Eric J. Wittenberg
Savas Beatie, 2014, 272 pp. + 15 pp. introduction, $32.95
Image courtesy of amazon.com
In his career, Eric J. Wittenberg has tackled many of the aspects of the cavalry in the Gettysburg Campaign. From the conflict at East Cavalry Field to the infamous Farnsworth’s Charge, Wittenberg gives us another outlook to the cavalry during the battle. It was only a matter of time before he took on the subject of John Buford and his involvement during the months of June and July of 1863. In his book, The Devil’s to Pay John Buford at Gettysburg, Wittenberg details the work of John Buford and his men in an excellent fashion and brings some new and interesting details to this famous commander.
Eric J. Wittenberg is the winner of the 1998 Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award for his work Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions and is the author of many other works including Protecting the Flank at Gettysburg, and The Battle of Brandy Station. He is also the co-author of Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg and One Continuous Fight with J. David Petruzzi and Michael F. Nugent.
To many people, General John Buford is one of the pivotal characters of the Battle of Gettysburg and while there have been biographies of the man, there is no major work which is devoted to his actions at Gettysburg. Not only does Wittenberg pay attention to the action of Buford during the battle, but he gives us an insight into the lives of his brigade commanders and their actions as well. In the opening chapter, Wittenberg details the life of Buford up to the point of the Civil War and also talks of his family who were greatly divided, some of them going to fight for the Confederacy. There is great detail also put into the few days before the battle and the night before as well. Accompanied by maps, which are well crafted, the narrative which he offers of Buford and his men during the battle is one of the best narratives of the first day of combat I have yet read. After his actions at Gettysburg, the book details his life and even the reunions of his men after the war. While most books would have ended the subject with the end of the battle, Wittenberg takes it one step farther and goes all the way to the end of the story. As it is with the Protecting the Flank at Gettysburg and Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions, one of the highlights of this work is the walking tour which accompanies this work. With pictures taken by the author himself, he gives the readers an easy to follow tour which makes the actions of Buford and his men much easier to follow. I applaud Wittenberg and his tours which he places in these books.
I highly recommend this book not only to the Civil War enthusiast and student, but to the Gettysburg students as well. This book will stand out as the major study of Buford and his men at Gettysburg along with a major study of the first few hours of the Battle of Gettysburg. I think this book not only will become the essential study, but a classic in the realm of Gettysburg and cavalry study. Highly recommended!