Gettysburg - Where has this been all my life?

Gettysburg Part One and Two Unabridged - Stephen Sears

After the issues with the Barksdale book (how I've been referring to it...when saying nicer things about it), I decided that I could not leave my reading on the subject there. I am planning to read/listen to McPherson's one volume study of the war, but wanted to fit in a more focused book on Gettysburg since last year was a big anniversary. The Barksdale book was suppose to be that, but yeah. So I went looking for another book on the famous battle, one that was highly regarded and found this which I fortunately could check out from my library's OneClickDigital site. An added bonus, as I could try out that service and listen to a book I've wanted to for some time.


The Gush


Stephen Sears is a fantastic writer who sets up the battle of Gettysburg as well as shows its immediate impacts on both sides. So not only are the events detailed but we can understand how and why it happened and what, good and bad, came out of it. Though I've read books, took classes, and watched Ken Burns' documentary as well as others, I learned a great deal from this book. Everything from how Lee considered Vicksburg a sustainable loss over a successful Northern invasion (something I think was extremely short sighted) to just how well Meade - there are no other words for it - out-generaled Lee on the battlefield. I did not realized that on the night before PIckett's charge, he had told the commander over that section of the battlefield that Lee would attack there on the morrow. He actually knew what Lee was going to do, what he was thinking; this was something Lee had used to his advantage for well over two years now. Sears further gave good evidence to clear Meade of the stigma of letting the Lee go after the battle; indeed, the facts he gave make a strong case that attacking the breastworks the Confederates built to protect them as they crossed back over the Potomac would have been a slaughter and more then likely unhelpful.


Not only was the writing informative but accessible, but the narrator for the audiobook was a perfect choice for the book. Ed Sala has a slightly older tone, distinctive but not boring or monotone that worked perfectly with the writing style as well as the time period of the historical event. I rather felt as if I were listening to a history lecture...or even that one of the generals was narrating the battle to me at times. He was easy to listen to but compelling; I literally listened to him for hours.


To sum up how much I loved this book, it went on my wishlist on Audible before I was half way through. I plan on getting a copy of this very soon.


The Rant

Very little here. The writing was solid; I plan to read more by the author. The narrator was solid; I literally couldn't stop listening at times. The only major problem might be the length, 23+ hours but when you consider that covers not only the three days of fighting in as much detail as a full account can but also before and after connection, that really isn't all that long.



If you are looking for a good non-fiction account of the three days of Gettysburg, look no further then this book. Sears does an amazing job of distilling so many divergent accounts into an understandable and compelling narrative. Further if, like me, you occasionally have trouble reading non-fiction, this is an excellent choice to try on audiobook. I learned so much; I can't wait to listen to it again as I expect I'll get still more out of it.


 One of my personal heroes, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of the 20th Maine.