Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Complete Gettysburg Guide

The Complete Gettysburg Guide by J. David Petruzzi. Maps and photography by Steven Stanley.

I am behind the times in reviewing this book, it already has received numerous highly positive reviews, but I’m sure one more won’t be too much in the way.

This is as complete a guide of Gettysburg as I’ve ever seen. What separates it from the other Gettysburg guides is its attention to the periphery. Besides chapters covering the main fighting of July 1-3 there are chapters on the June 26 skirmishes, the cavalry fighting on Brinkerhoff’s Ridge and East Cavalry Field, the fighting at Hunterstown on July 2nd and at Fairfield on July 3rd. But there is also tours of the town of Getysburg, the National Cemetery, Evergreen Cemetery, the various rock carvings around the battlefield and the plentiful hospital sites scattered around the town.

I especially enjoyed the chapters on the National Cemetery and the rock carvings. I loved the amount of detail given to the variety of mistakes in the cemetery. Some of these are simply stone cutters who made misspellings (and not just of soldiers’ names) but some are because the soldier was misidentified when buried. Since then researchers have found that no soldier by that name served in that regiment but that same name was found in a different regiment, or state which meant there are Confederates buried in the National Cemetery. Today that’s not a big deal but before the reconciliation of the 1890s veterans would have been quite upset to know that.

I also enjoyed the rock carving chapter because it looks like it would be a fun tour to do. I knew about some of the carvings but the tour created here has 21 stops and would be a fun extra tour to do next time I’m there, especially finding the dinosaur footprint and fossils with my young son.

The book itself is beautiful. Stanley’s beautiful maps grace nearly every other page. When there isn’t a map there is a great photo as Gettysburg is a very photogenic battlefield (that may sound odd but the right combination of monument and natural beauty creates amazing photos at many battlefields). The text is clear with good directions (giving odometer readings at tenth mile increments and longitude and latitude coordinates for GPS users). I haven’t had the good fortune to field test it yet but the directions are clear and informative so I do not foresee any problems in the field. The page stock is even different than most books, a nice thick page that feels very durable for field use. I’m not sure it’ll survive a rain storm but normal field use should be fine.

I only wish there was a Shiloh version of this book. I am excited to hear that an Antietam version is in the works.


Dylan Hyde said...

I was very excited to receive this book as a gift over the holidays. Having heard interviews with Petruzzi and Stanley, and read reviews in various blogs and such, it's been a real treat to dive in, flip around, and bounce through its pages.

You made an excellent point about the QUALITY of this volume. It's so nice I'm hesitant to take it to the field (nice sentiment, but I won't fool myself . . . it'll definitely accompany me on some tromps).

Finally, I heard Petruzzi say that he's putting together a companion audio CD tour for Gettysburg. He promises that there will be tons of new information - not just a rehash of the book. After enjoying The Complete Guide so much, it's going to seem a long wait until the Antietam book comes out! I believe they intend to cover South Mountain in that book, too. Should be fantastic!

Chris Evans said...

Yes, I would love to have one on Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chickamauga.

Petruzzi and Stanley simply did a wonderful job on the Gettysburg one.

I hope this is a part of a long and fruitful series of similar guides on various battles of the Eastern and Western theaters.

J David Petruzzi said...

Nick and folks, thanks so much for the kind words about the book! Yes, we're working on the audio supplement now, and Antietam is next. We hope to do a series of these guides. Not sure if we're going into the valley after Antietam, but that is our thought.
Thanks again and enjoy the fields.
JD Petruzzi

STAG said...

The Antitam battle field is one of only three which have ever made me weep. (The others were Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge) Gettysburg didn't really seem "real", that is, I could not really place myself in the action. This book might well do that. Looking forward to going back, and this time, I will have that book under my arm.