Gettysburg at 150

June 3rd, 2013

With the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg approaching, defense scholar Tom Donnelly reviews a new book by noted Lincoln historian Allen Guelzo. Donnelly writes:

Gettysburg. The word is a looking glass for America, both as a blood-and-soil union and an ideal of liberty but also as an eternal striving to make the one realize the other. Gettysburg, like America, “contains multitudes.”

The battle has likewise produced multitudes—multitudes of books that seek to wrestle with the chaotic enormity of the events of July 1-3, 1863. Not even Abraham Lincoln could fix Gettysburg for all time. The 150th anniversary of the battle this summer drives us again to peer into the glass, to reflect anew upon a moment when the American future hung uncertainly in the humid Pennsylvania air, when yet another Confederate victory, especially one on Union soil, might have broken the Lincoln administration’s grip on power. And as Allen Guelzo’s wonderful “Gettysburg: The Last Invasion” reminds us, the battle very easily might have gone another way.

Donnelly goes on to explore the many variables—terrain, politics, personality, and luck—that influenced the outcome of the battle. 

Related: Leon R. Kass on the Gettysburg Address and the Battle for Little Round Top as told by novelist Michael Shaara

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