Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Booknotes: Gettysburg’s Peach Orchard

New Arrival:
Gettysburg’s Peach Orchard: Longstreet, Sickles, and the Bloody Fight for the “Commanding Ground” Along the Emmitsburg Road by James A. Hessler & Britt C. Isenberg (Savas Beatie, 2019).

The stream of Gettysburg-related titles that Savas Beatie puts out on a yearly basis is unmatched by any single publisher. Aside from the ECW series titles, I believe their most recent Day 2 book was Schultz and Mingus's The Second Day at Gettysburg: The Attack and Defense of Cemetery Ridge, July 2, 1863 from 2015. Now the action moves south from Cemetery Ridge to Sickles's Salient with Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides James Hessler and Britt Isenberg's Gettysburg’s Peach Orchard. From the description: "The historiography of the battle’s second day is usually dominated by the Union’s successful defense of Little Round Top, but the day’s most influential action occurred nearly one mile west along the Emmitsburg Road in farmer Joseph Sherfy’s peach orchard. Despite its overriding importance, no full-length study of this pivotal action has been written until now."

Of course, the Peach Orchard was situated atop the famous high ground that Union general Dan Sickles found so irresistible to occupy. The forward movement of his Third Corps placed it beyond close supporting distance on either flank and directly in the path of Longstreet's two attacking divisions. "What followed was some of Gettysburg’s bloodiest and most controversial fighting. General Sickles’s questionable advance forced Longstreet’s artillery and infantry to fight for every inch of ground to Cemetery Ridge. The Confederate attack crushed the Peach Orchard salient and other parts of the Union line, threatening the left flank of Maj. Gen. George Meade’s army. The command decisions made in and around the Sherfy property influenced actions on every part of the battlefield. The occupation of the high ground at the Peach Orchard helped General Lee rationalize ordering the tragic July 3 assault known as “Pickett’s Charge.”"

Gettysburg’s Peach Orchard: Longstreet, Sickles, and the Bloody Fight for the “Commanding Ground” Along the Emmitsburg Road "combine(s) the military aspects of the fighting with human interest stories in a balanced treatment of the bloody attack and defense of Gettysburg’s Peach Orchard." The book includes 26 detailed maps of all kinds supported by a collection of useful modern viewshed photographs. Hessler already discussed at length Sickles's controversial decision to form his Third Corps defensive line at the Peach Orchard sector in his award-winning 2009 book Sickles at Gettysburg, and the issue is briefly reexamined in Chapter 2.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Drew. This and I believe one more on Gettysburg you will surely discuss soon [ :) ] are the books that really excite me this summer. I love them all, but these two hold a special place with me. I think readers will really enjoy them both.


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