The Battle of Gettysburg at 150

tags: Hot Topics, Civil War, Gettysburg, David Austin Walsh, resources



David Austin Walsh is the editor of the History News Network. Follow him on Twitter @DavidAstinWalsh


Hancock at Gettysburg by Thure de Thulstrup. Credit: Wiki Commons.

The Battle of Gettysburg marks its 150th anniversary this week (so does the Union victory at the siege of Vicksburg, but good luck seeing anything about that in the media).

To mark the occasion, we've assembled a list of resources -- digital collections, books, and news stories -- about the battle and the Civil War that are worth closer examination.

And of course, please share your favorite Civil War books in the comments! We're pretty well read here at HNN, but considering that the amount of works published on the Civil War easily numbers in the tens of thousands, we certainly haven't read (or even heard of) them all!

Digital Resources

  • The first stop for anyone interested in the sesquicentennial should be the New York Times blog "Disunion," featuring the nation's leading Civil War historians. A resource that will be used for years, if not decades, to come.
  • The National Park Service is livetweeting the battle at @GettysburgNMP starting tomorrow. The NPS is also livestreaming the re-enactment of Pickett's Charge on July 3.
  • Harvard's Henry Louis Gates, Jr. answers the question: "Did black men fight at Gettysburg?" At the actual July 1-3 battle, possibly (the records are unclear). Did black people play a pivotal role in the runup and aftermath to the battle? Absolutely.
  • Smithsonian Magazine is hosting an interactive map of the battle, the culmination of a digital history research project involving faculty and students at Middlebury College.
  • The Civil War Trust also features a number of maps.
  • The front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer on June 29, 1863: "TO ARMS! CITIZENS OF PENNSYLVANIA!! The rebels are upon us!"
  • The Civil War Trust has an app for those braving the July heat to visit the battlefield.
  • The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill has a dedicated page highlighting the state's role in the battle.
  • And, of course, the indomitable Kevin Levin has a series of thought-provoking blog posts up at Civil War Memory (and he's just written an article for HNN about the terror facing African Americans in the wake of Confederate occupation.)
  • Books Worth Reading

    Histories of the Civil War Era

    Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson (1988). Still the definitive single-volume history of the Civil War. More of a socio-political history than a military history, but absolutely essential reading for to understand the underpinning issues of the Civil War.

    Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 by Eric Foner (1988). One of the most influential history books written in the past thirty years, Eric Foner transformed historical intepretations of the Civil War and Reconstruction by putting the agency of freed slaves at the center of his analysis.

    Battle Histories

    Glory Road by Bruce Catton (1952). Catton is in many ways the granddaddy of Civil War studies. In fact, if you're of a youthful cast, Catton was the one Civil War author your granddaddy probably read. Civil War studies, and historical scholarship in general, has come a long way since the 1950s, but for pure narrative history and lyrical beauty, Catton is still worth reading.

    Gettysburg by Stephen W. Sears (2004). Sears stakes out firm positions in the perennial debates over the Gettysburg campaign (Did Lee make a mistake with the invasion? Was his judgment impaired when ordering Pickett's Charge? etc.), coming firmly down on the side of Lee by examining the larger strategic picture facing the Confederacy in 1863 (the looming loss of Vicksburg most prominently).

    Gettysburg: The Last Invasion by Allen C. Guezlo (2013). Allen Guezlo offers the most recent narrative history of the battle, an hour-by-hour, ordinary-soldier's-eye-view of Gettysburg. He relies on postwar memoirs, regimental histories, and survivors' letters to provide a visceral, sensory experience of the fighting.

    Regimental Histories

    Last Full Measure: The Life and Death of the First Minnesota Volunteers by Richard Moe (1993). Widely considered to be one of the best regimental histories, former president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation Richard Moe traces in this volume, the history of the Firs Minnesota Volunteers, one of the first Union regiments mustered and which was decimated during the second day of the battle.

    Stand Firm Ye Boys From Maine: The 20th Maine and the Gettysburg Campaign by Thomas A. Desjardin. The 20th Maine is famed for its defense of Little Round Top on the second day of the battle. Their ammunition exhausted, regimental commander Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain ordered a bayonet charge into the advancing Confederates. It worked. Little Round Top remained in Union hands for the rest of the battle.

    A Scythe of Fire: A Civil War Story of the Eighth Georgia Infantry Regiment by Steven E. Woodworth and Warren Wilkinson. The Eighth Georgia Infantry served at nearly ever major battle fought by the Army of Northern Virginia. At Gettysburg, the regiment fought as part of Anderson's Brigade, where it saw heavy fighting in the Wheatfield on July 2S

    Journal Articles

    "A Census-Based Count of the Civil War Dead" by J. David Hacker (Civil War History, 2011). Perhaps the most important article to appear about the Civil War in the past decade. Using census records, demographer and social historian J. David Hacker revised the estimated number of deaths during the Civil War upward, from around 600,000 to nearly 850,000.

    Reader's Picks

    For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War by James M. McPherson (1997).

    Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War by Drew Faust Gilpin (2004).

    Copperheads: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln's Opponents in the North by Jennifer L. Weber (2006).

    This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust (2008).

    Sesquicentennial News

  • National Parks Service livestreaming Gettysburg reenactment (6-28-13)
  • Re-enactors and spectators descend on Gettysburg (6-28-13)
  • New map may explain Lee's decisions at Gettysburg (6-28-13)
  • Apps mix history with technology at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (6-27-13)
  • New Gettysburg museum explores role of faith in Civil War (6-25-13)
  • Gettysburg residents seek black history museum (6-25-13)
  • Shaped by history, Gettysburg celebrates milestone (6-24-13)
  • A Gettysburg battle plan: The field as it once was (6-24-13)
  • Gettysburg readies for anniversary (5-26-13)

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