Synopses & Reviews
From the acclaimed Civil War historian, a brilliant new history — the most intimate and richly readable account we have had — of the climactic three-day battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863), which draws the reader into the heat, smoke, and grime of Gettysburg alongside the ordinary soldier, and depicts the combination of personalities and circumstances that produced the greatest battle of the Civil War, and one of the greatest in human history.
Of the half-dozen full-length histories of the battle of Gettysburg written over the last century, none dives down so closely to the experience of the individual soldier, or looks so closely at the sway of politics over military decisions, or places the battle so firmly in the context of nineteenth-century military practice. Allen C. Guelzo shows us the face, the sights, and the sounds of nineteenth-century combat: the lay of the land, the fences and the stone walls, the gunpowder clouds that hampered movement and vision; the armies that caroused, foraged, kidnapped, sang, and were so filthy they could be smelled before they could be seen; the head-swimming difficulties of marshaling massive numbers of poorly trained soldiers, plus thousands of animals and wagons, with no better means of communication than those of Caesar and Alexander.
What emerges is an untold story, from the trapped and terrified civilians in Gettysburg’s cellars to the insolent attitude of artillerymen, from the taste of gunpowder cartridges torn with the teeth to the sounds of marching columns, their tin cups clanking like an anvil chorus. Guelzo depicts the battle with unprecedented clarity, evoking a world where disoriented soldiers and officers wheel nearly blindly through woods and fields toward their clash, even as poetry and hymns spring to their minds with ease in the midst of carnage. Rebel soldiers look to march on Philadelphia and even New York, while the Union struggles to repel what will be the final invasion of the North. One hundred and fifty years later, the cornerstone battle of the Civil War comes vividly to life as a national epic, inspiring both horror and admiration.
“[A] stylish, comprehensive, and entertaining narrative....[Guelzo’s] account is not a typical tick-tock of troop movements; the pages are soaked in rich language and vivid character studies....Guelzo knows the power of the telling detail....At its core, Guelzo’s book explains some of the romanticism that hangs over the Civil War. Its soldiers appeal to us because they were ordinary people in extraordinary times; they fought with an appealing ‘amateurism of spirit and an innocence of intent,’ as Guelzo puts it. But tragically, those same qualities ensured a bloody outcome, no matter who emerged the victor.” Drew Lindsay, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History
“Stirring...robust, memorable reading that will appeal to Civil War buffs, professional historians and general readers alike.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Few battles provoke debate like Gettysburg, whose bibliography exceeds 6,000 items. One more won’t settle the what-ifs, but Guelzo’s entry identifies key controversies, trenchantly advocates its interpretations, and rests on a sensible foundation, the confusion of a Civil War battle....[Gettysburg: The Last Invasion] reads like the battle might have been experienced....Guelzo demonstrates versatile historical skill in this superior treatment of Gettysburg.” Booklist, starred review
“An extraordinary work of thorough scholarship combined with a lifetime of judgment about historic events. If you need a clear, direct introduction to the greatest battle on American soil this is a wonderful book. If you have read fifty books on Gettysburg but are looking for new insights and new facts that illuminate things you had never considered this is the book. Everyone interested in the decisive moment in Freedom's struggle should read Guelzo’s simply extraordinary book.” Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and coauthor of Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War
“Despite all that has been written about the battle of Gettysburg, Allen Guelzo provides new information and insights in this stirring account. Unafraid to challenge conventional wisdom, he praises General O. O. Howard, maintains that General George Meade did indeed contemplate retreat on July 2 but was persuaded otherwise by subordinates, and criticizes Meade for missed opportunities in the pursuit after the battle. Readers will find much to think about in this book.” James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom
"What is there left to say about Gettysburg? In Allen Guelzo's deft, scholarly hands, plenty. Gettysburg: The Last Invasion is fresh, fascinating, and compellingly provocative. It is a marvelous book that deserves to be read and savored. And it deserves to be on the bookshelf of all Civil War buffs." Jay Winik, author of April 1865
“In this consistently riveting book, Allen Guelzo makes us feel that we are hearing the epic story of the Civil War's most famous battle for the first time. In unsentimental but always graceful prose, he delivers a panoramic yet astonishingly intimate account that interweaves the drama of battle with original — and often provocative — insights into the ways in which topography, weaponry, and the politics and personalities of its protagonists shaped events. This is, simply, the best book about Gettysburg that has yet been written. It is hard, if not impossible, to imagine that there will ever be a better one.” Fergus M. Bordewich, author of America’s Great Debate
From the acclaimed Civil War historian, and coinciding with 150th anniversary of the legendary battle: a brilliant new history — the most intimate and richly readable account we have had — that draws the reader into the muck and grime of Gettysburg alongside the ordinary soldier, and depicts, as never before, the combination of personalities and circumstances that produced one of the great battles of all time.
Though the Battle of Gettysburg has been written about at length and thoroughly dissected in terms of strategic importance, never before has a book dived down so closely to the individual soldier to explore the experience of the three days of intense fighting for the people involved, or looked so closely at the way politics swayed military decisions, or placed the battle in the context of nineteenth-century military practice. Guelzo shows us the face, the sights and sounds of nineteenth-century combat: the stone walls and gunpowder clouds of Pickett's Charge; the reason that the Army of Northern Virginia could be smelled before it could be seen; the march of thousands of men from the banks of the Rappahannock in Virginia to the Pennsylvania hills. What emerges is a previously untold story: from the personal politics roiling the Union and Confederate officer ranks, to the peculiar character of artillery units. Through such scrutiny the cornerstone battle of the Civil War is given extraordinarily vivid new life.
About the Author
Allen C. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era and Director of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College. He is the author of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America and Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, both winners of the Lincoln Prize. Guelzo’s essays, reviews, and articles have appeared in publications ranging from The American Historical Review and The Wilson Quarterly to newspapers such as The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Wall Street Journal.