Monday, August 12, 2019

Booknotes: "Lee is Trapped, and Must be Taken"

New Arrival:
"Lee is Trapped, and Must be Taken": Eleven Fateful Days after Gettysburg: July 4 - 14, 1863 by Thomas J. Ryan and Richard R. Schaus (Savas Beatie, 2019).

The output of the Gettysburg Campaign literature continues to be unrelenting in pace and scope; however, major works covering the retreat (even for the most important events that occurred between the end of the battle and the Confederate escape across the Potomac) have appeared only recently. In 2005, Kent Masterson Brown's Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign was published, to be followed only three years later by Wittenberg, Petruzzi, and Nugent's One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863. Both are excellent. Now we have a third treatment of the period in Thomas Ryan and Richard Schaus's "Lee is Trapped, and Must be Taken": Eleven Fateful Days after Gettysburg: July 4 - 14, 1863

A third major study within 15 years might appear on the surface to be topical overkill but really we have the best of situations, with each treatment possessing significant complementary features that clearly set it apart from the others. The 2005 and 2008 studies both address the fighting during the retreat at length, but Brown's logistical focus clearly distinguishes it from the purely military coverage of Wittenberg et al. Ryan and Schaus's book also has a unique emphasis, in this case the role of military intelligence. It is additionally positioned as a sequel to Ryan's award-winning Spies, Scouts, and Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign: How the Critical Role of Intelligence Impacted the Outcome of Lee's Invasion of the North, June-July 1863 (2015).

From the description: "The long and bloody three-day battle exhausted both armies. Their respective commanders faced difficult tasks, including the rallying of their troops for more marching and fighting. Lee had to keep his army organized and motivated enough to conduct an orderly withdrawal away from the field. Meade faced the same organizational and motivational challenges, while assessing the condition of his victorious but heavily damaged army, to determine if it had sufficient strength to pursue and crush a still-dangerous enemy. Central to the respective commanders’ decisions was the information they received from their intelligence-gathering resources about the movements, intentions, and capability of the enemy. The eleven-day period after Gettysburg was a battle of wits to determine which commander better understood the information he received, and directed the movements of his army accordingly. Prepare for some surprising revelations."

Other aspects of the retreat are featured as well. "Woven into this account is the fate of thousands of Union prisoners who envisioned rescue to avoid incarceration in wretched Confederate prisons, and a characterization of how the Union and Confederate media portrayed the ongoing conflict for consumption on the home front."

More: "The authors utilized a host of primary sources to craft their study, including letters, memoirs, diaries, official reports, newspapers, and telegrams, and have threaded these intelligence gems in an exciting and fast-paced narrative that includes a significant amount of new information." As we've come to expect from SB titles, maps (14 in number), photographs, and other illustrations are interspersed throughout. The appendix section includes transcriptions of some intelligence documents and a short piece examining the relationship between General Meade and the BMI.


  1. Hi Drew

    Look forward to your review. Would be interested to see which of the three books on this subject you prefer. I believe Brown's book was well received. I've heard he is working on another book, perhaps it was about the union army?

    I think any of the three would be a good lead in to Jeff Hunt's current study on the period directly after July 14th?

    Don Hallstrom

    1. Brown's book is my favorite so far.

      Yes, though I obviously haven't had a chance to read this one yet, it certainly does look like all three contain descriptive accounts of the retreat sufficient to serve as lead-in to Hunt's ongoing trilogy.

  2. I think objective readers are going to close this book with a very different view of the retreat, the possibilities, and Meade's generalship and intentions. I didn't believe the initial premise pitched to me by Ryan and Schaus, but was convinced after finishing the manuscript. It is a very fresh contribution.


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