Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Gettysburg Sources: The First Day

Above: Monument to the 7th Wisconsin Infantry of the Union Iron Brigade on the northeast edge of Herbst Woods (Reynolds’ Grove) on the battlefield of the first day at Gettysburg (July 1, 1863).

Like all great battles, Gettysburg was an ensemble of battles, some large, some small, and many somewhere in between. It is impossible to understand, much less analyze, the battle without breaking it down into its constituent parts. Even to attempt that requires an analytical framework and, in addition, a body of knowledge that in itself requires years of study to acquire. Fortunately, many others have trod those paths and plowed those furrows and offered up the goodies for your edification.

One analytical construct is to examine each of the battle’s three days in book length. This poses certain very real problems with the second day, but seems to work quite well for the first day. Here are two readily available book-length treatments of the battle’s first day:

Martin, David G. Gettysburg July 1. Conshohocken, Pa.: Combined Books, 1995, 1996 (revised edition).

Pfanz, Harry W. Gettysburg--the First Day. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

Both of these are fine books, though in the case of Martin’s, I would suggest the “Completely Revised Edition,” since the first edition suffered from editorial defects.

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