An outstanding battle study by the author of Chancellorsville, this comprehensive narrative will lend extra impact to the 140th anniversary this July of the climactic battle of the Civil War. Sears casts his net wide, beginning with Lee's meeting with Davis in May 1863, where he argued in favor of marching north, to take pressure off both Vicksburg and Confederate logistics. It ends with the battered Army of Northern Virginia re-crossing the Potomac some two months later, a near-run on both sides as Meade was finally unwilling to drive his equally battered Army of the Potomac into a desperate pursuit. In between is the balanced, clear and detailed story of how 60,000 men became casualties, and how the winning of Confederate independence on the battlefield was put forever out of reach. The author generally is spare with scapegoating, although he has little use for Union men Dan Sickles (who advanced against orders on the second day) or Oliver Howard (whose Corps broke and was routed on the first day), or Richard Ewell of the Confederacy, who decided not to take Culp's Hill on the first night, when that might have been decisive. Sears also strongly urges the view that Lee was not fully in control of his army on the march or in the battle, a view borne out in his gripping narrative of Pickett's Charge, which makes many aspects of that nightmare much clearer than they have been before. This book is not the place to start a study of the campaign, but it is absolutely indispensable for the well-versed. (June 30)
Forecast:A summer display in time for the battle's 140th anniversary on July 4, 5 and 6 could draw on James McPherson's Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg (Forecasts, date TK) and Robert Clasby's illustrated Gettysburg: You Are There (Forecasts, Mar. 3), along with this book from former American Heritage editor Sears.