I noticed this book in the "books others bought" list on the page with your review of that Hood book. The more historically-minded inhabitants of Chambersburg would be astonished to be so informed that the 1863 Gettysburg campaign was "the last invasion", presumably by a Confederate army of a northern state.I myself also notice on Amazon one reviewer complained that
(And now that I google a bit, I see I'm not the first one to make that joke... sigh.)
And it looks like Guelzo was fool enough to respond that the two Early incursions were exempt because they were "raids" and not an invasion. As if Lee's 1863 campaign was anything other than a raid of monumental proportions. I suppose it's more respectable to kidnap people and seize vast amounts of goods under color of foraging than to straight-up ransom towns against the threat of arson.
Allen C. Guelzo accepts the Sickles, Butterfield account as gospel. This book is an account of the Gettysburg Campaign that the anti-Meade faction would love. Every discredited story from Mine Run to the Staff Meeting is here. The idea that Meade was dragged kicking and screaming into battle is the heart of the book.Treating controversy as settled history is "fresh," "exciting," "new" (taken from Amazon quotes).
Harry Smeltzer recently interviewed Guelzo who appears to have taken a strong dislike to Meade based on the man's correspondence and politics. However, the intriguing part of the interview has Guelzo complementing himself for adding what could be an interesting twist:
I think Gettysburg (and the Civil War in general) could benefit hugely from being understood in a larger international context, especially when it comes to military thinking and tactical doctrine (which is, after all, a species of intellectual history). The Civil War did not occur in a vacuum; the experiences of the Crimean War (1854-56), the Sepoy Mutiny (1857-58), the North Italian War (1859) all offer important illumination for why Civil War generals thought as they did. That’s why Gettysburg: The Last Invasion is constantly invoking comparisons to the Alma, Solferino, and Koniggratz. In that sense, I’m trying to claw away from the blinkered view imposed on the Civil War by American exceptionalism.One of the charming stories about McClellan's railroad period is that he had maps of the Franco-Austrian Italian war spread out all over his office and well marked. His marks were based on the newspaper stories that may have been followed by any number of other officers and ex-officers. To make the connection between those newspaper stories and the military punditry flowing therefrom would make for ... uh... scholarship. But I see from a review of this book, that is not what is going on here. In John Derbyshire's book report, he notes, for instance, that Lee (according to Guelzo) had good reason for Pickett's charge:
The assault failed, as military actions often will, but Guelzo denies it was the egregious folly it has sometimes been portrayed. He raises encouraging precedents surely known to Lee: Lord Raglan’s successful assault on even more formidable Russian lines in the Crimea, for instance, during which:Wouldn't Lee's personal experiences outweigh the recollection of some distant newspaper reports? He wouldn't even have to go back to his Mexican War time for frontal assault memories. Anyway, wouldn't we want to see references to foreign triumphs in his correspondence if there's a connection? Isn't this attribution by implication an astonishingly fatuous and lazy use of contemporary history?
...the Russians were not only driven back, but driven away in “such a confusion as no person ever saw.” The same tactics had won the day for the French at Magenta and Solferino in 1859…. If Lee needed a rationale for the attack on July 3rd, he did not have far to look for it, [Confederate corps commander James] Longstreet’s objections notwithstanding.
Meanwhile, the many blurbs and reviews on Amazon fail to impress. I want to see the Gettysburg buffs weigh in. Guelzo has done very well to reap so many reviews in a downtrend for ACW reviews but look at the quality:
As for Gettysburg I have (sadly) only four books on my shelf, Stephen W. Sears excellent study and Harry W. Pfanz’s trilogy; and on top of that, I have never read any of the four from cover to cover. I skim and pick and choose based on my interest or research specific needs.Good grief. The wise author would ditch this audience.
So with this in mind I cracked open Guelzo’s book and prepared myself for a good hour or so of reading before I tossed it onto my stack of stuff and maybe got to a review a month or so from now… but then it happened! I encountered a master storyteller who captured my imagination.
This posting is not a review of the book but a reaction to its public effects. If I have to eat crow, let me know.