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One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's…

by Eric J. Wittenberg, Michael F. Nugent (Author), J. David Petruzzi (Author)

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951211,553 (4.25)3
The titanic three-day battle of Gettysburg left 50,000 casualties in its wake, a battered Southern army far from its base of supplies, and a rich historiographic legacy. Thousands of books and articles cover nearly every aspect of the battle, but not a single volume focuses on the military aspects of the monumentally important movements of the armies to and across the Potomac River. One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 is the first detailed military history of Lee's retreat and the Union effort to catch and destroy the wounded Army of Northern Virginia. Against steep odds and encumbered with thousands of casualties, Confederate commander Robert E. Lee's post-battle task was to successfully withdraw his army across the Potomac River. Union commander George G. Meade's equally difficult assignment was to intercept the effort and destroy his enemy. The responsibility for defending the exposed Southern columns belonged to cavalry chieftain James Ewell Brown (Jeb) Stuart. If Stuart fumbled his famous ride north to Gettysburg, his generalship during the retreat more than redeemed his flagging reputation. The ten days of retreat triggered nearly two dozen skirmishes and major engagements, including fighting at Granite Hill, Monterey Pass, Hagerstown, Williamsport, Funkstown, Boonsboro, and Falling Waters. President Abraham Lincoln was thankful for the early July battlefield victory, but disappointed that General Meade was unable to surround and crush the Confederates before they found safety on the far side of the Potomac. Exactly what Meade did to try to intercept the fleeing Confederates, and how the Southerners managed to defend their army and ponderous 17-mile long wagon train of wounded until crossing into western Virginia on the early morning of July 14, is the subject of this study One Continuous Fight draws upon a massive array of documents, letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, and published primary and secondary sources. These long-ignored foundational sources allow the authors, each widely known for their expertise in Civil War cavalry operations, to describe carefully each engagement. The result is a rich and comprehensive study loaded with incisive tactical commentary, new perspectives on the strategic role of the Southern and Northern cavalry, and fresh insights on every engagement, large and small, fought during the retreat. The retreat from Gettysburg was so punctuated with fighting that a soldier felt compelled to describe it as "One Continuous Fight." Until now, few students fully realized the accuracy of that description. Complimented with 18 original maps, dozens of photos, and a complete driving tour with GPS coordinates of the entire retreat, One Continuous Fight is an essential book for every student of the American Civil War in general, and for the student of Gettysburg in particular. About the Authors: Eric J. Wittenberg has written widely on Civil War cavalry operations. His books include Glory Enough for All (2002), The Union Cavalry Comes of Age (2003), and The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads and the Civil War's Final Campaign (2005). He lives in Columbus, Ohio. J. David Petruzzi is the author of several magazine articles on Eastern Theater cavalry operations, conducts tours of cavalry sites of the Gettysburg Campaign, and is the author of the popular "Buford's Boys" website at www.bufordsboys.com. Petruzzi lives in Brockway, Pennsylvania. A long time student of the Gettysburg Campaign, Michael Nugent is a retired US Army Armored Cavalry Officer and the descendant of a Civil War Cavalry soldier. He has previously written for several military publications. Nugent lives in Wells, Maine.… (more)
  1. 10
    Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign by Kent Masterson Brown (Donogh)
    Donogh: Both are accomplished studies of the same event, albeit with a different emphasis
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With Lee defeated at Gettysburg and Grant victorious at Vicksburg, the Union could have won the war in July 1863 - if George Gordon Meade had not acted according to his character. It is true, many of his units were mauled in battle and he was faced with Lincoln's restriction of keeping his army between Lee's army and Washington. The South Mountain range further shielded Lee's forces from a vigorous pursuit. After all, the battle of Gettysburg only happened because General Heth exposed his forces beyond the South Mountain range. Finally John Imboden and Jeb Stuart both handed in stellar performances in leading the wounded, the POWs, the trains and the army back to Falling Waters, blocking all attempts of the Federals of inflicting extensive destruction.

Meade did not make good use of the road network. Instead of either mounting a vigorous push pursuit along the northern approach road from Chambersburg to Falling Waters or of cutting Lee off via Harper's Ferry, he sent his forces onto country roads. His disastrous cavalry corps commander Alfred Pleasanton further diminished the effectiveness of the pursuers by splitting up his cavalry forces into division-sized attacks which were too weak to break through the Confederate rearguards. A good part of Wittenberg's book is devoted to these costly but futile cavalry skirmishes that exhausted both sides but proved indecisive.

