Sunday, February 12, 2012

Book Review--Devil's Den

Adelman, Garry E. and Timothy H. Smith. Devil's Den: A History and Guide.  Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, PA. 1997. 159 pages, 131 pages text. Index, bibliography, notes, b/w photos, maps. ISBN 9781577470175, $19.95.

The Battle of Gettysburg has probably had more books written on every conceivable aspect than any other Civil War battle. As would be expected some are of more value than others. In Devil's Den: A History and Guide authors Garry Adelman and Timothy Smith, both Licensed Battlefield Guides at Gettysburg National Military Park, have written what while probably not the last word could conceivably be called the best work dealing not just with the battle that took place at Devil's Den but the actual location itself.

In a brief 131 pages of text the authors cover four major themes: pre-battle history, the battle for Devil's Den, post-battle history, and a suggestion for touring the Den. The battle and post-battle are of course the large portion of the book.

The first section briefly deals with pre-war history of the area. The authors get right to the point by debunking the myth that the area was created by Ice Age glacial activity. Rather, the rock formation is part of an outcropping of diabase sill, a sheet of igneous rock. The formation was formed over 180 million years ago. Also discussed is the importance of the area before the war. Did you know the name Devil's Den is actually a post war moniker? Read about the history of the name in the first chapter.

The second chapter is the longest in the book and deals with the actual second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. The chapter starts off with a much needed introduction to the various regiments and brigades that fought over the rocky area. The back and forth battle for this piece of terrain is covered in depth and is helped along by close to a dozen maps drawn by Garry Adelman.

The authors then move into the post war period and discuss and correct legends such as the sharpshooter legacy, "death by concussion", and the story of vultures on the battlefield. The vast issue of commercialization of the battlefield is discussed along with a history of the many photographers who staked a claim to the area. William Tipton and his Gettysburg Electric Railway are covered along with Round Top Park. Readers will also learn of early graffiti and early non war related carving on the rocks and what attempts have been made to remove them. And leave it to Timothy Smith to also point out a ridiculous story about a ghost being the culprit for the rock carving of "P. Noel".

The last chapter is a 28 stop tour of the Devil's Den area. Each stop includes a detailed discussion of it's importance. The text closes with a 7 photo challenge. Adelman and Smith have put forth 7 different photos and challenged readers to discover where they are.

The authors pay a great deal of respect to the legendary William Frassanito and his legendary photographic studies of the Gettysburg landscape. Any reader of this work will want to consult the Frassanito histories as well. This is a book that has no doubt been read by those with an interest in Gettysburg. For those who are just developing an interest in the Civil War and Gettysburg in particular this is a must read.

*This book is a prior winner of the Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award presented by the Robert E. Lee Civil War Round Table of Central New Jersey. This award is presented to the most outstanding original work on the  Gettysburg Campaign.

**Related Reviews
Gettysburg: A Journey in Time
Manassas Battlefields
The Story of Lee's Headquarters

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