Tuesday, December 02, 2008

CWL---Among The Top Ten of 2008: Learning the Battle of Gettysburg.

Learning the Battle of Gettysburg: A Guide to the Official Records, Benjamin Y. Dixon, Ph.D.,144 pp., 11 Illus., Thomas Publications, 2008. $9.95.

This book is the most complete and annotated guide to the official battle reports submitted by officers from both armies at Gettysburg. Readers will learn which Gettysburg reports and parts of reports pertain to nearly every significant battle event from the opening of the fight to its aftermath. Annotations are included to highlight important facts, explanations, and fascinating battle descriptions and stories as reported by Gettysburg officers.

This book's focus is a detailed, concise history of the battle featuring the best quotes from the more than 500 Gettysburg officer reports. Important heroes, units, plans, and maneuvers are presented to explain the fighting in efficient detail at such places as Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, the Wheatfield, and 25 other key locations. For each of these battle sites, readers learn precisely what units reported action, where to find those reports, and the quality of those reports. Best of all, this guide is organized geographically and chronologically for easy use in the field as well as at home or in the library.

In addition, separate chapters are devoted to the aftermath of the battle, interesting quotes from the soldiers, and miscellaneous incidents and events. CWL thoroughly enjoyed the officer reports that discussed incidents of cowardice, death by friendly fire, the dangers of retrieving the wounded, disputes between officers and units, and much, much more. An “Order of Battle” is appended showing which units at Gettysburg submitted reports for the Official Records, and which did not.

Ben Dixon has cross-referenced the Official Records so thoroughly that he has made it an easy task for readers and researchers to find what they need in the nearly 2100pages of battle reports relating to the Battle of Gettysburg. This book is an excellent training and reference manual about the Battle of Gettysburg for any guide, buff, or even casual learner.

As a Gettysburg native and as a academic with a Ph.D in geography, Ben Dixon brings a unique perspective to Gettysburg studies. His all day seminar and tour of Gettysburg, sponsored by the Gettysburg Foundation and Friends in July, was a remarkable presentation of preservation efforts and the varieties of interpretations of the battlefield. With inexhaustable enthusiasm, Dixon combined an overview of these trends with a remarkable collection of signicant details and anecdotes. This time next year, CWL will be compiling the best of 2009 and Dixon's history of the park, to be released late in 2009 by Johns Hopkins University Press, is most likely to be on the list.

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