The Federal infantry was hampered by an absence of confident commanders. Most aggressive Union generals had been wounded or killed during the battle. Thus, the pursuit was under the direction of the plodding General Sedgwick - under orders NOT to bring on a general engagement. Union caution allowed Lee to retreat back to Virginia. Not attacking Lee in his entrenched position at Falling Waters was probably a sane decision. Otherwise a lost chance.

Wittenberg is a cavalry specialist, thus the book will be enjoyed most by those interested in the mounted arm. The movement of the infantry forces is only sketchily presented. On the maps, the Union movements are indicated at the corps level, to abstract for my taste. A real theater map would have shown the abundance of idle Federal forces.

The combination of the two included driving tours and Google Streetview allows neat armchair tourism of this beautiful remote area. Unfortunately, the Google Streetview ends in the middle of the road at Falling Waters (never reaching the Potomac Fish club). It is surprisingly difficult to catch a glimpse of the Potomac in Google Streetview due to the foliage and the sketchy coverage of the smaller roads. ( )
1 vote jcbrunner | Apr 6, 2011 |
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Wittenberg, Eric J.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nugent, Michael F.Authormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Petruzzi, J. DavidAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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ISBN 1932714200 is for Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart's Controversial Ride to Gettysburg
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The titanic three-day battle of Gettysburg left 50,000 casualties in its wake, a battered Southern army far from its base of supplies, and a rich historiographic legacy. Thousands of books and articles cover nearly every aspect of the battle, but not a single volume focuses on the military aspects of the monumentally important movements of the armies to and across the Potomac River. One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 is the first detailed military history of Lee's retreat and the Union effort to catch and destroy the wounded Army of Northern Virginia. Against steep odds and encumbered with thousands of casualties, Confederate commander Robert E. Lee's post-battle task was to successfully withdraw his army across the Potomac River. Union commander George G. Meade's equally difficult assignment was to intercept the effort and destroy his enemy. The responsibility for defending the exposed Southern columns belonged to cavalry chieftain James Ewell Brown (Jeb) Stuart. If Stuart fumbled his famous ride north to Gettysburg, his generalship during the retreat more than redeemed his flagging reputation. The ten days of retreat triggered nearly two dozen skirmishes and major engagements, including fighting at Granite Hill, Monterey Pass, Hagerstown, Williamsport, Funkstown, Boonsboro, and Falling Waters. President Abraham Lincoln was thankful for the early July battlefield victory, but disappointed that General Meade was unable to surround and crush the Confederates before they found safety on the far side of the Potomac. Exactly what Meade did to try to intercept the fleeing Confederates, and how the Southerners managed to defend their army and ponderous 17-mile long wagon train of wounded until crossing into western Virginia on the early morning of July 14, is the subject of this study One Continuous Fight draws upon a massive array of documents, letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, and published primary and secondary sources. These long-ignored foundational sources allow the authors, each widely known for their expertise in Civil War cavalry operations, to describe carefully each engagement. The result is a rich and comprehensive study loaded with incisive tactical commentary, new perspectives on the strategic role of the Southern and Northern cavalry, and fresh insights on every engagement, large and small, fought during the retreat. The retreat from Gettysburg was so punctuated with fighting that a soldier felt compelled to describe it as "One Continuous Fight." Until now, few students fully realized the accuracy of that description. Complimented with 18 original maps, dozens of photos, and a complete driving tour with GPS coordinates of the entire retreat, One Continuous Fight is an essential book for every student of the American Civil War in general, and for the student of Gettysburg in particular. About the Authors: Eric J. Wittenberg has written widely on Civil War cavalry operations. His books include Glory Enough for All (2002), The Union Cavalry Comes of Age (2003), and The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads and the Civil War's Final Campaign (2005). He lives in Columbus, Ohio. J. David Petruzzi is the author of several magazine articles on Eastern Theater cavalry operations, conducts tours of cavalry sites of the Gettysburg Campaign, and is the author of the popular "Buford's Boys" website at www.bufordsboys.com. Petruzzi lives in Brockway, Pennsylvania. A long time student of the Gettysburg Campaign, Michael Nugent is a retired US Army Armored Cavalry Officer and the descendant of a Civil War Cavalry soldier. He has previously written for several military publications. Nugent lives in Wells, Maine.

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