The Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) is widely considered the turning point of the Civil War, and perhaps no battle in that conflict has been more scrutinized and memorialized. With thousands of visitors and re-enactors descending on the small southeastern Pennsylvania town this week, there is an accompanying wave of new books.
Allen C. Guelzo's "Gettysburg: The Last Invasion" (Knopf, $35) is a historian's closely observed narrative of the violently bloody encounter of the Confederate and Union armies that left an estimated 51,000 casualties. Kirkus Reviews calls it "robust, memorable reading." "The Illustrated Gettysburg Reader" (Regnery, $29.95) by Rod Gragg recounts the battle with ample quotations from those who fought, such as Union Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's memories of the 20th Maine's defense of Little Round Top. There are plenty of black-and-white photos, illustrations and maps.
Even more copiously illustrated is a new coffee table book, "Gettysburg: Turning Point of the Civil War" (Time Books, $29.95), compiled by the editors of Time magazine, with a prologue by novelist Jeff Shaara, author of "Gods and Generals." "The Civil War: The Third Year Told by Those Who Lived It" (Library of America, $40) is the latest volume in a year-by-year eyewitness chronicle of the war; its fascinating pages take in those days in early July, when Elizabeth Blair in Maryland wrote to her husband, "I have felt all day that a mortal conflict was going on for our Country's life."