James A. Hessler, Wayne E. Motts, and Cartographer Steven A. Stanley
Savas Beatie, 2015, 310 pp., #37,95
Image courtesy of amazon.com
Ever since the Battle of Gettysburg came to a close, one of the most popular areas of the battlefield to write about was Pickett’s Charge. Numerous books have brought forth information about this crucial event and some have even attempted to change thoughts about this attack. With so many works on the market about Pickett’s Charge, what makes Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg stand out from all of the others? Do we need yet another work about Pickett’s Charge? I think it is safe to say that this book is unlike any other that deals with the subject of this attack. James A. Hessler, Wayne E. Motts, and Steven A. Stanley have brought something different, but it’s not what you might think.
James A. Hessler is a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg and is most famously known for his work Sickles at Gettysburg. It was that book that won him the Batcheldar-Coddington Award and the Gettysburg Civil War Round Table’s Distinguished Book Award as the most outstanding work on the Gettysburg Campaign. Wayne E. Mott is also a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg and has been for close to thirty years. He is the chief executive officer of The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Steven A. Stanley is the cartographer for this work and is one the most celebrated Civil War cartographers. He co-authored, and was the cartographer, for The Complete Gettysburg Guide along with J.D. Petruzzi. He is the winner of the U.S. Army Historical Foundation’s 2009 Distinguished Writing Award.
One of the things I am always on the lookout for in a new Civil War book is, what is different in this work that I cannot find anywhere else? Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg is not only a book which has a historical narrative, it is a guide book to the areas of the battlefield which surround the large scope of Pickett’s Charge. Throughout the work, there are four separate tours which bring you around the areas of the field: the Confederate Battle Line, Trimble Charge, Pickett’s Charge, and the Union Battle Line. The tours are fueled by historical narrative aided by the gorgeous maps of Stanley. The maps are also labeled with stops which you should make as one touring the field. What was one of the more interesting parts of the narrative was the attention which was made to Trimble’s Charge which I think is one of the more ignored parts of the Pickett’s Charge story. There is also great attention to the detail of Bliss Farm and the attacks made around it. There is the myth that no fighting happened on the fields of Pickett’s Charge until the cannonade started, but the action at Bliss Farm was quite heated on the morning of July 3rd. Thankfully, this book gives attention to that detail and also gives a great tour of where the farmhouse stood. Overall, if there is a section of the Pickett’s Charge fields you wanted information on, this book has covered it in great detail, more so than other works on Pickett’s Charge.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Battle of Gettysburg. The work of James A. Hessler, Wayne Motts, and Steven A. Stanley shines in this work and their grasp of knowledge of the subject is second to none. This book brings a new look into Pickett’s Charge in the realm that this is not only a historical work, but a guide book that should be brought on the battlefield every time anyone travels there. All three of these historians should be held in the highest regard of Civil War academia and I look forward to works they will present in the future.