Field of Dreams
Gettysburg: The Last Invasion
By Allen C. Guelzo
Alfred A. Knopf; 634 pp. $35.00
To write a book about the Battle of Gettysburg is as audacious an enterprise as Robert E. Lee's Pennsylvania campaign itself. Allen Guelzo, in this book's Acknowledgments, tells us that the 2004 edition of a standard bibliography lists 6,193 "books, articles, chapters, and pamphlets on the battle," along with a 128-page magazine, published twice yearly since 1989, entirely given over to Gettysburg scholarship.
The events of June-July 1863 have thus been as thoroughly worked over by historians as the territory of northern Virginia had been by the contending armies when Lee decided on his northward thrust. The exhaustion of that territory was indeed one of the secondary motives for Lee's expedition. He had an army to feed, and the lush fields of southern Pennsylvania were mighty alluring.
Civil War historians have families and reputations to feed, but no virgin state to invade for material. With the sesquicentennial upon us, however, there is a new surge of public interest. Why not tell once again the oft-told tale, and air once again the unresolved, and by now surely unresolvable, controversies? That's what historians are for. Among historians, few are better qualified to write about Gettysburg than Prof. Guelzo, who teaches Civil War Studies at Gettysburg College.
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[Read the whole thing in The American Spectator.]