Wagonloads of detail weigh down this overstuffed account of the Civil War’s most significant battle and its aftermath.
Martin builds his narrative around numerous eyewitness accounts, despite the implication of the subtitle. He covers events from the rival armies’ preliminary jockeying for position to Lee’s retreat, the heroic efforts to care for the thousands of wounded soldiers left behind, as well as the establishment some months later of the cemetery that was the occasion for Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The battle itself, though, quickly becomes a dizzying tally of this regiment going here, that brigade charging there, the movements insufficiently supported by the small, hard-to-read battle maps. Overheated lines like “As the armies met in battle, the ground…soaked up the blood of Americans flowing into the soil” have a melodramatic effect. Moreover, as nearly everyone mentioned even once gets one or more period portraits, the illustrations become a tedious gallery of look-alike shots of scowling men with heavy facial hair. Still, the author does offer a cogent, carefully researched view of the battle and its significance in both the short and long terms.
Thorough to a fault, and for young readers at least, no replacement for Jim Murphy’s oldie but goodie The Long Road to Gettysburg (1992). (glossary, index, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 12-15)