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ACW Book Review: Maps of Gettysburg

By George Skoch
6/5/2018 • America's Civil War Magazine

Maps of Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Gettysburg Campaign, June 3-July 13, 1863

by Bradley M. Gottfried, Savas Beatie, 2007, $39.95

It has been claimed that people generally remember about 10 percent of what they hear; about 20 percent of what they read, and about 30 percent of what they see. If these statistics are indeed correct, then the folks who take a good look at The Maps of Gettysburg are in for a memorable experience.

In this, his sixth book bearing upon the monumental three-day struggle over the rolling topography of south central Pennsylvania,Gettysburg author-historian Bradley M. Gottfried undertakes a task seemingly as monumental as the battle itself.Using 144 fullpage original maps, Gottfried sets out to depict the entire Gettysburg campaign,down to the regimental level in most cases. Divided into 31 “action-sections,”his maps illustrate the march to Gettysburg,the retreat and pursuit from Gettysburg, and “virtually every significant event in between.”

Gottfried provides a page of informed narrative adjacent to each map. His text is derived from a bibliography listing more than 300 sources composed of firsthand accounts,battle reports and quality secondary scholarship. Gottfried follows what he terms “a generally accepted interpretation” of the campaign and battle,in which he strives to balance Union and Confederate viewpoints.

While researching his earlier books about the battle of Gettysburg, Gottfried detected a lack “of easy-to-read complete maps on the campaign.” He found it was difficult to track the daily movements of the opposing armies and individual units. Gottfried acknowledges the importance of other map-oriented reference works, for example: John Bachelder’s History of the Battle of Gettysburg, John Imhof’s Gettysburg–Day Two:A Study in Maps, and Jefferey Hall’s The Stand of the U.S. Army at Gettysburg. But Gottfried recognized that each has its limitations.

The Maps of Gettysburg is Gottfried’s attempt to broaden this landscape and fill in the gaps. He provides what some readers may come to consider a one-stop resource for detailed maps to diagram one of the most pivotal campaigns of the war. On the other hand,Gottfried freely admits that his atlas “is not the last word or definitive treatment of the campaign, battle, or any part thereof— nor did I intend it to be.”

Besides writing the text,Gottfried shouldered the daunting task of creating all of the maps himself while he overcame the obstacle of being a fledgling in the world of computer graphics. What he called his “long hours after midnight with a drawing program”were well spent.Gottfried does acknowledge that mistakes will inevitably find their way into a book of this scope, but he freely accepts full responsibility for The Maps of Gettysburg.

Gottfried is very familiar with the Gettysburg battlefield, “having walked nearly every yard of it many times over the years.”He is also well aware that the topic of Gettysburg can stir heated debate and “spark rancorous discourse and a challenge to a duel with pistols at dawn.” In The Maps of Gettysburg Gottfried allows us to walk beside him. But watch your step…and keep that itchy trigger finger under control.

One hundred and twenty-three battle maps comprise the heart of Gottfried’s atlas.These diagrams cover the three days of action on various parts of the battlefield. Six maps, for example, trace “The Fight for McPherson Ridge”on July 1; 11 maps illustrate the July 2-3 combat on Culp’s Hill, and seven maps blanket “The Pickett-Pettigrew–Trimble Charge” on the final day of battle. Gottfried recognizes lesser-known actions as well, devoting three maps each to “The Brickyard Fight” and “South Cavalry Field,” among others.

 

Originally published in the March 2008 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here

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