Idly trawlling through the latest releases on Amazon's Civil War site, in an attempt to spend the residue gift certificates from my birthday I came upon this gem by Earl J Hess. To me, already owning Pfanz and Martin's books on first two days of Gettysburg, this seemed to complete the circle and so the deal was done. For me one of the crucial points of a good book is the style of writing. Earl J Hess is very easy on the eye to read and the text flows naturally from the authors pen. The content of the book is thoughtful and thought provoking, the material is well researched and detailed enough for any serious buff. Even if you are not a serious student, the book is a damn good read in itself. The text is well supported by maps and photographs of salient points, places and participants in the action. The author has brought some new insights into Pickets Charge, why it failed and how it was repulsed. And in the Epilogue Hess re-appraises and challenges some of the roles, reputations and myths stemming from the attack and its failure. Overall a welcome addition to the Gettysburg library and a recommended buy. I also see in the endpapers that Hess co wrote another of my favourite books "Pea Ridge:Civil War Campaign in the West" a 4 star book. I knew I liked that writing.
This book is about as well a researched work as I have seen in a while. That in itself is enough to gain high marks for Mr. Hess and his effort but there is more. The writing style is super. It is very hard for any writer to go into the details of a military action without the account becoming very dry. Mr. Hess does as good a job of this as I have ever seen. He does this be adding in personal stories from average soilders not just generals. At least that is how I think he does it but however he pulls it off this book is a great read. Sometimes one just can't put it down. I guess that being from Tennessee I was also happy to see that Mr. Hess gave due credit to the Tennessee and North Carolina troops involved in the attack. Hess points out that Lee simply used Pettigrew's division because it was handy even though it had been chewed up on July 1st. Still the division did well. Especially the the brigades from North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama. The only brigade to shame itself was indeed a Virginia brigade. Hess does a fine job of pointing out that almost every soilder involved on both sides answered the call of duty in fine fashion. The bravery of Union troops who could have broken and ran in the face of such an attack is often overlooked but not by Hess. Finally, Hess draws some conclusions at the end of the book with which the reader might not agree. Agree or not the book presents its case and allows the reader to decide for themselves after reading a clear argument for the conclusion. Any student of the Civil War or of Gettysburg needs this book. No matter how much a reader has learned about Gettysburg they will find new information here. Worth the price and more!