A montage of first-hand accounts of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg and its prelude, rendered into narrative and somewhat clunking dialogue with sparing excerpts from the original diaries and memoirs. Persico, a journalist and speechwriter, wants to explore the motivation of the volunteer on both sides, so he follows such soldiers as a Gettysburg youth fighting for the Confederates and Maine bluecoats impelled as much by money and conformity, he says, as by patriotism. The book succeeds in making plain the context of the battle and the incredible Yankee ineptitude that put General Lee in a position to invade the North, with the Gettysburg region as first target; it also shows Lincoln's incredulity when his commander refused to pursue Lee once he had been repelled. In between come the diarrhea, venereal infection, and hardtack of war; farm families in the thick of the bloodshed; and the blood itself, in a gory profusion surpassed only by the use of the expletive ""shit"" on all sides. The participants' comments otherwise are predominantly cynical or uncomprehending, and the Unionists are shown as largely anti-black. Persico's search for the ""GI"" of the Civil War has unearthed nothing new about the sentiments of the poor-white, non-slaveowning ""Reb,"" and he imposes a James Jones mindlessness on the bluecoats which is contradicted by, among other things, the copious letters in Voices of the Civil War (p. 457), compiled by Richard Wheeler. High color here, through a flawed prism.