on 7 April 1999
The author demonstrates an excellent understanding of today's "conventional wisdom" as it pertains to the military decision making at Gettysburg. In specific, a more orderly Union command structure prevailed over that of their dis-jointed Confederate counterparts. Moreover, the author grasps what scholars have suggested in many recent thesis. The loss of Stonewall Jackson, and subsequent re-structuring of his command under inferior leadership, was the key reason victory elluded the south on day one and two of the campaign.
The alternative scenarios presented in this work are based on this understanding. To the reader this is critical, as the incompetence of General Ewell and General Early makes almost everything else presented in the work as possible. Their failures to seize the high ground at the outset and/or adequately support the Confederate assaults on day two work true to form in both the real, and alternate, worlds. Simply put, the outcome of the battle is the same. In the alternate history the reader will find the result more decisive though. I must also commend the author's understanding of the order of battle. There is little misrepresentation of troop placement or strength. The one exception being that of each side's calvary forces. In fact, this is the one aspect of the work a "purist" will find to be problematic. There were all too few great calvary-against-calvary conflicts in the American Civil War. Many battlefields, such as Antietam and the Wilderness, did not lend themselves to it. The field at Gettysburg is also hard to imagine as being the site of a monumental clash of men and horses. A step too far in my opinion.
I do recommend this book to any student of the battle of Gettysburg. It is entertaining, well written and, overall, realistic.
on 15 July 1997
"Gettysburg: An Alternative History" is a fascinating look at many of the major "what if's" of the Battle of Gettysburg. What if Ewell had pushed his attack on the first night of the battle? What if Longstreet had swung farther to the right before launching his assault on the second day? What if the grand Confederate attack on Cemetery Ridge on the third day had been better supported? These and other might have been's are addressed. The book is written in the form of a history of the battle as if it had been fought with these "what if's" actually taking place. And it is well illustrated with photographs, maps, and even paintings and engravings of these events-that-never-were. Tsouras, a professional military intelligence analyst, writes in a lucid, exciting style, filling his narrative with eyewitness accounts from the men who did the fighting. Anyone strongly interested in the key battle should enjoy and learn from this book. By asking (and answering) these "what if" questions, Mr. Tsouras prompts us all to think about the how's and why's of the actual battle.
on 17 February 1998
Tsouras does a very thorough job of writing an account of how the battle of Gettysburg could have gone. This is both his greatest asset and his greatest debit. True Civil War buffs (the kind that visit battlefield sites for their vacations, and model them to scale in their basements)will absolutely love all the incredible detail Tsouras packs into this novel (for THEM the book gets a resounding 10, the 3 is for the rest of us). They will lick their lips in anticipation as they recognize a deviation from the "real" history and anticipate where it may lead. Everyone else will hate it because you will be completely lost within 10 pages unless you happen to be remember every last regimental and brigade commander involved in the battle. Top it off with Tsouras' writing in the format of a college history text, and you'll soon be bored enough to OFFER to apply the fungus cream to your mother in-law's toenails - just for the excitement.
on 19 October 1999
Of all the possible "re-runs" of Gettysburg, it is hard to fathom how one could be less interesting than "the Union win even bigger than in the real thing". The description of regiments, positions and "internal thought processes" is every bit as detailed as a Harry Pfanz (make of that what you will), so it doesn't exactly zip along like a Stephen King and when it starts veering away from fact, it sometimes takes non-obsessives a few paragraphs to work it out. (And I'd actually classify myself as an obsessive.)
The big question with this book is why? Why write it and, more importantly, why shell out cash buying it? If you want to discuss the "what if's" of Gettysburg, then find a friend, a pint of beer and a couple of hours. If you want to learn more about the battle, don't tell me you've got every book that's ever been written on the subject. And if you have, there's always Antietam, Chancellorsville, Franklin, Stones River....
If you really, really, really know the battle and want to see if his ideas match your ideas as to how it might have gone, then fine. If you don't really, really, really know it, then leave well alone; it's only confusing.