Review: Gettysburg Battlewalks

22 04 2010

If you’re lucky enough to live in Pennsylvania (or otherwise receive PCN on your TV package), then you’re probably acquainted with the channel’s annual Gettysburg Battlewalks.  Every July 1, 2, & 3 since 1996 they have broadcast specialized tours conducted by NPS Rangers and Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides during the anniversary of the battle.  (Although for the last few years the PA legislature can’t seem to finalize the budget by the July 1 deadline, so we’ve been treated to endless hours of truly bizarre bickering which has pushed the air dates back a week or more.) These tours are very popular with the 37 million people who converge on Gettysburg the first three days of July, who are happy to wear shorts in 90 degree weather and hip high grass (check out the guides, folks: they NEVER, EVER wear shorts.  Guess why?).  The tours are pretty specific, focusing on the actions of individual corps, divisions, brigades, even regiments.  PCN trails along and films each tour, panning over the crowd and the terrain but devoting most of the face time to the guides.  Then in the evening three or four of the tours are broadcast.  The rest of the day, tours from previous years are shown.  I have dozens and dozens of these tours on VHS and DVD.  They’re awesome time suckers.

The good folks at PCN sent me a copy of one of the Battlewalk DVD’s for review.  This particular tour is Ranger Troy Harman’s Longstreet’s Flank Attack:

General Longstreet authorized an after-dark scouting party to search for ways “by which we might strike the enemy’s left.”  He began to implement a tactical turning maneuver early on the last day of the battle, before General Lee cancelled it.  National Park Service Ranger Troy Harman poses the question – what if Lee had followed through with Longstreet’s plan?

Go here to order this or one of the many other Battlewalks that PCN has made available on DVD for $25.25 plus shipping and applicable sales tax.  Run times vary – Longstreet’s Flank Attack is 1 hour and 20 minutes.

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Gettysburg Books

7 07 2009

I echo Drew’s thanks to Brett Schulte for co-ordinating the multi-blog project on top-ten Gettysburg books.  It will be interesting to see all the selections laid out – something I believe Brett is working on (UPDATE: here’s Brett’s list).  It looks like four of my selections (Busey & Martin, Reardon, Imhof and Coco) made at least one of the other lists, which I admit is two more books than I expected.  The remaining six found no love from the others.  Happily (or disturbingly), with the exception of four I own all the titles mentioned.

I noticed that most of my fellows seemed to put more weight on the importance of the books in gaining an understanding of the battle – kind of a suggested reading list approach – than perhaps did I.  I recognize that Coddington wrote the Gettysburg bible, and was one third of the holy trinity of Bachelder/Coddington/Pfanz.  But I surely didn’t enjoy reading his book and doubt I will ever put myself through that again – especially all that flipping to his vitally important notes.  My list put more emphasis on favorite than on best.  Maybe that was the coward’s way out, but I can live with it.

Ten Favorite Gettysburg Books

2 07 2009


As described here, I’m participating in a multi-blog project, coordinated by Brett Schulte of TOCWOC, identifying our ten favorite books on The Gettysburg Campaign.  A master page has been set up here.  As other bloggers post their lists, I’ll put up links at the bottom of this one.

Thankfully Brett left the parameters broad and the definition vague, so I don’t have to justify why these are my favorites.  I list them below in no particular order:

John Busey and David Martin, Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg

  • Numbers numbers numbers!  A joy to have on hand when reading accounts of fields littered with dead cavalrymen (yeah, like two!)

Bill Hyde (ed), The Union Generals Speak: The Meade Hearings on the Battle of Gettysburg

  • Butt covering and kissing, posturings, rationalizations, explanations, accusations.  Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War testimony.

Richard Sauers (ed), “Fighting Them Over”: How the Veterans Remembered Gettysburg in the Pages of the National Tribune

  • Kind of like the JCCW testimony, only this time with vets of all stripes.

Michael Dreese, “Like Ripe Apples in a Storm”: The 151st Pennsylvania Volunteers at Gettysburg

  • Fine regimental history.

John Imhof, Gettysburg Day Two: A Study in Maps

  • Groundbreaking map micro-study, but very tough to find.

Gregory Coco, “A Strange and Blighted Land” Gettysburg: The Aftermath of Battle

  • Heartbreaking account of the battle’s wake.

Roland Maust, “Grappling with Death”: The Union Second Corps Hospital at Gettysburg

  • Similar to the above, but more narrowly focused and detailed.

Carol Reardon, Pickett’s Charge in History & Memory

  • Influential memory study.

Richard Sauers, Gettysburg: The Meade-Sickles Controversy

  • Great evaluation, analysis, and reconcilliation of accounts.

Oliver Wilcox Norton, The Attack and Defense of Little Round Top, Gettysburg, July 2, 1863

  • Early sleuthing of accounts by a vet.

Here are links to the lists on other blogs:


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