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Alternate Gettysburg Mass Market Paperback – 5 Feb 2002

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Books; First THUS edition (5 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425183777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425183779
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 2.4 x 17.2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,709,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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For nearly an hour and a half Southern gunners flailed away at the Union line across from them with shot and shell. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Interesting collection of short stories 23 Feb. 2002
By David E. Levine - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book of short stories explores Gettysburg from a fictional standpoint. For example, one story asks "what would have happened if Longstreet called off Picket's charge and then, sensing an opportunity, Union General Sedgewick mounted an attack?" The stories range from total flights of fancy to more subtle alternate outcomes. Interestingly, not all altenative outcomes are of a Confederate victory. There are some stories that examine what would have happened if the Union victory had been more decisive, i.e., if Meade had pursued the retreating Lee and destroyed Lee's army.
Two stories look at Lincoln's Gettysburg address. One of the stories looks at what would have been the implications if Lincoln had given a very different speech than the one he actually delivered and the other looks at the speech from the perspective of a Union victory so decisive that the war was virtualy ended.
There are a couple of futuristic stories. One takes place in the future in a South that is separate from the United States and has draconian racial codes. In this story a boxing bout takes place between a black fighter and a white one. The other futuristic story is about battle simulators, who, through incredibly realistic technology, do virtual recreations. The book concludes with an appendix of several essays. All in all, though somewaht uneven, this is an interesting book for Civil War enthusiasts
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
What if the Confederates won the Battle of Gettysburg? 7 July 2002
By Lawrance Bernabo - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It is not surprising that alternative history stories about the United States are intrigued by the possibilities offered by the Civil War, or that the Battle of Gettysburg is the focal point of such speculations, or that Pickett's charge is most often considered as the pivotal moment. I remember watching war gamers playing out the Battle of Gettysburg on an immense map, and, of course, those playing the Confederates immediately took the high group on Culps Hill, Cemetery Ridge, and the Round Tops and tried to slaughter the Army of the Potomac as it arrived upon the scene. "Alternate: Gettysburgs" is an uneven collection of short stories and essays focusing on various visions of what might have been with a key change here or there.
Actually, few of the stories deal with Pickett's charge, but it is clearly the pivotal event of the battle. Harold Coyle does a reversal by having the charge abandoned and having the Federals try "Sedgwick's Charge" instead. Doug Allyn's "Custer's First Stand" has the flamboyant cavalry officer making a foolish mistake in trying to stop Jeb Stuart from attacking the Union rear during the charge. Probably the oddest story in the collection, with its combination of history and science fiction, William H. Keith, Jr.'s "In the Bubble" takes wargaming to its ultimate level. "The High-Water Mark" by Brendan DuBois tweaks history a bit to turn the Civil War into a World War. Most of the stories include afterwords from the authors explaining their points of departure from history.
Two of the stories deal with the Gettysburg Address. "The Blood of the Fallen" by James M. Reasoner has Lincoln giving a different speech at the dedication of the National Cemetery because in this alternative world his son Tad dies from his fever. I especially liked Kristine Kathryn Rusch's "Well-Chosen Words," because as a rhetorician I appreciate her point that the Gettyburg Address might be Lincoln's most famous speech but he gave another one of equal importance (both of which, I should note, are etched in marble on opposite ends of the Lincoln Memorial).
Other stories are set in the alternative future of a world in which the Confederacy won the Civil War. Simon Hawke's "A Gun for Johnny Reb," is one of the few to try and ground the alterations in something beyond wishful hoping, offering a more realistic version of Turtledove's novel "The Guns of the South." Certainly there are hits and misses throughout the book, but surely there are enough intriguing tales to make reading this book worthwhile for Civil War buffs.
Ironically, the best part of the book for me was the closing essay by William R. Fortschen, "Lee's Victory at Gettysburg...And Then What?" which throws cold water on the idea that a Confederate victory then and there would have changed the outcome of the war. Fortschen argues that a Confederate victory on the second day would have been more probable (suggesting that a 15 minute break to fill empty canteens with water would have given the Rebels enough strength to take Little Round Top and turn the Union left), but then makes a totally convincing case that the Army of Northern Virginia would never have been able to take Washington, D.C. I must admit this appeals to me because I wrote a short story once about a white supremacist who had a time machine built and was going to go back and change things so the Confederacy won the Civil War. He could only take one trip and as he sits in the time machine ready to go he has to pick the moment, but nothing he can come up with would guarantee success and so he just sits there. So, yes, I am in total agreement with Fortschen's argument. Other essays in the appendix section of "Alternate Gettysburgs" provide an overview of the battle, a look at the politics of war, and the social convictions of both sides surrounding the battle.
Alternative histories, as a general rule, seem to suffer from what I want to call historical echoes. I mean this to signify that even as an author goes off in a decidedly different direction, "real" events manage to make their way back into the tales. Thus, for example, a general will die at Gettysburg the same way he did a year later, or a fictional presidential assassination will be eerily similar to a historical one. Ironically, then, the best alternative histories are those that are able to truly break free of what really happened and indulge themselves in fanciful flights of "what if."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
It's a collection and like all collections... 19 Sept. 2005
By DWD's Reviews - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback suffers from the fact that it was written by a dozen different authors. Some are very good, most are decent. Two are awful.

