Saturday, June 30, 2018

Booknotes: Maine Roads to Gettysburg

New Arrival:
Maine Roads to Gettysburg: How Joshua Chamberlain, Oliver Howard, and 4,000 Men from the Pine Tree State Helped Win the Civil War's Bloodiest Battle by Tom Huntington (Stackpole, 2018).

Most Civil War readers probably know Tom Huntington as the man behind Historical Traveler magazine and the author of Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg (2013). His latest book, also from Stackpole, is Maine Roads to Gettysburg. In it, he focuses on the Civil War careers and accomplishments of several prominent Maine generals and five infantry regiments from the state (the 7th, 16th, 17th, 19th, and 20th Maine). The title pun isn't too bad either.

From the description: "Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and his 20th Maine regiment made a legendary stand on Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. But Maine's role in the battle includes much more than that. Soldiers from the Pine Tree State contributed mightily during the three days of fighting. Pious general Oliver Otis Howard secured the high ground of Cemetery Ridge for the Union on the first day. Adelbert Ames--the stern taskmaster who had transformed the 20th Maine into a fighting regiment--commanded a brigade and then a division at Gettysburg. The 17th Maine fought ably in the confused and bloody action in the Wheatfield; a sea captain turned artilleryman named Freeman McGilvery cobbled together a defensive line that proved decisive on July 2; and the 19th Maine helped stop Pickett's Charge during the battle's climax."

Gettysburg is the study's centerpiece, but the book also recounts Maine's involvement in the eastern theater campaigns and battles leading up to the epic clash in Pennsylvania. Around half the book is devoted to the period between the outbreak of the war and the conclusion of the Chancellorsville Campaign, and the text is supported by a dozen maps. "Maine soldiers had fought and died for two bloody years even before they reached Gettysburg. They had fallen on battlefields in Virginia and Maryland. They had died in front of Richmond, in the Shenandoah Valley, on the bloody fields of Antietam, in the Slaughter Pen at Fredericksburg, and in the tangled Wilderness around Chancellorsville. And the survivors kept fighting, even as they followed Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania."

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