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The Gettysburg Campaign in Numbers and…

The Gettysburg Campaign in Numbers and Losses: Synopses, Orders of Battle,…

by J. David Petruzzi

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The Civil War Trust’s outstanding maps are produced by Steven Stanley. He is a shining light in a sea of bad cartography. This book collects a huge number of custom-designed maps of the Gettysburg campaign. The emphasis is on “campaign”. The focus and strength of the book are its write-ups and maps for the sideshows, the skirmishes and smaller battles even the interested public does not know about. This works best for the mid-size battles of the campaign such as the battle of Brandy Station or the Second Battle of Winchester.

What makes the whole book difficult to follow, is the complete absence of campaign maps. There are no big picture/area maps that connect the locations of all the other maps. There also are campaign maps that show the progress of the corps and divisions across Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. There are also no maps that show the locations of the armies at the beginning or the end of a battle’s day. Thus the six maps that cover the first day at Gettysburg are difficult to put into their proper context. Map coverage ends with the fight for Barlow’s knoll (and the flight through Gettysburg) at 5 pm on the one hand and the Confederate clear McPherson’s ridge at 5pm. Map coverage resumes on July 2, 4:30 pm, that is there is not a single map that covers the positions and movements of the armies for nearly 24 hours. The author’s love and attention is clearly not lavished on the main battle. Despite the huge number of Confederate battery markers for Day 3, the individual batteries are not labeled on the maps for Pickett’s charge (despite ample space). While this is not a book for the Gettysburg novice, the book could have been easily improved with a bit of editorship, care and critical thinking. Given their gap tooth nature, the strengths and losses graphics are hard to interpret and what Tufte calls a misuse of data ink. A simple table would have been more effective and freed up space for commentary and further maps.

The orders of battle, especially for the smaller engagements, are nice, but give no indication of their source. The authors list some of the key works about the strengths and losses at Gettysburg but do not connect them to their own numbers. It would have been great to know which numbers are based on consensus and which are disputed. Finally, they should have included an essay on the strengths and losses highlighting some of the numbers they present to provide guidance for rookies what to look out for. Overall, this is still a very valuable book to own but with a little bit of editorship it could have been a much better book. ( )
  jcbrunner | Aug 31, 2013 |
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