Sunday, September 9, 2012

Library Corner: The Complete Gettysburg Guide

The Complete Gettysburg Guide
By J. David Petruzzi
Maps and Photography by Steven Stanley
Published in  2009
Savas Beatie

I am a huge fan of battlefield resources. Those brave and willing souls whom I have convinced to visit Gettysburg with me know this by now. I don't hit the battlefield without a backpack that contains my own battlefield binder filled with maps and first-person accounts. That backpack also generally contains several guide books of particular locations: Little Round Top, Devils Den, the Wheatfield, Culps Hill, East Cemetery Hill. It's also got general resources like Imhof's Day Two map study and books by Frassanito.

Recently I picked up J. David Petruzzi's The Complete Gettysburg Guide. I haven't yet had a chance to actually use it on the field, but I look forward to doing so when I next have the opportunity. This is truly a unique book. While many detailed guidebooks exist for various areas of the battlefield, I've found no other source that helps visitors explore the battlefield in such comprehensive detail.

The book divides into several separate walking and driving tours, complete with directions and GPS coordinates. One tour allows visitors to explore the first day's battlefield, and another combines the second and third day. The rest of the tours help visitors explore many seldom visited sites, and provide a tremendous amount of detail. The sites included in these tours include the National and Evergreen cemeteries, hospitals, rock carvings, several lesser known battles and skirmishes such as the East Cavalry Field, the Battles of Hunterstown and Fairfield, and the fight on Brinkerhoff's Ridge. Petruzzi does a great job explaining the ins and outs of the battle, making this book a great resource for a beginner. But the level of detail, particularly in the more obscure tours, will please even the most knowledgeable battlefield tourist. The tremendous maps and photographs by Steven Stanley only serve to enhance the book.

Petruzzi is of course most well known for his cavalry expertise. If I had one complaint I would say that the book definitely spends a great deal of time on cavalry operations. At the same time, those same cavalry operations are generally the most ignored and overlooked part of the battle, as well as the most obscure and off the beaten path locations. So, I guess I would classify my complaint as more of a nit-pick. I found the more specific tours of obscure sites more valuable than the general overview tours of the three days of the battle, but new visitors to the battle will find them absolutely necessary.

To sum things up, I think this book will find its way into my backpack as a tremendous battlefield resource, and I look forward to using it on the field someday soon.

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