by John Michael Priest
El Dorado Hills, Ca.: Savas Beatie, 2016. Pp. x, 516.
Illus., maps, appends, notes, biblio., index. $22.95 paper. ISBN: 161121324X
Witnesses to the Second Day at Gettysburg
Veteran Civil War historian Priest (Into the Fight, etc.) gives us a very detailed account of the decisive day at Gettysburg. Relying heavily on the diaries, after action reports, orders, letters, memoirs and more of the men who fought it, Priest supplements these with an understanding of the tactical regulations being used and a careful terrain analysis.
After opening with a chapter setting the stage for the critical second day, Priest covers the events of July 2nd in 15 chapters, supplemented by nearly 60 clearly detailed maps. As the events unfold, Priest’s chapters cover smaller and smaller segments of time, starting at several hours, but going down to 30 minutes for some of the more critical events.
Priest weaves together literally hundreds of accounts by men from both sides, cutting back and forth across the field, and at times covers events in minute-by-minute slices, back and forth between the armies. This is very well done, providing an often vivid account of the action.
Priest’s appendix gives us a detailed order of battle for the events of the second day. His footnotes are worth reading, as they often include critical commentary on his sources and the reasoning behind his interpretation of events.
Although not suited for the relative novice student of the Civil War, this is an excellent work, providing insights into the actions of individual officers and men trying to cope with the fog of war.
Note: “Stand to It and Give Them Hell” is also available in hardcover, $32.95, ISBN 978-1-61121-176-4, and e-editions are available.