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.
©2013 Allen C. Guelzo (P)2013 Random House
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Critic reviews

“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)
“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)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By JONAH8208 on 02-08-15

Detailed but easy to follow

Very detailed and easy to follow with a much more realistic analysis of the intense politicing between the union civilian and military

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Mr. N. R. Macmillan on 05-04-16


What did you like best about Gettysburg: The Last Invasion? What did you like least?

This is a very detailed book but without a map in front of you or an equally detailed understanding of the ground this book is inaccessable

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

I sadly gave up with this book and did not persist to the end.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The voice of the narrator was not very animated and made the book harder to listen to that necessary.

Was Gettysburg: The Last Invasion worth the listening time?


Any additional comments?

If you are coming to Gettysburg as a battle for the first time or do not have a working understanding of the ground or at least a map in front of you as you listen then go elsewhere.
Not recommended except for Gettysburg enthusiasts.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By W. F. Rucker on 03-07-13

A Fresh Look at a Famous Battle

This is a very good book that provides fresh information and insights on a subject that has been written about a great deal. The author brings a sense of immediacy and literary craftsmanship that provide the reader with an entertaining and informative experience. The narrator did a good job without trying to be the star of the show. The book ends with a short interview of the writer which added a nice personal touch.
The hallmark of the book is new information and a fresh outlook on all aspects of the most written about battle of the Civil War. The biographical information on the participants is a good example. I had never heard that the Union general Dan Sickles was one of the first persons to be acquitted of murder on a defense of temporary insanity. There is a lot of detail on the politics of both armies. Lee's army had a bias for Virginian officers and the split between the McClellan advocates and the Republican generals was still affecting promotions at this time. In his interview the author comments on Meade's bias in favor of McClellan's attitude against abolitionists.
The author points out that the legend of the 20th Maine was greatly aided by Joshua Chamberlain who lived until 1906 and wrote more than a few articles about the fight on Little Round Top. He neglected to mention the actions of the three other regiments that were there on the Union side.
I especially enjoyed the author's analysis of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. He uses comparisons with some of Lincoln's prior speeches and Lincoln's emphasis in all of his speeches on the principles of the Declaration of Independence.
This book has a unique combination of excellent scholarship and stellar writing. I heartily recommend it particularly for anyone interested in the Civil War.

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Lee on 21-12-13

A Good Overview

What did you like best about this story?

I thought the book was very well written and also very well narrated. Listening to non-fiction audiobooks can be tricky at times because a good narrator can make a dull book better, but the opposite is also true. I thought this book did a good job blending the narration with the text. Overall I think this book gave a good overview of the Gettysburg Campaign. There really isn't a whole lot of "new" material out there on the battle, so writing a campaign study normally consists of rehashing a lot of previously heard stories. However, the author made this book seem fresh and offered some new analysis and conclusions. The narrator did a good job as well and made the listening experience a good one.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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