The gimmick in this alternative history is, of course, 'What if the Battle of Gettysburg had turned out differently?' It is inspired by this Faulkner quote:

'For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two oclock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it's all in the balance, it hasn't happened yet, it hasn't even begun yet, it not only hasn't begun yet but there is stll time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armstead and Wilcox look grave yet it's going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn't need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble...'

Is it worth reading? If you're a Civil War buff and don't mind 'slumming' by reading an alternative history rather than a normal history book - yes it is worth your time. Personally, I don't think of it is as slumming - I think of it as nice little foray into what-may-have-been. However, alternative histories are often looked down on by more than a few serious readers of history.

I would recommend if you are not very familiar with the facts of the Civil War and general and the Battle of Gettysburg in particular that you read the Appendix (the last section) first - included are the 'Gettysburg Address', three good short histories of the war and the battle and one interesting essay(controversial, but also my favortite) that tells you why the Confederacy never could have won anyway, no matter the outcome of the battle.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Bloody Grounds 24 Aug. 2009
By Robert Mosher - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Alternate Gettysburgs" occupies dangerous and even crowded ground as we have seen a proliferation in recent years of "Alternate" history collections on a range of historical events and historical figures. The quality of these collections varies rather widely and I suspect that I'm seeing a pattern as well in that each of these volumes leads off with its best offerings and then the reader either slowly or quickly descends. How far that descent takes one is the measure of how good or bad that particular collection is.

I would rate "Alternate Gettysburgs" as clearly above average and among the better of these collections. The allegedly descending quality of its presented essays or stories is not precipitous and even includes one presentation by Simon Hawke that offers a good refutation of what I consider to be one of the worst examples of alternate history. Gettysburg holds an amazing grip on the American psyche, especially in the South, but also in the north though memories of that conflict come and go. While it may be true that for every southern boy it is the afternoon of the third day at Gettysburg and he stands in the ranks behind General Pickett prepared to cast his all into the fray and win final victory for the Southern Confederacy - I would hold that there are also those for whom it is the second day and they are standing on a wooded hillside with almost no ammuntion left and waiting for the Rebs to make yet one more desperate charge and wondering what the former professor of rhetoric who is now their Colonel will do to get the 20th Maine out of its predicament. The contributing authors of this collection have presented an interesting range of possible outcomes and told these new stories of an old war in interesting ways. If you are interested in the Battle of Gettysburg and especially its "what-ifs" or in the possible different outcomes of the war itself, I can recommend this collection.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
What might have happened on Cemetery Hill ? 17 Feb. 2003
By Dr Thomas Scheben - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Counterfactual history, often poohed by academicians, is a popular topic for story - tellers, and the American Civil War one of the popular historic topics for writers of all specializations. And what is more popular then speculating, what might have happened, if alternate decisions during Gettysburg Campaign had produced a different outcome ? How might a different the outcome have affected American history, or even the fate of the world, if the South had been victorious in these crucial three days in summer 1863 ? Or what else could have happened in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania ?
The editors have charged a dozen-odd writers of different background to think and write with these questions in mind. Some of the stories stay in the realm of counterfactual history and point to the fact, that only a few different decisions or developments may well have altered the whole course of events. For anybody interested in military history, these chapters - like well known military writer Harold Coyle's "Sedwick's Charge" or Doug Allyn's Custer's First Stand - will attract attention, as well as the concluding essays, which investigate the potential for alternate developments during the Gettysburg Campaign and beyond this narrow window over the whole war.
Of the more fictional and literary stories, one explores the impact of a completely different Gettysburg Address, another one muses about the murder of Abraham Lincoln and even touch the realm of science fiction in a piece about how powerful contemporary events may interact and even change century old historic facts. This one certainly one of the best pieces of the volume, the overall quality is varying strongly from excellent reading stuff over intriguing essays on alternate history to some outright dull and uninspired texts.
All together, "Alternate Gettysburgs" is a recommendable addition to any wargamer's or civil war buff's library, a good companion for week-end trip to the Battlefield Park or just an occasional dip into what is the arguably most covered and researched conflict in human history.
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