Sunday, June 24, 2007

Historic Photos of Gettysburg by John S Salmon

I recently received a copy of Historic Photos of Gettysburg by John S Salmon for review. It is mainly a picture book with some text, and captions of course. I liked it but not being a Gettysburg guy I wasn't sure if a Gettysburg nut would find it as interesting. Are there enough new photos to appeal to a Gettysburg guy? So I let my buddy Ian look through it and he said that there was quite a few new photos. More importantly he thought it was worth the $40 price tag.

In looking through it I only found two mistakes. The first is that the captions on pages 59, 64 and 65 don't quite mesh. The person identified as Captain John Hoff on 59 is not the same person as the person identified as Captain John Hoff on 65. The page 59 Hoff looks like the person on page 64 that is simply identified as an identified clerk of Hoff's.

The second mistake is on page 150 when Salmon says that "It was Howard, having directed much of the Union side of the battle on July 1, who selected the ridge as the Federal fallback position." I would disagree that Howard directed much of the Union side on July 1. I don't believe he ever offered much direction to the 1st Corps and once the troops rallied on Cemetery Hill Hancock was on the scene so Howard only had to direct troops on his half of the line. Second, I don't think Howard selected the ridge as the fallback position. Buford and Reynolds also saw the defensive potential of Cemetery Hill and while Howard was the first to leave troops for its defense I don't think we can say he selected the ridge as the fallback position.

The book is broken into four sections: the battle, dedication and remembrance, the 50th reunion and the 75th reunion. The battle photos are mainly photos that we've seen in Frassanito. I didn't compare the books side by side to see if this book has anything that Frassanito missed but I doubt Frassanito missed much. The rest of the photos are what really sets this book apart and makes it a worthwhile purchase. Two of my favorites are on pages 141 and 155. Both feature an equestrian statue with a metal sign that says to stay off the mound (apparently a huge earth mound had been built before the statue was placed). And in each photo there are veterans milling all around the statue. They probably figured that they fought for that ground and they were not about to let some sign keep them away from what they had bleed for.

On page 196 is a great quote from FDR at the unveiling of the Peace Memorial at the 75th Reunion:
"Men who wore the blue and men who wore the gray are here together, a fragment spared by time. They are brought here by the memories of old divided loyalties, but they meet here in united loyalty to a united cause which the unfolding years have made it easier to see. All of them we honor, not asking under which flag they fought then - thankful that they stand together under one flag now." I wonder how many of the Confederates in the audience bristled at those comments.


Harry said...

I received this book for review as well and will be posting my thoughts tomorrow.

I think some folks are hard on Howard because he was an unfortunate and a probably not very good general, and also because he was a devout Christian. Some people, and I'm not saying you, really have a bug up their butt about religious people and automatically assume they are hypocrites.

Like how he did it or not, there is no doubt that Howard directed much of the action on the field from the time of his arrival until Hancock superceded him. He may not have done a great job, but it was he who directed the actions of First and Eleventh Corps. Also, he did in fact select Cemetery Hill as the fall back position for the army. Reynolds and Buford may have recognized the value of the position as well (it's value is as plain as the nose on your face), but there is absolutely no reliable evidence that they communicated anything about this to Howard. Howard was the only one to place troops there. Just because Howard received the thanks of Congress for selecting the position does not mean he did not do so.

But Howard will continue to be derided mostly because some people, and some people with considerable influence, continue to insist that he intentionally misrepresented the performance of Abner Doubleday. Again, there is no evidence to support this, and no evidence to support the notion that Meade removed Doubleday from command as a result of said misrepresentation. I've had debates with various Howard Haters over the years on this topic, and it always - always - comes down to what they believe, not what the evidence tells them. But this is one of those legends of Gettysburg that will never die.

Nick said...

I was always under the impression that Howard communicated little with the 1st Corps and never told them how to conduct the fight over there, when to retreat, etc.

I think Buford and Reynolds never left troops on Cemetery Hill because they didn't have the extra troops to leave behind. Part of the reason to fight so far west of town is to be able to fall back to the hill. Buford and Reynolds couldn't leave men on the hill so they fought far to the west so that they could fall back to it.

My point was just that Howard shouldn't get credit for picking the fall back site when two others also recognized its value. I think the caption should have included the info that Buford and Reynolds also saw the value, that they fought so that they could fall back to it and that Howard did put the first troops there. To claim that Howard directed the first day's fighting and selected the hill seemed too much of a generalization. He did do a lot, but he was not the only one and the caption made it sound like he was the main force.