On the first three days of July in 1863, more than 160,000 Union and Rebel soldiers fought a monumental battle in Gettysburg, a bloody contest that has been hailed as "the turning point of the Civil War." It is without a doubt the best known engagement of the war and may in fact be the best known battle in American military history. It is certainly the most studied battle Americans have ever fought in. And yet, for all its prominence, this singular moment in our history still stirs heated debate. Did Jeb Stuart's absence leave General Lee blind? Should Ewell have attacked Cemetery Hill? Was Joshua Chamberlain really the hero of Little Round Top? How close did the Confederates come to winning at Gettysburg? And if the Confederates had won, how would history have been different?
Now, Gabor Boritt, the director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, has invited nine leading authorities to shed new light on the greatest battle in our history. Following the example of Richard Nelson Current's acclaimed historyThe Lincoln Nobody Knows, the contributors focus in particular on the unknown, the controversial, and what might have been. Readers learn, for instance, that though Jeb Stuart's cavalry provided no intelligence to the rebel army for several key days, Lee knew from other sources the location of the Army of the Potomac and he was able to concentrate his army before General Meade arrived at the battlefield in strength. Readers are treated to a fresh account of "the most celebrated forty minutes in all of American military history"--Pickett's Charge--watching that famed encounter from a perspective rarely described: the point of view of Union soldiers. There are careful analyses of the battlefield actions of General Ewell (whose failure to attack Cemetery Hill has been blamed for the South's loss at Gettysburg) and of General Daniel Sickles (whose dangerous repositioning of troops on July 2nd has been credited with stopping Longstreet's advance): Ewell is exonerated here, Sickles criticized for probably causing more Union losses than necessary. And throughout the volume, there is much vivid writing, such as a stirring account of the moment when General Winfield Scott Hancock ordered the First Minnesota to "take those colors," sending the Minnesotans into a desperate struggle that would cost most of them their lives but would help save the day for the Union.
Well over a century has gone by since the guns fell silent at Gettysburg. Yet every year millions of tourists make the pilgrimage to this venerable site, to see for themselves the spot where thousands died so that the Union could be preserved.The Gettysburg Nobody Knows offers a marvelous reconsideration of this epic event. It will be must reading for the legions of Civil War buffs around the country and for everyone interested in American history.show more