THE SUMMER OF ’63: GETTYSBURG
◗ Chris Mackovski & Dan Welch ◗ Savas Beatie (2021) ◗ £21.99 ◗ 340 pages (hardback) ◗ ISBN:9781611215717 ◗ savasbeatie.com
This book – subtitled Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War – is a compendium of pieces published during the first ten years of the Emerging Civil War blog (emergingcivilwar.com) which ‘serves as a public history-oriented platform for sharing original scholarship related to the American Civil War’, and ‘represents the sort of eclectic ongoing conversation you’ll find on our blog.’ One of its priorities is‘to identify and spotlight the next generation of “emerging” Civil War historians and the fresh ideas they bring to the historical conversation.’
There are twenty-six articles, ranging in length from four to thirty-six pages. The articles cover a wide variety of topics, some of which are relatively trivial matters such as editor Chris Mackowski’s recollections of a third-grade school trip to the battlefield; the fate of General Robert E. Lee’s pet hen in ‘War Chicken’; and the monument to Sallie Ann, the brindle Staffordshire bull terrier mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry in ‘Man’s Best Comrade’, and Herman Melville’s poem on Gettysburg in ‘A Poet’s Perspective: Melville on Pickett’s Charge’.
Others examine topics of more significance in the history of the battle itself, such as the influence of the Battle of Chancellorsville on Robert E. Lee’s battle-plan, and the command structures of both the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac; the ‘dangerous experiment ’of appointing General George G. Meade to command the latter; and the three men responsible for the failure to take Cemetery Hill and seize Culp’s Hill on 1st July 1863: Jubal Early, Richard Ewell and Robert Rodes.
Yet others deal with peripheral themes such as ‘Herman Haupt: Reopening the Rail Lines to Gettysburg’, ‘David Laird and the Christian Commission at Gettysburg’; and ‘Civil War Witch Hunt: George Gordon Meade, the Retreat from Gettysburg, and the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.’
With such a wide variety of topics, there are bound to be some articles that will interest any American Civil War gamer.
There are nine maps, some of which have been specially drawn for the book, and numerous monochrome illustrations, consisting mainly of small reproductions of contemporary photographs of officers mentioned in the articles. This reviewer, however, did not care for the tone of several captions accompanying these portraits, such as ‘The Three Horsemen of the Potomapocopalypse [sic]. Who doesn’t hear Sam Elliot’s voice when they see John Burford [sic] (left)?’ and ‘Before Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry cycled through Defense Against the Dark Arts professors and before the band Spinal Tap cycled through drummers, Meade’s Army of the Potomac cycled through chiefs of staff…’
But, as Abraham Lincoln commented on another literary work,“People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.”
Footnotes are provided but there is no bibliography. A fourteen-page index concludes the book.
This is not a book to read from cover to cover but is ideal for dipping into to read one or more short pieces at a time. It would probably be best appreciated by those interested in the American Civil War who are already familiar with the campaign and battle of Gettysburg. They are recommended to visit the Emerging Civil War blog to gain a better idea of the style and quality of its historical articles than I can give in this brief review.