.
There are so many it's hard to pick one.
This is the first Robertson Dean audiobook I've listened to but he did an excellent job.
Many moments in this brutal battle were moving but Pickett's Charge would, I suppose, have to be the standout.
The book presented a detailed, highly literate history of the battle, with the personalities and their strengths and shortcomings in sharp relief. Although it is a "military history," anyone with even a small interest in American history will be rewarded.
His readings are always strong, clear and provide character to the main personalities in a way few narrators can.
Last Chance for a 'Lost Cause'
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