W. Stephan Coleman, Ill. Tim Hartman
Savas Beatie, 2017, 264 pp., $25
Image courtesy of amazon.com
While something can be said for the realm of Civil War academia, there seems to be this massive subgenre which continues to fill with every year. The books surrounding those epic three days in July, and the weeks surrounding them, are many and there is good reason for it. No other battle has received such an epic scale of analysis, devotion, and research in the American Civil War. Discovering Gettysburg strives to bring something different to the study surrounding it. Not only does the book take a look at the battle, but also looks at the town, and some of the other major areas surrounding the battlefield.
W. Stephen Coleman is a professor of theater at the University of Pittsburg and is a specialist in Shakespeare, acting, directing, and stage combat. He has taught for more than thirty years and has starred in such films as Silence of the Lambs. Another role of his was of General Braddock in The War That Made American. After his retirement, he discovered a new interest in his life: the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg. This book is also illustrated by Tim Hartman who is a native of Pittsburg and has been professionally acting, singing, writing, cartooning, and storytelling since 1982. He is also an award winning political cartoonists and illustrator whose work has been widely published in newspapers.
Discovering Gettysburg is a different book in many ways. One of the points in the narrative which I enjoyed was the first person account of the author himself, in which he takes you along his journey, almost as if he is telling you his stories through the battle. The book often felt as though the reader was on a personal tour with Coleman who had such passion upon pointing things out of interest. The book also deals with the town before and after the battle, including other towns such as Cashtown. One thing which stood out to me is that Coleman also takes a look at the Eisenhower National Historic Site which I’m not sure I’ve seen covered in other Gettysburg related works. And possibly one of the most personal chapters which I connected with was the work on reenactors and what they do for the public involving education and the like. Overall, this book felt very personal which I cannot say for many other books. Coleman’s passion for this project comes through clearly in the writing and is aided by some well done illustrations. The illustrations almost made me feel like I was reading a political cartoon in Harper’s Weekly.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Gettysburg. The way in which the narrative was written was quite unique to the brand of scholarship which is usually brought to the craft. You can feel why Gettysburg is not only important to the author, but important to all whom it surrounds. Through this, you can see why there are so many visitors to this pivotal site in American History. Highly Recommended!