Skip to main content

CR3 #74: Stand Firm Ye Boys From Maine: The 20th Maine and the Gettysburg Campaign by Thomas Desjardin

One of my peculiar enthusiasms is the Battle of Gettysburg. It's probably in the "Top Five Subjects I Know a Lot About" along with the Titanic, the Lincoln assassination, the Holocaust, and the American campaign in Europe in WWII. I've always been particularly fond of Colonel Joshua Laurence Chamberlain and the exploits of the 20th Maine regiment during the second day's battle at Little Round Top. This book details how that particular regiment arrived at that point in history, who their opposition were, why the battle turned out the way it did, and what happened to the group after that notable day.

Unfortunately, Hollywood has apparently over-dramatized slightly the impressive feat that was accomplished on July 2, 1863. Apparently the brave bayonet charge that swept the 15th Alabama down off the hill was less a brilliant strategy from Chamberlain and more something that occurred almost organically. And it might not have even worked had the Alabamians not been split off from many of their fellow troops...and also without any water. Chamberlain actually spent the rest of his life trying to correct some of the misconceptions about his deeds, and many of the men became estranged due to their varied ideas of exactly what happened that day.

It's kind of a sad story, really. When portrayed in the movie Gettysburg (an AMAZING film that I highly recommend), the bravery of the charge and the glory of the moment are breathtaking. It's too bad that some (if not most) of that tale is untrue, or at the very least highly exaggerated. However, it's important to keep in mind that while the story may be hyperbolic, it's still a fairly impressive moment. Regardless the reasons for the charge or the way it began, a group of battered, exhausted men who were under attack by a determined enemy and had little to no ammunition left did charge down a hill and drive off the enemy, protecting the extreme left flank of the union army from being collapsed. Had that short battle--it's estimated to have been just over ninety minutes of fighting--turned out differently, the battle of Gettysburg might have turned out very differently.

The book itself is rather dry--it's clearly written to be a scholarly text rather than a pleasure read. It's extensively footnoted, and it's clear that the author was very careful in his research. He does his best to support his every argument with documented evidence, which is reassuring. He also includes several lists at the back of the book with information about the individual men who fought in the battle.

I've visited the 20th Maine memorial at Gettysburg, and it's fairly impressive. Although there's a neat path there now, it's still a surprisingly steep hill, and hard to imagine anyone trying to charge either up or down it without serious injury (let alone dressed in layers of wool on a July day in Pennsylvania). While the book does ruin some of the romantic notions about what these men did, it's still a great reminder of the things they accomplished and I'd recommend it to any Civil War enthusiast.

(I took this photo off the top of the Pennsylvania State Memorial at Gettysburg. It overlooks the memorials to the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry, the 4th New York Cavalry, and the 2nd New York Cavalry, as well as the 8th Pennsylvania infantry and an information plaque about the Cavalry division of the Army of the Potomac.)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

CR3 # 17: Mount Misery by Samuel Shem

Mount Misery is the sequel to Samuel Shem's first book, House of God (review here). It follows Dr. Roy Basch as he leaves the House of God and moves to psychiatric hospital Mount Misery to begin his psychiatric residency. Unfortunately, it turns out that psychiatrists are just as crazy, confused, and often detrimental as medical doctors. As Dr. Basch cycles through the various sectors of the hospital (talk therapy, admissions, Freudian Analysis, drug therapy) he is horrified to discover that it seems everything he is being taught is not only wrong, but potentially dangerous. He begins to fall into terrible patterns of behavior, mirroring the problems his patients are having. Each area is worse than the last, with one doctor who thinks the best way to treat is to be aggressively hostile, one who cares only about insurance premiums and efficiency, one who treats with silence and "regression," and one who thinks the only viable treatment is to pump every patient full of exp…

CR3 #30: The First Wives Club by Olivia Goldsmith

I saw the movie of The First Wives Club before I read the book. It's a cute chick flick, in which scorned women take comedic revenge on their former spouses. They become better friends and everyone winds up happy in the end. I was somewhat surprised (though not much--the differences between film and literature are often wide) at how different the book was--I am used to changes in plot or small character changes (combining two characters into one, or perhaps changing to a more pleasant ending) but the major change here between novel and movie was the tone.

The story is basically the same; After a close friend's suicide, three middle-aged female friends get together and beginning reviewing their lives. They realize that much like their late friend, they have been screwed over by the men in their lives--the men used them to get to their high social and financial positions, then screwed them over both personally and financially. The three women decide to use their wits and their co…

CBR9 #5 Borgin Keep by Ron Ripley

I've read the entire Berkeley Street series, as well as the Haunted series, and I think this was definitely one of the better offerings. This time, former Marine Shane and his slowly growing band of willing (and unwilling) ghost hunting allies face their biggest challenge yet. While the ghosts of Borgin Keep are both very dangerous and very evil, Shane also must keep one step ahead of The Watchers, a ruthless and powerful organization who find him to be a threat to their shadowy goals.

As always, for me the best part are the characters. Shane and his ghost-hunting partner Frank (a former soldier/former monk) are joined once again by police detective Marie LaFontaine, who is a very tough woman determined to avenge a dead friend. I'm not as fond of Shane's girlfriend Courtney, but I understand her uses as far as character development.

The plot moves along quickly, and I found this book a little better fleshed out than a few of the previous ones in the series -- while I enjoye…