Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Review--The Illustrated Gettysburg Reader


Gragg, Rod. The Illustrated Gettysburg Reader: An Eyewitness History of the Civil War's Greatest Battle. Regnery Publishing, Washington, D.C. 2013. Index, notes, bibliography, maps, b/w photos.485 pages, 441 pages of text, ISBN 9781621570431, $29.95.

Yes, it is the 150th anniversary year of the Battle of Gettysburg and the publishers are putting forth their best efforts to supply the interest of those wanting to read about the Civil War and this battle in particular.

Gragg, who has written previously on the 26th North Carolina Infantry at Gettysburg, covers the Battle of Gettysburg chronologically starting with the Confederate advance into Maryland and later Pennsylvania. We learn the reason Robert E. Lee wanted to go north and we follow both Confederate and Union armies out of Confederate territory as Lee attempts to shift the battle and the opinion of the northern public.

Once the opposing troops come to blows Gragg outlines the battle through three bloody days: from the initiation of battle to the beginning of the retreat from Pennsylvania. Readers will learn about the battle and strategy, the battlefield itself, the men fighting the war and more. The book wraps up nicely with the after action reports of both Generals Meade and Lee.

The word "illustrated" in the title means more than photos here. Yes, the book contains numerous b/w photos however the armchair reader may be disappointed in the text to photo ratio so to speak. The photos are excellent and come from varied sources; not all the standard rehashed ones.

To me though the word "illustrated" really is in relation to who Gragg lets tell his story. He "illustrates" his work using the words of the participants themselves. As the subtitle says "Eyewitness History". Gragg has mined sources old and familiar to those seldom seen and many that I was not familiar with at all to tell the story of the battle from the perspective of those on the ground who actually lived it. The letters and diaries from the men who fought the battle tell the story in a way modern historians can't.

Overall, an interesting book and one well worth adding to your Gettysburg library. The book is appropriate for those almost any level of Gettysburg knowledge. As I have seen mentioned elsewhere a few more maps would have been nice, especially for those not having a large amount of knowledge going in. A small complaint however and maps are readily available elsewhere for those interested. Recommended.

You can watch a Youtube trailer with the author here.

Thanks to Regnery History for sending a complimentary review copy.

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