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The Summer of ’63 Gettysburg by Chris Mackowski and Dan Welch (eds)

Review by Colin Wilks

Every now and then you come upon a book where you enjoy reading it so much that you are genuinely sorry when you come to the final pages. This is such a book, to me anyway. To mark their 10th anniversary, Emerging Civil War are publishing several books containing new writings on Civil War battles. This is the Gettysburg volume, it contains essays, transcripts of podcasts, lectures, blogs and new articles on this most famous of Civil War battles. It’s not just a military history but covers social and cultural issues as well.

Eric Wittenberg contributes two articles, one of which I was sceptical about as I started to read it, “Nobody can truly understand the Battle of Gettysburg without a solid understanding of the Battle of Chancellorsville”. By the end of the chapter I was convinced that he has a point!

Any fans of John Reynolds will need to gird their loins to read Kristopher White’s chapter entitled “Reynolds reconsidered". Seems he was a bit of a micro-manager!

One of the best chapters conducts a detailed study on the Federal retreat through the streets of Gettysburg on 1st July. This is a subject which is usually glossed over in many books on the battle but no longer as Dan Welch has added his research to the Gettysburg story.

Individuals such as George Meade, Sallie the mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania, Strong Vincent, George Sears Greene, John Rankin and Robert E Lee’s pet chicken all have their own chapters.

The Postscript on pages 282 and 283 brought a big smile to my face. No, I’m not going to spoil it and give the game away here. The book is well illustrated with photographs, all be it in black and white, many coming from the talented Chris Heisey who has taken some amazing photos around the battlefield. In particular the double page spread of the Friend-to-Friend Masonic Memorial on pages xxx-xxxi covered in ice is particularly excellent and memorable.

There are many more subjects covered than I can fit into this review. This is a book you read from cover to cover or dip into it whenever you want to. Highly recommended for Gettysburg buffs or anyone interested in new information and views on this most famous clash of armies in July 1863.


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