Hallowed Ground
by James McPherson


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Hallowed Ground
by James McPherson
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Book Description

“[I]n a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our power to add or detract.”
—President Abraham Lincoln

James M. McPherson, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom, and arguably the finest Civil War historian in the world, walks us through the site of the bloodiest and perhaps most consequential battle ever fought by Americans.

The events that occurred at Gettysburg are etched into our collective memory, as they served to change the course of the Civil War and with it the course of history. More than any other place in the United States, Gettysburg is indeed hallowed ground. It’s no surprise that it is one of the nation’s most visited sites (nearly two million annual visitors), attracting tourists, military buffs, and students of American history.

McPherson, who has led countless tours of Gettysburg over the years, makes stops at Seminary Ridge, the Peach Orchard, Cemetery Hill, and Little Round Top, among other key locations. He reflects on the meaning of the battle, describes the events of those terrible three days in July 1863, and places the struggle in the greater context of American and world history. Along the way, he intersperses stories of his own encounters with the place over several decades, as well as debunking several popular myths about the battle itself.

What brought those 165,000 soldiers—75,000 Confederate, 90,000 Union—to Gettysburg? Why did they lock themselves in such a death grip across these once bucolic fields until 11,000 of them were killed or mortally wounded, another 29,000 were wounded and survived, and about 10,000 were “missing”—mostly captured? What was accomplished by all of this carnage? Join James M. McPherson on a walk across this hallowed ground as he be encompasses the depth of meaning and historical impact of a place that helped define the nation’s character.

About the Author

James M. McPherson is a professor of history at Princeton University. He is the author of Battle Cry of Freedom, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for non?ction, as well as other works on the Civil War, including Ordeal by Fire and Marching Toward Freedom. McPherson’s most recent book is Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam.

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From Publishers Weekly
The country's most distinguished Civil War historian, a Pulitzer Prize winner (for Battle Cry of Freedom) and professor at Princeton, offers this compact and incisive study of the Battle of Gettysburg. In narrating "the largest battle ever fought in the Western Hemisphere," McPherson walks readers over its presently hallowed ground, with monuments numbering into the hundreds, many of which work to structure the narrative. They range from the equestrian monument to Union general John Reynolds to Amos Humiston, a New Yorker identified several months after the battle when family daguerreotypes found on his body were recognized by his widow.

Indeed, while McPherson does the expected fine job of narrating the battle, in a manner suitable for the almost complete tyro in military history, he also skillfully hands out kudos and criticism each time he comes to a memorial. He praises Joshua Chamberlain and the 2oth Maine, but also the 14oth New York and its colonel, who died leading his regiment on the other Union flank in an equally desperate action. The cover is effective and moving: the quiet clean battlefield park above, the strewn bodies below. The author's knack for knocking myths on the head without jargon or insult is on display throughout: he gently points out that North Carolinians think that their General Pettigrew ought to share credit for Pickett's charge; that General Lee's possible illness is no excuse for the butchery that charge led to; that African-Americans were left out of the veterans' reunions; and that the kidnapping of African-Americans by the Confederates has been excised from most history books. This book is a very good thing in a remarkably small package.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-McPherson focuses on the period July 1-3, 1863, and explains why readers should know about the battle 140 years later. The book is concise, sprightly, and full of personality-both McPherson's and the participants' in the conflict. A prologue and epilogue flank the three chapters on the battle (each covering one day), relating why it happened and what followed. The author walks readers through Gettysburg from beginning to end, telling a story of simple personal decisions that had a global impact. The importance of the battle is elucidated in Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. When readers have finished this book, the only way they can know Gettysburg better is by going there.
Hugh McAloon, formerly at Prince William County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist
*Starred Review* Without rival as the most popular Civil War destination, the Gettysburg battlefield makes a profound and lasting impression on visitors, who, consulting contemporary photographs of the carnage, can stand precisely where soldiers gave "the last full measure of devotion." McPherson says that this eerie experience, which provokes both empathy and one's imagination, brought him and his students to tears as he guided them around Gettysburg, a tour he replicates here. In structure, McPherson follows the topographical three-day course of the cataclysmic combat, handicapping "myths" that surround arcana of the battle as well as criticism, particularly vociferous among the losing Rebels, of the performance of generals such as James Longstreet. Second-guessing seems second nature to any narrative of the battle, having its echoes even in tiffs over the placement of monuments, as McPherson recounts. If it were only a pointer to the physical ground and commemorative markers, this guide would be ordinary, but McPherson so articulately injects reminders--as of a free black farmer who fled the approaching battle lest Confederates enslave him--of what the Civil War was about as to display the crystalline style that has made him one of our finest Civil War historians. Gilbert Taylor
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