Gettysburg: The Last Invasion

  • by Allen C. Guelzo
  • Narrated by Robertson Dean
  • 22 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From the acclaimed Civil War historian, a brilliant new history–the most intimate and richly readable account we have had–of the climactic three-day battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863), which draws the reader into the heat, smoke, and grime of Gettysburg alongside the ordinary soldier, and depicts the combination of personalities and circumstances that produced the greatest battle of the Civil War, and one of the greatest in human history.
Of the half-dozen full-length histories of the battle of Gettysburg written over the last century, none dives down so closely to the experience of the individual soldier, or looks so closely at the sway of politics over military decisions, or places the battle so firmly in the context of nineteenth-century military practice. Allen C. Guelzo shows us the face, the sights, and the sounds of nineteenth-century combat: the lay of the land, the fences and the stone walls, the gunpowder clouds that hampered movement and vision; the armies that caroused, foraged, kidnapped, sang, and were so filthy they could be smelled before they could be seen; the head-swimming difficulties of marshaling massive numbers of poorly trained soldiers, plus thousands of animals and wagons, with no better means of communication than those of Caesar and Alexander.
What emerges is an untold story, from the trapped and terrified civilians in Gettysburg’s cellars to the insolent attitude of artillerymen, from the taste of gunpowder cartridges torn with the teeth to the sounds of marching columns, their tin cups clanking like an anvil chorus. Guelzo depicts the battle with unprecedented clarity, evoking a world where disoriented soldiers and officers wheel nearly blindly through woods and fields toward their clash, even as poetry and hymns spring to their minds with ease in the midst of carnage. Rebel soldiers look to march on Philadelphia and even New York, while the Union struggles to repel what will be the final invasion of the North. One hundred and fifty years later, the cornerstone battle of the Civil War comes vividly to life as a national epic, inspiring both horror and admiration.


What the Critics Say

“Stirring . . . robust, memorable reading that will appeal to Civil War buffs, professional historians and general readers alike.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
“Few battles provoke debate like Gettysburg, whose bibliography exceeds 6,000 items. One more won’t settle the what-ifs, but Guelzo’s entry identifies key controversies, trenchantly advocates its interpretations, and rests on a sensible foundation, the confusion of a Civil War battle . . . [Gettysburg: The Last Invasion] reads like the battle might have been experienced . . . Guelzo demonstrates versatile historical skill in this superior treatment of Gettysburg.” (Booklist, starred review)
“Despite all that has been written about the battle of Gettysburg, Allen Guelzo provides new information and insights in this stirring account. Unafraid to challenge conventional wisdom, he praises General O. O. Howard, maintains that General George Meade did indeed contemplate retreat on July 2 but was persuaded otherwise by subordinates, and criticizes Meade for missed opportunities in the pursuit after the battle. Readers will find much to think about in this book.” (James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A Fresh Look at a Famous Battle

This is a very good book that provides fresh information and insights on a subject that has been written about a great deal. The author brings a sense of immediacy and literary craftsmanship that provide the reader with an entertaining and informative experience. The narrator did a good job without trying to be the star of the show. The book ends with a short interview of the writer which added a nice personal touch.
The hallmark of the book is new information and a fresh outlook on all aspects of the most written about battle of the Civil War. The biographical information on the participants is a good example. I had never heard that the Union general Dan Sickles was one of the first persons to be acquitted of murder on a defense of temporary insanity. There is a lot of detail on the politics of both armies. Lee's army had a bias for Virginian officers and the split between the McClellan advocates and the Republican generals was still affecting promotions at this time. In his interview the author comments on Meade's bias in favor of McClellan's attitude against abolitionists.
The author points out that the legend of the 20th Maine was greatly aided by Joshua Chamberlain who lived until 1906 and wrote more than a few articles about the fight on Little Round Top. He neglected to mention the actions of the three other regiments that were there on the Union side.
I especially enjoyed the author's analysis of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. He uses comparisons with some of Lincoln's prior speeches and Lincoln's emphasis in all of his speeches on the principles of the Declaration of Independence.
This book has a unique combination of excellent scholarship and stellar writing. I heartily recommend it particularly for anyone interested in the Civil War.
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- W. F. Rucker "eclectic reader"

Good. Rather, pretty good.

I must've read 50 books on Gettysburg alone in the last 25 years. Well, maybe not that many but quite a few. The last book I read before this was by Earl J. Hess (Pickett's Charge - The last Attack at Gettysburg), and before that I read Noah Andre Trudeau's "Gettysburg - A Test of Courage. Both were really good though I would put Hess's book on top...And again when compared to this one.

Gettysburg: The Last Invasion does a really good job of not rehashing what we already know but also...rehashes what we already know. It was pleasant to read thru the summer of the 150th anniversary and I will probably listen to again though I might have to be coaxed by another hot summer July day to do so.

This is a decent choice if you need your Civil War fix, though I would still put Hess as the primer for the July 3rd tell-all.
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- Rick "Rick H."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-14-2013
  • Publisher: Random House Audio