What book took you into the battle at Gettysburg?
June 30, 2011 7:42 PM   Subscribe

148 years ago today, 37 yr old Union Gen John Buford took the 1st calvary division into Gettysburg, got the lay of the land fast, grabbed the high ground, setting the stage for Union victory after the next three horrific days of battle. What books and/or websites have you read which have given you a better understanding of this battle and the people who fought it?

I've been reading about this battle. Specifically, I've been re-reading The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, which won everything in 1975, and it damn sure should have -- very readable, really gives a sense of who the people were, what they were up against. I've also been digging around online, trying to get a better picture of this battle.

What other books and/or web sites are as readable as The Killer Angels, what books have you read which have given you a better understanding of this battle and the people who fought it?

I'm not at a place -- not yet, anyways -- where I can read dusty tomes and put flesh to them because I already know all the characters, which is why The Killer Angels has been so good for me; it's given/giving me a sense of these armies, and a peek into the minds of the men who fought there, it's led me by the hand into this battle.
posted by dancestoblue to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I always liked the account of the 1st Minnesota Infantry Regiment (#22).
posted by sanka at 7:54 PM on June 30, 2011

The "Stars in Their Courses" chapter in Shelby Foote's The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian is a well-written precis. Stephen Sears' Gettysburg is a modern exhaustive study. You could read it with Coddington's The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, the earlier 'gold standard' work.
posted by mojohand at 8:01 PM on June 30, 2011

On re-reading your question, I think you'll also like Bruce Catton's narrative histories. Try the Gettysburg chapters in Glory Road, the second volume of his history of the Army of the Potomac, It's OOP, but the three book set is available for $8 on a Kindle.
posted by mojohand at 8:50 PM on June 30, 2011

You might find this War Nerd column interesting.

The movie "Gettysburg" was based on "The Killer Angels."
posted by Marky at 11:02 PM on June 30, 2011

Catton's book is the best. Second the Army of the Potomac series.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:30 PM on June 30, 2011

I asked a friend who is a major (!!!) Gettysburg geek, and this is his recommendation:

"Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage by Noah Andre Trudeau. Amazing, amazing book. Mix of gripping account with excellent research. mythbusting, and great writing."
posted by batmonkey at 11:55 PM on June 30, 2011

I would also recommend Foote highly.
posted by rodgerd at 1:15 AM on July 1, 2011

The Killer Angels.
posted by plinth at 3:00 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Crisis At The Crossroads by Warren Hassler is the definitive book on the first day of the battle of Gettysburg. It is not a light read. Foote is o.k. but most historians consider him to be a storyteller not a true historian.
posted by Buckshot at 5:32 AM on July 1, 2011

While Michael Shaara wrote The Killer Angels, his son Jeff Shaara wrote a prequel and sequel to that book, the prequel being Gods and Generals and the sequel being The Last Full Measure; both read very similar to The Killer Angels and are very well researched. I had to read the first two back in highschool in 2000 and I was hooked on both authors, and have read all the war books and series that Jeff has written. If you like being inside the main characters' heads like you are in Gettysburg for The Killer Angels, you'll want to read them all too.
posted by GuppieXX at 5:59 AM on July 1, 2011

A cousin of mine runs a Battle of Gettysburg website which may be useful. Our 3rd great grandfather fought at Gettysburg and he grew up nearby, so is really engrossed in the topic.
posted by jdl at 7:07 AM on July 1, 2011

For me, it wasn't the numerous field trips to the battlefield, but instead, reading Tony Horowitz' Confederates in the Attic.
posted by Rash at 8:09 AM on July 1, 2011

When I was still a Civil War nerd, I would commemorate the anniversaries with Gettysburg: A Battlefield Atlas. For each hour of the battle, there is a map and a page-length description of the events. The worm's eye view of the conflict helped drive home the horror and sacrifice, to see the back-and-forth and casualties for these small patches of land.
posted by kaisemic at 12:55 PM on July 1, 2011

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