Thursday, July 2, 2009

Top Gettysburg Books

After much hemming and hawing here are my top 10 Gettysburg books. First the list and then some commentary follows below.

1 Gettysburg Campaign: Study in Command by Edwin B Coddington
2 Gettysburg - The First Day by Harry W. Phanz
3 Maps of Gettysburg by Bradley M. Gottfried
4 Gettysburg: A Journey in Time by William A Frassanito
5 Gettysburg Day Two: A Study in Maps by John Imhof
6 Covered With Glory: 26th North Carolina at Gettysburg by Rod Gragg
7 In the Bloody Railroad Cut at Gettysburg by Lance J Herdegen and William JK Beaudot
8 Lee's Real Plan at Gettysburg by Troy D Harman
9 Retreat from Gettysburg by Kent Masterson Brown
10 Pickett's Charge by George R Stewart

I made my list as if I had to trim my Gettysburg section to only 10 books these are the ones I'd pick.

1 - Coddington's Gettysburg Campaign. This is the classic book on the battle. Recently Stephen Sears and Noah Andre Trudeau have done very good books but its hard to knock Coddington off his perch. I didn't put Sears or Trudeau on the top 10 because I didn't want to have the list clogged with similar books. If I had made my criteria only the top 10, regardless of similarity then I think Sears and Trudeau would have made the list.

2 - Phanz's Gettysburg - The First Day. It was hard to pick only one Phanz book. he has also done good work with "Gettysburg: The Second Day" and "Gettysburg: Culp's Hill & Cemetery Hill." But I have an affinity for the first day so I picked this volume. Once again if I was picking just a top 10 of all time I'd probably have all three of these books in the list (but the list would already be 60% done and there are plenty of other good books out there).

3 - Gottfried's Maps of Gettysburg. I love maps, can't live without them, can't have too many. This book is perfect. I'm glad to see that Savas is making this a series that will extend to many other battlefields.

4- Frassanito's Gettysburg: A Journey in Time. At first I thought this seemed pretty high to have a picture book, but its become a classic. I cannot think of any other picture book I'd put in the top 10 at all. David J. Eicher's "Gettysburg Battlefield" was good, but has its own issues/irregularities that I can't rate it in the top 10.

5 - Imhof's Gettysburg Day Two: A Study in Maps. I realize that's two map books in the top 5 but if you've ever seen Imhof's book you'd understand why. Of course Imhof's book is exceptionally rare, only 1500 copies printed. I know 1500 is a pretty healthy sized print run but when the book is being listed for $575 to $1300 online (and not autographed copies) it indicates that the demand is still out there. I've heard that copies have sold in the $400 range so the $575 isn't a crazy figure, its high but not so out of line to absurd. For whatever reason the publisher has no interest in printing a second edition.

6 - Gragg's Covered With Glory. This is the story of one of the hardest hit regiment's in the war. They have a horrific experience at Gettysburg getting into a tough scrap with the 24th Michigan on July 1st and then making the attack on the Angle on the 3rd. I couldn't read books with such a detailed focus all the time but do enjoy them. Gettysburg has more of this small story books than any other battle.

7 - Herdegen and Beaudot's In the Bloody Railroad Cut. Once again I picked a small scale book. This time the focus is the fighting in the railroad cut, of which the 6th Wisconsin played a huge role. My family is from Wisconsin and I had a relative in the 6th Wisconsin (though he enlisted post-Gettysburg) so I have an affinity for all things Iron Brigade. Herdegen has also come out with a new book on the Iron Brigade at Gettysburg. I haven't bought it yet but will. If we do this list next year that book may edge out this one.

8 - Harman's Lee's Real Plan. It seems like a few years ago we had a bunch of books come out that were titled Lee's Real Plan, or something similar. Harman's book makes the point that Lee could never have seen "The Copse of Trees" and instead was focused on Ziegler's Grove. I think he makes a ton of sense and proves his point. I think the title is overplaying it a bit too much but this book does somewhat shift our understanding of Lee's plan. Of course it means the whole thing was messed up as the attack makes its penetration south of Ziegler's but after all the other mistakes of the campaign one more isn't such a big deal.

9 - Brown's Retreat from Gettysburg. We've also been treated to a couple of books on the retreat from Gettysburg after it being widely ignored. I haven't read the book done by Wittenberg, Petruzzi and Nugent but have heard it is good too. One day I'll read it but for now I'll include Brown's on my list.

10 - Stewart's Pickett's Charge. Pickett's Charge is the iconic moment of Gettysburg. When I talk to average people they don't know about the Peach Orchard or Culp's Hill or Barlow's Knoll. But they will have heard about Pickett's Charge. How could I leave that moment off a top 10 Gettysburg list? I couldn't. The last spot was hard to pick as there were several good books I haven't mentioned but in the end I had to have Pickett's Charge here.

There are many other good Gettysburg books I have not mentioned. In addition to the other ones I listed in my notes above I'd also like to say that I enjoyed the following books (I guess I needed to do a top 25 list). In no particular order:

Brigades of Gettysburg by Bradley M. Gottfried
Pickett's Charge in History and Memory by Carol Reardon
Gettysburg Day Three by Jeffry D Wert
Pickett's Charge: Eyewitness Accounts edited by Richard Rollins
Lincoln at Gettysburg by Gary Wills
The First Day at Gettysburg edited by Gary W. Gallagher
The Second Day at Gettysburg edited by Gary W. Gallagher
The Third Day at Gettysburg and Beyond edited by Gary W. Gallagher
War College Guide to Gettysburg edited by Jay Luvaas & Harold W Nelson
Gettysburg's Bloody Wheatfield by Jay Jorgensen
North with Lee and Jackson: Lost Story of Gettysburg by James A. Kegel
Gettysburg by Lt Frank A Haskell & Col William C Oates
Battle of Gettysburg: The Official History by George R Large
Grappling with Death: Union 2nd Corps Hospital at Gettysburg by Roland R. Maust
35 Days to Gettysburg by Mark Nesbitt
Struggle for the Round Tops: Law's Alabama Brigade by Morris M Penny and J Gary Laine
The 19th Indiana Infantry at Gettysburg by William Thomas Venner
Days of Darkness: Gettysburg Civilians by William G Williams


Brett Schulte (TOCWOC - A Civil War Blog) said...


Nice post! We had three in common in our top 10's. I liked your expanded list as well. I added a link to your list at the permanent page and Tweeted the post as well. Thanks for signing up to do this. I appreciate it!

Anonymous said...


Good rationale for not rating similar book topics/authors. Also, being a battlefield tramper, I totally agree w/ your #3 selection re: maps.


Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the comprehensive list. I agree with you and the other responder--maps books are just interesting.

Chris Evans said...

Nice List! I have Seven of the Ten in my collection of Gettysburg books. I like your commentary on the different books.