Rating: 3 Stars
I have been trying for some time to find an interest in the Civil War. It is easily one of the most important series of events in the history of the United States, yet it is something I have never really been interested in. I'm not sure why, because when I was younger I loved learning about the 1800s and I wanted to be a pioneer (I know right?!). But I definitely do not enjoy reading about military history, war, weapons, battle plans, etc. I am interested in the social and cultural aspects of the war, and was looking at this one to supplement that and start small, by looking at one battle. And naturally, I had to choose the most famous battle of them all.
Overall this was a decent introduction to a very dense and complex topic. I really enjoyed the fact that there were so many photographs included, especially of the many generals and other military men when they were discussed. I find this especially helpful in non-fiction texts, particularly when there are a lot of players involved and it is a new topic to me. There were also multiple instances of primary sources included, which I can always appreciate. The editors included many, many parts of whole letters from various generals to their wives, to fellow generals, or their superiors. It is always interesting to have insight into historical figures in this way, to get the words directly from their mouths or pens.
The book is, however, not without issues. These seem to be editing issues for the most part. Especially early on, I was finding whole paragraphs, or at least sections of paragraphs, repeated within pages of one another. This was incredibly distracting, especially on a Kindle. I would read a section and then suddenly be reading it a few paragraphs later, and I would think I had somehow gone backwards. This is something that must be taken care of in order for the book to be taken seriously, as it reflects poorly on the scholarship and the text itself.
I found this quote wryly amusing: "Perhaps none other than George Pickett himself put it best. When asked (certainly ad nauseam) why Pickett's charge had failed, Pickett is said to have tersely replied, "I've always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.""
I can recommend this with some hesitation due to the above-mentioned editing. Luckily the issues do not occur throughout the entire book, otherwise this would be one I would not have finished.