Thursday, February 16, 2012

Gettysburg Sources: Collective Biography

Tagg, Larry. The Generals of Gettysburg: The Leaders of America's Greatest Battle. Campbell, Calif.: Savas Pub. Co., 1998.

Larry Tagg introduces his book with a quote from Heraclitus: “character is destiny.” This epigram of the Greek philosopher informs the author’s approach, which provides well-written biographies of the leaders at Gettysburg, concentrating on their character attributes, backgrounds, personalities, and battlefield performance. In this he succeeds admirably. The book is organized according to the orders of battle of the armies (Federal first), proceeding through the various corps in numerical order, with commanders of divisions and brigades discussed under corps’ heads. Where colonels commanded brigades, they are included. Officers who succeeded to the command of formations during the battle –- for example Fry for Archer -- are not discussed.

Tagg provides strength data for the various units and formations that is drawn from the authoritative work of Busey and Martin (1982 ed.). I’ll probably discuss this book in a future post. Each entry is supplemented by appropriate bibliographical references. There are also nine maps by John Heiser. The one thing the book lacks is an index, so even those familiar with the orders of battle may find themselves thumbing back-and-forth to find a particular entry.

All in all, I think this is a book that belongs on your Civil War bookshelf, more particularly if you’re a Gettysburg junkie.

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