The former Speaker of the House and a military historian take a what-if look at the historic battle.
July 1, 1863: the end of a long day of mutual slaughter. Cemetery Hill and Cemetery Ridge have happened bloodily, the death toll in the thousands. Emotionally as well as physically drained, the legendary Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, sits in his tent missing the late great Stonewall Jackson, as well as cavalry General Jeb Stuart, off somewhere raiding, apparently having forgotten that he's supposed to be Lee's “eyes.” Though only recently appointed to command, the far from legendary George E. Meade, Lee's opposite number, is at the moment feeling pretty good about himself and the way day one has gone. He's fought the vaunted Lee to a standstill, and is now advantageously positioned along Cemetery Ridge, looking down at Lee's forces with reason to contemplate day two optimistically. All this history tells us. Ah, but what if while Lee contemplates day two, he has a radical (uncharacteristic) change of heart? What if he listens to the counsel of his play-it-safe general Pete Longstreet and decides not to throw 15,000 men into an ill-fated attack? Then, Gingrich and Forstchen tell us, he might have swung south in the kind of flanking maneuver that worked so well for him at Second Manassas. No more the doomed, disastrous Pickett's Charge. And, in fact, no more Army of the Potomac. A smashing victory for Lee. Ultimately decisive? About that, Gingrich and Forstchen remain positively cryptic.
Authoritative military history, well-rendered battle scenes. Inevitably, though, it suffers by comparison to Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels. Shaara breathed life into that iconic Gettysburg cast; Gingrich-Forstchen can't quite manage it.