Saturday, September 19, 2020

Book News: Meade at Gettysburg

Even though George Gordon Meade won a hard-fought defensive victory at Gettysburg and led the Army of the Potomac for the duration of the war, he's still generally regarded as a fairly middling army commander (with historian and future Meade biographer Jennifer Murray being a rare voice in rating Meade extraordinarily high). Meade was accorded little time to bask in the glory of his Gettysburg triumph before being subjected to harsh criticism for his allegedly dilatory pursuit of Lee's crippled and encumbered army. Major studies of the Gettysburg retreat published over the past fifteen years have improved Meade's performance rating over that phase of the campaign, but it is those three hot days in July wherein the Meade defenders still find little opposition toward their man (though it's my understanding that Guelzo's Gettysburg study granted Meade only faint praise at best).

The author of one of those aforementioned retreat studies, Kent Masterson Brown, will soon present Civil War readers with his own assessment of Meade at Gettysburg. Scheduled for a June 2021 release by UNC Press, Brown's Meade at Gettysburg: A Study in Command "draws on an expansive archive to reappraise Meade's leadership during the Battle of Gettysburg. Using Meade's published and unpublished papers alongside diaries, letters, and memoirs of fellow officers and enlisted men, Brown highlights how Meade's rapid advance of the army to Gettysburg on July 1, his tactical control and coordination of the army in the desperate fighting on July 2, and his determination to hold his positions on July 3 (e)nsured victory."

As expected, Brown's examination does not stop there but continues through the pursuit to the Potomac. In those sections, "Brown argues that supply deficiencies, brought about by the army's unexpected need to advance to Gettysburg, were crippling. In spite of that, Meade pursued Lee's retreating army rapidly, and his decision not to blindly attack Lee's formidable defenses near Williamsport on July 13 was entirely correct in spite of subsequent harsh criticism. Combining compelling narrative with incisive analysis, this finely rendered work of military history deepens our understanding of the Army of the Potomac as well as the machinations of the Gettysburg Campaign, restoring Meade to his rightful place in the Gettysburg narrative."


  1. I am surprised there are no comments on this. Kent always does good work and I am looking forward to reading this one.

    One downside to publishing Civil War books is that you get so exhausted you have no time to READ Civil War titles--it is like working when you go home to rest. So I am very selective in what I relax with (including my cigar -- type and brand -- and my gin).

    This one I look forward to enjoying.

    1. Same here.

      On my side of things, one downside to reviewing books is I don't have time to reread favorites.

  2. Meade has always been one of my more admired Federal commanders of the War alongside Rosecrans and McClellan (admittedly,I may be odd...), and I am very pleased to see George Meade get his due in historiography, finally.

  3. I like Meade. Lyman humanizes him so that I can see the grouchy wonderfully human character. So I like him getting his due.


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