Sunday, August 23, 2009

Book Review--The Complete Gettysburg Guide

Petruzzi, J. David and Steven Stanley. The Complete Gettysburg Guide: Walking and Driving Tours of the Battlefield, Town, Cemeteries, Field Hospital Sites, and other Topics of Historical Interest. Savas Beatie, New York, New York. 2009. 304 pages. Maps, index, bibliography. $39.95.

Calling a book complete in most instances will open you up to complaints that it is not "really" complete and reviewers, bloggers, and complainers will pick it apart. The Complete Gettysburg Guide however is not one of those type books. It really is complete and then some. Not only is it complete it is a treat to look at and also to read.

J. David Petruzzi runs the blog Hoofbeats and Cold Steel in addition to his day job. He is the co-author of several other books and is considered an expert on the Battle of Gettysburg. Steven Stanley is a well known cartographer whose work is known by anyone who is a member of the Civil War Preservation Trust. These gentlemen are well qualified to write such a book.

For the average tourist the $40 price tag isn't going to sit well. But this is not just a travel guide in the conventional sense and you aren't going to find paid advertisements, diamond ratings, shopping sites, where to stay or eat in this guide. What you are going to find is an experts look at the city of Gettysburg and it's surroundings. If you are only looking for the other stuff stay away this isn't for you. If you are serious about learning what is at Gettysburg you can't do any better than this.

The first thing you will notice about the book is the physical quality. This is a heavy book printed on quality paper. This is meant to stand up to a good amount of usage. When you open the book you can't help but be impressed with the overall quality. The printing, photos, and maps are all top notch. Did I mention maps? You'll get one just about every 3-4 pages. The maps are bright, large, and easy to follow. The book is also filled with beautiful contemporary photos as well as period pieces that really help tell the story. Each chapter also includes an excellent "additional reading" section which leads readers who want more information to further sources.

The book starts out with an excellent overview of the Gettysburg campaign and battle. Petruzzi gets us off on the right food even if you know little about the battle. From there we move to various driving and walking tours. If you follow along you will get to see many places that most visitors never get to see while still not missing the highlights. Petruzzi gives excellent driving directions and urges caution in areas that are congested or dangerous. He is also correct to point out and remind us that many of the areas are on private property and he cautions us to use courtesy and pay respect to property owners. Just good common sense but an excellent reminder none the less.

To me the strong point of the book is the lesser known areas. The National Cemetery and Evergreen Cemetery tours are highlights in my opinion. There is also an excellent tour of historical sites in the city of Gettysburg including the David Wills House, where it is believed Abraham Lincoln put the finishing touches on his Gettysburg Address, the Jeannie Wade House, amongst others. If you are interested in rock carvings there is a great tour here that will take you to all the currently known locations. Some are from the war and many are from after but this is an interesting tour idea in my view. If Civil War medicine is your bag there is a great tour that outlines the known locations of Union and Confederate field hospitals. There are also tours dealing with skirmishes on the outskirts of the main fields of battle.

If you are really interested in learning about Gettysburg and getting the most out of a trip there you will do no better than going to Petruzzi and Stanley's website and getting a copy of this book. Normally I would include an Amazon link but how about you order direct from the authors, get an autographed copy and cut out the middleman. You may need to buy a second copy--one to keep and one to take on the battlefield. Your book(s) will be in your mailbox before you know it.

This book is highly recommended for anybody who is interested in Gettysburg. No matter your level of knowledge there is much to be gained from this book. This will be the book against which all others will be judged. Guides like this are needed for other battlefields and this should be the standard that authors and publishers use when comparing their work.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Off Topic--I Love My Librarian Award

For those of us who love books I would imagine that possibly next to a bookstore our favorite place would be a library. For those who are researchers libraries are a vital part of what we do. Here's a chance to give back to those who are so helpful. Carnegie Corp. and the New York Times are teaming up with the American Library Association to sponser the I Love My Librarian award. The nomination deadline is October 9th and nominations must be done online. Up to 10 winners will receive a $5,000 prize, an award plaque, and a travel stipend to attend the awards ceremony in December. If you have a favorite or someone who has really helped you out here's your chance to honor them.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Center For Civil War Photography 2009 Seminar

The 2009 seminar of the Center For Civil War Photography will be presented October 24-26, 2009 in Charleston, South Carlolina. Ed Bearss will be a featured speaker with his presentation My Career and Civil War Photography. Other highlights will include a bus tour of Civil War Charleston, a private tour of Ft. Sumter, and much more. Prices for members are $290 and $325 for non members. The Center's main webpage is here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Off Topic--Brandywine Battlefield to remain open

A "short term" argreement has been reached between the state of Pennsylvania and Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates to keep the park open using volunteers until a longer term solution can be reached. An announcement was made on State Senator Dominic Pillegi's website regarding this.

While in theory this is good news I have several reservations about this...1) The state appears to just be backing out and letting others take over even though they still will own the property. 2) Volunteers? How long will many of these individuals be able to hang on without income? I am sure those employed there are very dedicated to what they do but will their dedication be the same without pay and benfits? 3) Does the state have any real motivation to work on a long term solution? The park is open and they aren't footing the bills. Let's hope my negativity is misplaced and that the state steps up and finds funds to operate the park as it should be. Let's also hope that Civil War parks don't meet the same kind of fate!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Off Topic--Brandywine Battlefield

Off the Civil War topic for a minute this is also of importance to those who study history.

The Revolutionary War's Brandywine Battlefield in Pennsylvania is being threatened due to lack of state funding. The Revolutionary Times battle reenactment has already been cancelled for 2009. Possibilities also include the closing of the Visitor's Center, the closing of Washington's and Lafayette's headquarters, and more. You can help by visiting the Save Brandywine Battlefield website.

