Monday, October 2, 2023

What I’m Reading Today. Civil War


American Battlefield Trust has a remarkable set of maps for the Eastern and Western
theaters of the American Civil War

I’m going to be on a Civil War kick for a good part of the next year as I build up my 54mm armies to host my Picketts’s Charge game at next year’s Historicon. I am kind of burned out on the Seven Years War and I also enjoy painting the large 54mm figures. They are easier to see and they are fast to paint.

I do not have many books in my library that cover the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg and more specifically books about Pickett's Charge. I remedied that by purchasing these two books from Amazon. I was already familiar with the author Jeffery Wert and found him to have an easy to read writing style while presenting and interpreting facts. I have been reading Wert's "Gettysburg Day Three" and have already learned a lot of things that I didn't know. The early part of the book covers the fighting on Culp's Hill on the night of July 2nd and the day of July 3rd.

I had never read much about Culp's Hill and so I had the mistaken impression that Ewell bungled his assignment to commence an attack in conjunction with Pickett's Charge on the afternoon of July 3rd. I hadn't realized that the Union army opened the fighting early in the morning of July 3rd, which threw off Ewell's timing for his attack. In other words, the fight was brought to him and so Ewell was forced to fight it out during the morning. I hadn't realized how bloody and difficult it was for the Confederates to assault and capture Culp's Hill. Far from being due to incompetence on Ewell's part, Wert lays out the case that the Confederate assault never had a chance from the get go.

I have just started to read about the events leading up to Lee's decision to order the attack that ultimately came known as Pickett's Charge. I am very much looking forward to having the time to finish my reading of Wert's book.

My second book, not shown in the above picture, is written by a fellow named Philip Thomas Tucker. Much to my dismay, a quick perusal of the book revealed some tinges of Lost Cause writing, which was a red flag warning to me. This is the problem of ordering books from Amazon, you don't have the opportunity to look at the back cover of the book jacket and see which Civil War historians have nice things to say about the book. When you look at the back cover and do not see any recognizable names of historians, then this is another red flag that screams "do not purchase this book!" 

I made a few calls to people I know and trust to get their assessment of the Tucker book and their comments confirmed my suspicions. I tossed the book into the garbage bin. I looked at some of the books in my Civil War library and found another book by this Tucker (there is a good historian named Glenn Tucker and he should not be confused with this one). The book was about Barksdale's attack on the second day of the battle and my reaction was "doh! He got me again!" In my defense I bought the book at the Gettysburg National Park Visitors' Center bookstore. So avoid this author at all costs.

My third book "Third Day of Gettysburg and Beyond" is an anthology of six essays edited by Gary Gallagher (an historian I trust). The essays are written by acclaimed historians such Carol Reardon, Robert Krick, A. Wilson Greene and others. I recommend this book too.


  1. Jim,
    It is a loss to 18th century miniature enthusiasts that you have moved to other periods.

    1. Not to worry, I’m just taking a short hiatus from the 18th Century and will probably get back into it in January 2024. I will be getting a game ready for the SYW Assn. convention in March 2024 featuring Russians vs Prussians in the land across the Oder River. There are some interesting large scale Prussian raids in that area and towards Posen that make some good what if scenarios.

  2. Jim try Picketts Charge at Gettys burg by James Hessler (Your Dan Sickles guy) and Wayne Motts. Maybe you have it already

    1. LOL, I just bought a copy and it arrived yesterday. I also bought his book about Sickles and his book about the Peach Orchard. It’s an embarrassment of riches. Let’s put a bow on this one.😄

  3. You might want to look at Harry Pfanz's "Gettysburg, Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill." His books on Day One and Two are also good, though there is some overlap with the Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill Book.

  4. Glen Tucker enjoyable; the other Tucker not so much.

  5. We had many conversations about Tucker on the forum. The late Onefootbrush (Chase) was all over this writer. Chase's contributions are sadly missed.