It’s no secret that I’ve long been fascinated by the Gettysburg Campaign. It’s my first love in the Civil War, but I have a love/hate relationship with it. Sometimes, I grow frustrated with the fixation on it, including my own, and sometimes, I just can’t get enough. It’s like any relationship, I suppose.
A subset of that first love has always been a love of the more obscure aspects of the campaign. I’ve always been absolutely fascinated by the most obscure events of the campaign, and I tend to gravitate toward them and away from things grand events like Pickett’s Charge. From my perspective, often times, the more obscure the event, the better.
Until Kent Brown’s excellent Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign was published in 2005, the retreat had long received short shrift. Naturally, my interests gravitated toward that subject. My old friend Ted Alexander, who grew up on the Confederate retreat route in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, has long been the guru of what he refers to as the “retreatistas”, and I enthusiastically joined that esteemed band years ago. Consequently, I spent years studying the retreat, learning the battlefields associated with the retreat, and in examining the decision-making on the Union side.
Several years ago, my friends J.D. Petruzzi and Mike Nugent and I decided to tackle the retreat. The book was originally intended to be part of Ironclad Publishing’s Discovering Civil War America Series. It has a very detailed tactical treatment of the many engagements that occurred during the retreat, and it also includes two different detailed driving tours. One traces the route of the Confederate Wagon Train of Wounded, and the other follows the fighting that took place during the retreat.
We got to thinking about things and decided that the volume is better suited as a companion volume to Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg. If it can be suggested that Stuart somehow failed Robert E. Lee on the way to Gettysburg, it can also be stated plainly that Stuart more than redeemed himself during the retreat, when his performance was nothing short of magnificent. The two books are really almost bookends, and they should go together. Consequently, we have made a deal with Ted Savas for Savas-Beatie, LLC to publish this book as well. We’re confident that it will have the same high quality production values as the Stuart’s Ride book and that it will make the sort of companion volume we anticipate.
Why another book on the retreat from Gettysburg, you ask? It’s a valid question.
Kent Brown’s book is a tour-de-force. Of that, there can be no doubt. However, Kent’s book has a definite focus, which is on the logistical side of the retreat. His primary focus is the logistics of Lee’s retreat, and there is little focus on the Union side. Likewise, the combat that occurred along the way is not given a detailed tactical focus. Finally, the book does not focus on the decision-making process that plagued George Meade’s attempts to bring Robert E. Lee’s army to bay.
Our work is actually intended to complement Kent’s book, and I hope that it does so. We focus mainly on the tactics and leave the vast majority of the logistics to Kent’s masterful study, with the notable exception of our treatment of the Wagon Train of Wounded. Also, since Kent’s book has such a strong Southern focus and emphasis, we intentionally took a more Union approach so as to balance the presentation. Like the conclusion to the Stuart’s Ride book, we have an extended conclusion chapter that focuses on the decision-making processes and also focuses on some of the controversy that sprung up in the wake of Lee’s escape across the Potomac River at Williamsport and Falling Waters. We also have the two detailed driving tours (those who have read Plenty of Blame will find these quite familiar in format and presentation) that include GPS coordinates and lots of modern-day photographs of the sites.
We believe that if our work is combined with Kent’s book, the reader will truly have the complete picture of the retreat from Gettysburg. Thus, we believe that there is a place for our study, and that it will be favorably compared to Kent’s as a companion volume to it.
If all goes according to plan, the book will be released by the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg next year. We have some new material that has surfaced since we originally wrote the thing to add to the narrative, and I intend to start doing that this evening. Stay tuned. Details will follow as they become available.Scridb filter