SOLDIERS' BATTLE: Gettysburg by James Warner Bellah

SOLDIERS' BATTLE: Gettysburg

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ninety-nine years and hundreds of documents after the event, this writer, a military authority seasoned in his subject, has achieved the distinction of depicting the battle from a new and authentic viewpoint- that of the common soldiers and forgotten minor officers who fought in it. Drawing on both little-known and long-established records, he tells of the incredible ferocity of the battle fought by righteous men convinced that ""the good Lord was on their side"" who were not ""seriously trammeled by either the brilliance or blundering of generals"". The brilliant and blundering generals on both sides are here, in dirty uniforms, and so are the even dirtier common soldiers, joking under fire. Giving an excellent vignette of Lee, the author tells of Lee's soft-spot on July 1st, the first day of the battle, when weakened by dysentery he issued ambiguous orders to take Cemetery Ridge. The failure to do so was a fatal error. As the men participating wrote of them, he describes rifle fire and bayonet charges, field hospitals and death, waves of advance and retreat, Sickels' imbecilic raid, and the final, heartbreaking bravery of Pickett's doomed charge. ""Neither side won the battle; they simply fought themselves out""- but at Gettysburg the War was lost.... Although blind devotees of the Lee legend may quarrel with some of the author's comments, this vivid reconstruction is essential, particularly in its analyses of controversial actions and orders.

Publisher: McKay