With all the issues we face regarding Civil War battlefield preservation we should not turn a blind eye to those whose interest is the American Revolution. Who knows when our favorite battlefield could be next.

Save Brandywine Battlefield

Magazine Review--Civil War Times

Here are some quick overviews of recent Civil War Times issues. In the future I hope to discuss these individually and give them more attention. Issued bi-monthly by Weider History Group this magazine is always worth a read. It is filled with contemporary and vinatge photos/art and has maps included to help readers follow the action. Well worth picking up or subscribing to.

Civil War Times. June 2009.

The feature article in this issue is titled "Toward a Better Understanding of George McClellan" written by Ethan Rafuse. Ernest Furgurson tackles Abraham Lincoln's folksy ways in "Oh, that reminds me of a story" where he discusses the President's penchant for humor and colloquial language. What Civil War magazine is complete without a Gettysburg article? In this issue we have an article/letter discussing General John Gibbon and his commentary on the Gettysburg Cyclorama. Gerald Henig introduces us to William H. Carney who was the first black soldier to win the Medal of Honor in his article "Glory at Battery Wagner". Gary Gallagher discusses the film Glory, his favorite Civil War film. Included amongst other articles is a section of book reviews.

Civil War Times. August 2009.

Eric Campbell asks "What was Dan Sickles thinking when he practically destroyed his own corps' at Gettysburg" in his article "Death of the III Corps". Continuing with Gettysburg we have transcripts from letters written by Augustus Hesse of the 9th Massachusetts Battery. These make for interesting reading. This issue also features an interesting photo article titled "Tools of the Trade" which describes the equipment used by Union artillerymen. Ron Soodalter adapts his book by the same name to an article titled "Hanging Captain Gordon.". Gordon was the only American to be executed for transporting slaves under the Piracy Act of 1820. I own this book but have yet to read it. The story does look interesting enough to justify a further investigation. Included are also multiple book reviews including a look at three books dealing with the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. See my review of one of these titles here. Also included is a review of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, MD.

Civil War Times. October 2009.

Just about everybody knows that General Ulysses S. Grant was known to have a drinking problem. Peter Cozzens attempts to figure out who helped keep him sober in "General Grant's 'Living and Speaking Conscience' ". John Brown continues to be a controversial figure in Civil War studies and Robert E. McGlone attempts to pinpoint Brown's mental state in "The 'Madness' of John Brown". McGlone concludes that Brown showed few signs that modern psychiatrists would identify with a mental disorder. The story of one family's attempt to retrieve a loved one's remains from Gettysburg is detailed in "So Far From Home: The family of a Confederate colonel killed at Gettysburg learned that the dead must sometimes remain truly and forever lost." written by Glenn W. LaFantasie. Gary Gallagher discusses famed historians Bruce Catton and Douglass Southall Freeman in his Blue & Gray column. If you are travelling to Manassas National Battlefield you won't want to miss the field guide "The First Manassas You've Missed" put together by Harry Smeltzer, Craig Swain, and Jim Burgess. Also included are book reviews and the monthly last page column "Looking at Lincoln" where famed historian Harold Holzer takes a look at a photo of Lincoln.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bob Younger book collection for sale

Bob Younger, the founder of Morningside Books and also Gettysburg Magazine, collected books for more than 50 years. His wide ranging collection is now being sold. The first portion of the list is available here. Books are being cataloged and listed so be sure to check back.

Website Review--Civil War Book Review

The summer 2009 Civil War Book Review has been posted by LSU Library.

The features this issue cover a wide range of topics from Clash of Extremes: The Economic Origins of the Civil War written by Marc Egnal to Harold Holzer's new work Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter, 1860-1861.

Of note to many blog readers however will be the review of One Continuous Flight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 written by Eric Wittenberg, J. David Petrucci, and Michael Nugent. The book was published by Savas Beatie. Reviewer William Bushnell gives the book high marks calling it "entertaining, thoughtful, and well presented history,..." I'm sure many of us will be adding this to our collections soon.

There are many other books reviewed that can no doubt fill the hours until the weather begins to cool down. Overall a highly recommended site if you are looking for what to read next.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Magazine Review--North & South

North & South: The Official Magazine of the Civil War Society. Volume 11 Number 4. $6.99

The new issue of North & South has arrived. The main article is a discussion involving several Civil War scholars over what the main target should have been. Should the main Union target have been the cities in order to disrupt supply lines and infrastructure as put forth by Allen Guelzo or was Lee's army (and others) a better target as subscribed to by James McPherson and others . An interesting back and forth discussion.

Other articles included "Tactics in the Wilderness" written by Reid Ross, "Missourians and the War on the Western Rivers" written by William Garrett Piston and Thomas P. Sweeney, "Snake Creek Gap and the Campaign That Never Happened" written by Steven Newton, and "The Savage War" written by Daniel Sutherland. The issue wraps up with book reviews which for some reason are also printed on the inside back cover. I guess advertising wasn't sold for this page so they made use as best they could.

The articles contained small period photos mostly of the major names that were mentioned. None did a lot for me or helped the articles too much in my view. A couple of maps were thrown in but again I found these to be lacking--they were small and one of them almost seemed like it had been reduced so much it was almost grainy. Maps are essential and they should do better than this. Fortunately the notes are still included with each article for those who wish to do further reading or fact checking.

Much has been written about this magazine as of late. I must admit to not being overly familiar with earlier issues but I certainly hope they are able to return to the form I have read about. This issue didn't quite seem up to those high standards.