Thursday, August 01, 2013

Petruzzi & Stanley: "THE GETTYSBURG CAMPAIGN IN NUMBERS AND LOSSES: Synopses, Orders of Battle, Strengths, Casualties, and Maps, June 9 - July 14, 1863"

[The Gettysburg Campaign in Numbers and Losses: Synopses, Orders of Battle, Strengths, Casualties, and Maps, June 9 - July 14, 1863 by J. David Petruzzi and Steven Stanley (Savas Beatie, 2013). Hardcover, maps, photos, OBs, charts, reading list. 224 pp. ISBN978-1-61121-080-4 $32.95]

Unlike World War II, for example, serious order of battle study has not been a significant feature of Civil War publishing. Even the best campaign and battle studies typically offer only a rudimentary table of organization. However, it should come as little surprise that Gettysburg is one of the few areas where one can find such information in print. Osprey Publishing's Order of Battle series has a separate Union and Confederate volume for each day's fighting but the standard resource has been John Busey and David Martin's Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg (now in its fourth edition). Recently, the publication of John and Travis Busey's Union Casualties at Gettysburg: A Comprehensive Record has provided scholars and students with unprecedented documentation of the Army of the Potomac's losses. Even so, no existing work attempts the type of campaign spanning combination of atlas, orders of battle (OB), strength numbers, and casualty assessments present in J. David Petruzzi and Steven Stanley's The Gettysburg Campaign in Numbers and Losses.

Remarkably, beginning with Brandy Station and ending at Falling Waters, the study compiles orders of battle (43 by my count) for Gettysburg Campaign clashes of all sizes, from brief battalion sized skirmishes to the mighty multi-day collision of armies. This has never been done before in a single volume. The amount of data contained in the OBs is also unique. Whereas most Civil War military history books simply list unit hierarchy and perhaps regimental commanders, Petruzzi and Stanley have gone the extra mile, presenting readers with unit strengths; casualties broken down into categories of killed, mortally wounded, wounded, wounded and captured, captured, and missing; loss percentages for each unit; unit commanders and their replacements; and gun types for the batteries. Appreciative of those that have gone before them, the authors have also plowed their own research into the project. While the OBs are not sourced in the form of footnotes, the authors assure us that O.R. reports and rosters located in the National Archives have been consulted, as well as "manuscripts, magazine and newspaper articles, and letters and diary entries written by participants" (pg. VII). The methodology in terms of how they arrived at the numbers is perhaps not as formalized as some might wish, but the authors do denote with an "(est.)" those entries with a particularly high amount of guesswork involved.

Summaries of all the battles and skirmishes supplement each OB and the vast majority also benefit from the brilliant multi-color cartographic renderings of Steven Stanley. The maps are such an integral part of the book, one might also consider it an atlas. If readers wonder why a publisher would want to compete with its own catalog in this way, it should be remembered that there's as much variety in mapmaker content, style, scale, and emphases as there is with narrative historical writing, so it never hurts to add another perspective. Complaints are few in number and include repeated use of identical photos (sometimes only pages apart) and occasional lapses in copyediting and proofreading.

The Gettysburg Campaign in Numbers and Losses is a true one of a kind creation and a very useful addition to the Gettysburg reference library. Hopefully, publisher Savas Beatie does not consider this a one off enterprise but rather the beginning of another long running series.

4 comments:

  1. Drew, thank you so much for the review! And yes, we do plan to do another volume of Numbers and Losses for the Maryland Campaign and others (in addition to guides and the Handbooks series)! In fact, I have the N&L volume for the MD Campaign about half done for a 2014 release, having identified 39 battles and skirmishes already.
    Thanks again for such a wonderful review and my best wishes always!
    J.D. Petruzzi

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  2. Chris EvansAugust 04, 2013

    Excellent review.

    I have a question about J.D. that maybe he could answer. Is he ever going to return to Civil War blogging again? I really enjoyed his entries over the years.

    Chris

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  3. MarkStrauchAugust 06, 2013

    One big omission, in my view, is the lack of a summary table (e.g. in an Appendix) that pulls together in one location the strengths and casualty figures for each engagement listed.

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  4. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for that suggestion - we didn't have room in the book for such a table, but we hope that by easily going to each engagement section one can get those numbers right at the top of each Order of Battle. A page or two in which such a summary existed would be convenient, but unfortunately there just wasn't room for it. In fact, we had to drop a number of maps and illustrations due to lack of room, but they will be appearing in future works!

    Chris - I'm not sure if I'll return to blogging. It admittedly takes a lot of time, and my attention span can be rather short... I enjoy the instant gratification that comes with media such as Facebook, for instance. When blogging one feels compelled to post on a regular basis, and I just didn't want to be so inconsistent and unpredictable to my readers. Thanks so much for having followed the blog over the years, and perhaps one day I may start again if I feel I can be dedicated to it again.

    J.D.

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