Tuesday, January 06, 2009

CWL---Pettigrew and His Men At Gettysburg

James Johnston Pettigrew and His Men at Gettysburg: The Most Promising Young Man of the South, Clyde N. Wilson, McWhiney Publications, 96pp, maps, photographs, 1998, index, selected bibliography,appendix, $12.95.

"How I got the nerve to write about Gettysburg . . . I don't know except that my good friend . . . made me do it," the author states in a note at the end of the book. CWL read the note before starting the book and though 'woops, oh no'. Though quickly gleaning the pre-war career of Pettigrew from the book, CWL found that the first 40 pages had been read and there were only 36 more pages to go. Possibly the publisher should have dropped the words 'at Gettysburg' from the title.

Wilson, author of Carolina Cavalier: The Life and Mind of James Johnston Pettigrew, adequate condenses Pettigrew's ante-bellum career and supports the reference in the book's title to Pettigrew being among the South's best and brightest young generals. Would that Wilson would have devoted at least another 50 pages to his brigade and his division at Gettysburg. Instead, the book uses 12 pages to cover 1861 to June 29, 1863 and 25 pages from June 30 to July 17. With wide margins, chapters' first paragraphs starting in the middle of the page, and some final pages in chapters having only three lines of text on them, the book has as many as 8 blanks pages which is 10% of the pages in the text portion of the book. The introduction starts on page 13!

The text has no notes so readers can only guess where professor Wilson found his information. With the amount of scholarship, even previous to 1998 when the book was published, available on first and third days of the Battle of Gettysburg, CWL wonders why some of the white space in the book was not devoted to text. This reader came away with information and insight on Pettigrew from the book but became disenchanted with it due to the meager information on Pettigrew and his men at Gettysburg. CWL would recommend this book as background reading for high school Advanced Placement U.S. History students but buffs and LBG exam students should invest the two hours it takes to read this book by reading portions of Larry Tagg's Generals of Gettysburg and Bradley Gottfried's Brigades of Gettysburg.

Image Source: McWhiney Publications

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