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Book Review – Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg

by James McPherson; hardcover, 224 pages; Zenith Press; 125 color photos

Renowned Civil War historian James M. McPherson’s Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg first came out some 12 years ago, and was critically acclaimed as well as a popular book among the general reading public for its many merits.

Along with McPherson’s accessible writing style, which makes even complex military maneuvers understandable to the layman, he provides the reader a guided tour of the Gettysburg battlefield, setting in context its many features and monuments.

Hallowed Ground cover

Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg; by James McPherson; hardcover, 224 pages; Zenith Press; 125 color photos

This new edition, if anything, improves on a classic, and while it isn’t as portable as McPherson’s original guidebook to the battlefield, by way of compensation it offers much more content due to its coffee table format and size. Along with McPherson’s own words, the book includes vintage photographs and images of memorabilia, paintings and other artwork, and color maps. Sidebars replicate official orders and battle reports of participants, as well as first hand accounts, recollections and letters.

20th Maine bayonets

The 20th Maine’s bayonet charge down Little Round Top by David McCarron, another illustration used in Hallowed Ground. National Guard painting series

McPherson himself rewards the reader with facts and trivia that include the conventions of equestrian statues’ symbolism embodied in the horses’ hooves, George Armstrong Custer’s involvement in the battle, the battle’s oldest participant, and information about each of the many monuments on the battlefield, including the controversies surrounding a few. He also describes and analyzes disputes about key aspects of the battle that endure to this day, such as the controversies over Union Gen. George Meade’s and Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s actions and decisions,  and puts to rest many myths and misconceptions about the battle and those who fought it.

Alabama monument

Alabama State Monument at Gettysburg National Military Park, one of many monuments featured in the book. Photo by Bo Gordy-Stith via Wikimedia Commons

Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg needs no recommendation to Civil War enthusiasts and scholars. But this beautiful new edition will be a welcome addition to their libraries a well as a great way to introduce a wider audience to a battle that changed the course of the Civil War.