This first volume of three discusses the tactical decisions made on day one and the ensuing combat, while also including a brief summary of the grand strategy in the Eastern Theater of the war, the conduct of the Pennsylvania Campaign from June 6 to 30, 1863, and the plight of civilians caught up in the conflict.
The Battle of Gettysburg, which took place July 1–3, 1863 in and around the town of Gettysburg, PA resulted in the largest number of casualties of the entire American Civil War and is seen as the key turning point in the conflict. On its first day, Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia sought to destroy the Union army, forcing its men to retreat through the streets of the town to the hills just to the south. The opening clash involved four divisions of Confederate infantry and their accompanying artillery battalions, about 27,000 officers and men. They assaulted two corps of Union infantry and an accompanying division of cavalry, about 22,000 aggregate. Much of the narrative describes the tactical play-by-play, the customary 'who did what' of the battle, but it also gives special emphasis to identifying the critical decisions of July 1 and explains why the commanders committed to them.
This volume, the first of three to cover the battle in depth, also emphasizes the experience of combat as witnessed by the rank and file-the 'face of battle'-to borrow John Keegan's expression. Primary accounts from common soldiers remind readers that Gettysburg was-first and foremost-a soldier's battle, full of raw emotion. This superbly detailed study explores the battle chronologically; but in cases where several actions occurred simultaneously, the chapters are partitioned according to key terrain features. Among the action covered is the morning cavalry skirmish, the morning clash at the Herbst's wood lot and at the railroad cut, the afternoon clash at Oak Ridge, the afternoon fight at the Edward McPherson farm, the afternoon rout of the 11th Corps, the last stand of the 1st Corps at Seminary Ridge, the Union retreat through town, and the positions of the armies at nightfall.
Timothy Orr is associate professor of military history at Old Dominion University. He earned his PhD at the Richards Civil War Era Center at Pennsylvania State University. He is author/editor of Last to Leave the Field (2011) and co-author
of Never Call Me a Hero (2017), as well as several essays about the Army of the Potomac. He is the book review editor for the Gettysburg Magazine and author of the blog: Tales From the Army of the Potomac. For eight years, he worked as a seasonal ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park.