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Book Review
Edwin B. Coddington

Charles Scribners Sons, 1984, 574 pages+
appendix, notes, bibliography, and index

Reviewed by Joe Childress

Originally published in 1968, this  comprehensive  study  of
the  Battle  of  Gettysburg stands as an enduring tribute to
its author.  Among the new sources used  by  Coddington  was
the  pioneering,  but  largely forgotten, work of Col.  John
Bachelder.  An observer and artist attached to the  Army  of
the Potomac, Bachelder arrived on the scene a few days after
the battle, remained for more than three months interviewing
wounded  veterans of both armies, and spent the remainder of
his life interviewing veterans to establish troop  movements
at Gettysburg.                                              

Now  available  in  a  compact,  soft  cover  edition,  this
one-volume history  is  an  excellent  companion  for  those
visiting  the battlefield.  Coddington carefully traces unit
movements, command decisions,  and  actions  on  the  field.
Beginning   with   Brandy  Station  and  the  movement  into
Pennsylvania, the text records unfolding events, culminating
in  the decisive battle of the war.  Although the maps are a
little  small  and  lack  detail,  they  are   an   adequate
accompaniment to the text.                                  

Coddington  also  does  an  excellent job of providing brief
commentary on  the  principal  participants.   On  Pickett's
location  during  the charge that bears his name, Coddington
provides a one-page explanation and defense.  Stuart is  the
subject   of  an  eight-page  analysis  of  his  actions  at
Rockville  and  following.   Longstreet  has  a   "truculent
attitude and obvious unwillingness to attack".  He describes
Lee as "vigorous, alert, and  in  good  spirits",  providing
ammunition  for  those who discount the charges that Lee was
incapacitated due to angina or a heart attack.              

On the  Union  side,  Butterfield's  allegation  that  Meade
planned  to  withdraw  before  the  battle  is  described as
"absurd".  Perhaps the biggest surprise to those who learned
their  history  from  Ted  Turner  is  the  relatively brief
attention  given  to  Col.   Joshua  Chamberlain.   Although
Chamberlain's  role  in  the  battle for Little Round Top is
given due credit, if you skip five pages of the text, you'll
miss  all  references  to  him.  The actions of Reynolds and
Buford during the opening engagement  at  McPherson's  Ridge
receive  Coddington's praise.  The real hero of the study is
George Meade.   In  addition  to  demolishing  Butterfield's
"absurd"   allegation,   Coddington   explains  and  defends
virtually every decision made by Meade, from  his  strategic
planning  on  the  eve  of the battle to his decision not to
attack the retreating Confederates on July 13.              

Pointing  out  that  some  contemporary  critics  of   Meade
credited Lee not only with "the laurels of the campaign" but
also  with  victory  at  Gettysburg,  Coddington  injects  a
closing note of reality.  He ascribes to the Union victory a
new feeling among the Army of the Potomac.   "The  men  knew
what  they could do under an extremely competent general....
The Army of  the  Potomac  ...   finally  lived  up  to  its

Availability: New copies are currently available for $50 at most Civil War book dealers. New or used copies may also be purchased on-line. Currently available through Barnes & Noble
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