Friday, October 18, 2013

Book Review--A Field Guide to Gettysburg

Reardon, Carol and Tom Vossler. A Field Guide to Gettysburg: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and People . Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2013. 454 pages, maps, color and b/w photos, index, notes. $22.

There are so many books on the battle of Gettysburg you would practically need an entire library to house them all and more are coming every week. That just goes to show the sway that this beautiful battlefield has on not just those interested in the Civil War but in travelers in general.

Most visitors, no matter how well intentioned, are not going to sit down and read Coddington, Sears, Trudeau, or any of the other, very large, books that attempt to cover all three days of battle. A book like Reardon and Vossler's however may be just what these day trippers are looking for.

The book is broken down by day with each day having several chapters. The chapters are broken down further into several driving stops. Each stop contains more than enough information for the casual tourist and yet will provide those more knowledgeable with plenty to consider and learn from. The book does not follow along with the driving guides found at the Visitor Center complex so please don't confuse the two.

When following along with the book visitors will make many stops along the battlefield. Accurate driving instructions are included so don't worry if you don't know the road layout. Each stop includes several sections. These include: Orientation, What Happened There, Who Fought Here, Who Commanded Here, Who Fell Here and What Did They Say About it Later.

For me the beauty of this book is that readers will get a chance to see and learn about under appreciated portions of the field and lesser known participants (I always check for information on the Florida Brigade and the author's don't disappoint.). Of course there are stops for East Cemetery Hill, Little Round Top and Devil's Den. There is so much more to the field however and by following along a visitor will get to see so much that is seldom covered. Mind you, there are 35 stops included in the guide. You will not effectively be able to see them all in one day. The battle was just too complicated and the book too in depth for a one day trip. If you are in town for the short a time I would recommend having this book ahead of time so that you can plan your itinerary before arriving.

Reardon and Vossler have written a book that can be read on it's own merit. The research appears to be solid and there are plenty of notes for those wishing to follow up on statements made. This is a book more written to be used while touring. While paperback, this is a solid book that looks like it would be able to stand up to wear and use on the field. For the price this is an unbeatable bargain for anybody interested in Gettysburg. Highly recommended.

Another "can't miss" Gettysburg guide is The Complete Gettysburg Guide: Walking and Driving Tours of the Battlefield, Town, Cemeteries, Field Hospital Sites, and other Topics of Historical Interest written by J. D. Petruzzi and Steven Stanley. Please see my review here.

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