Gregory A. Coco
Savas Beatie, 2017 ed., 432 pp., $24.95
Thomas Publications, 1995 ed.
ISBN: 978 – 1-61121-405-5
Image courtesy of amazon.com
When it comes to the Battle of Gettysburg, there are numerous books about the battle, the tactics, and the losses which occurred on those three infamous days. Every once in a while, a book will come along that gives us a new outlook onto the scene which happened at that location and when those books come along, they are grasped as important writings since they give us that which we have not yet gotten. Gregory A. Coco’s book, A Strange and Blighted Land, is not only one of those books, it is one of the most important works about the town of Gettysburg we have today. Not only is it a book about the town, itself, but a book about the aftermath of the battle and the toll it took on the people.
Gregory A. Coco served in the United States Army and after his service, received his degree in American History from the University of Southwestern Louisiana. During his service, he was a military interrogator and radio operator with the 25th Infantry where he received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. While living in Gettysburg he was a National Park Service Ranger and a Licensed Battlefield Guide. He has written sixteen books and many articles on the Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War.
A Strange and Blighted Land is hailed as a classic in the scholastic of the Battle of Gettysburg and as stated in the introduction, for the reason that it brought something different to the study. Not only was it a study on the town of Gettysburg in some respects, but it was more a study of the effect the battle had on the people there. Previously published by Thomas Publications, this book was quite difficult to find outside of Gettysburg for the past few years. This reprint of the work brings an accessibility to the work for those who had a difficult time getting their hands on this seminal work. Coco’s narrative is interesting as he gives you many tours of places around the battlefield and within the town through the eyes of civilians. There are some excerpts from soldiers, but the focus seems to be more on the civilians. He touches on subjects like the care of the dead after the battle, along with the care of the wounded and even touches on some of the aggregate numbers which the people of Gettysburg saw after the battle. Nevertheless, while this book is about the aftermath of Gettysburg, many of these thoughts could be placed on other towns effected by the war in general. The experiences might not have been exactly the same, but the book shows that this effect is what happened to the civilian populous throughout the war.
There is a reason that A Strange and Blighted Land is hailed as one of the greatest Civil War books ever written. It gives a look into the lives of the people who had to “clean up” after the battle was over. It gives the reader a chance to see what life was like for those who endured great sacrifice beyond the life of a soldier. I highly recommend this book, especially now that it is back in print. No detail is left unturned and what you read might change the way you look at the battle. Gregory A. Coco’s will always be hailed for this work. And a thank you for Savas Beatie for reprinting this wonderful work.