Today is the 150th anniversary of the breakthrough attempt that ended Confederate hopes. Five thousand southern soldiers died in the short-lived Pickett’s Charge: That’s more Americans than died in the long-lived Iraq War.
If news of this week’s Gettysburg re-creations gets your reading juices flowing, some recommendations:
- Best history published this year: Allen C. Guelzo’s Gettysburg: The Last Invasion (Knopf).
- Best novel about Gettysburg: Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels (Ballantine, 1997; The Modern Library, 2004).
- Best reference book published this year with lots of eyewitness accounts, maps, photos: Rod Gragg’s The Illustrated Gettysburg Reader: An Eyewitness History of the Civil War’s Greatest Battle (Regnery, 2013).
- Best guide to the war’s battlefields (in my experience of visiting 30): Frances Kennedy, ed., The Civil War Battlefield Guide (Houghton Mifflin, 1990).
- Best massive history of the war, and a great book for helping kids who like to read develop a tough yet elegant prose style: Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative, three big volumes (Random House, 1974; The Modern Library, 2011).
One more number to keep in mind: Overall, more than 600,000 Americans in a population of 30 million died in the four years of uncivil war. Our U.S. population now is ten times greater, so the deaths then are the equivalent of 6 million (as many Jews as the Nazis killed) dying today.
Six million: More than 100 times as many as our Vietnam War dead.