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.

1 comment:

  1. Robert,

    Thank you so much! Everything you said means a lot to Steve and I. Next we're doing the 62 Maryland Campaign... and really looking forward to it.