Gettysburg--The First Day

Gettysburg--The First Day

by Harry W. Pfanz


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For good reason, the second and third days of the Battle of Gettysburg have received the lion's share of attention from historians. With this book, however, the critical first day's fighting finally receives its due. After sketching the background of the Gettysburg campaign and recounting the events immediately preceding the battle, Harry Pfanz offers a detailed tactical description of events of the first day. He describes the engagements in McPherson Woods, at the Railroad Cuts, on Oak Ridge, on Seminary Ridge, and at Blocher's Knoll, as well as the retreat of Union forces through Gettysburg and the Federal rally on Cemetery Hill. Throughout, he draws on deep research in published and archival sources to challenge many long-held assumptions about the battle.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807871317
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 03/01/2010
Series: Civil War America
Edition description: 1
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 441,460
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Harry W. Pfanz is author of Gettysburg—The Second Day and Gettysburg—Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill. He served for ten years as a historian at Gettysburg National Military Park and retired from the position of Chief Historian of the National Park Service in 1981.

Read an Excerpt

Fredericksburg to the Potomac

Its drums were beating, its colors flying, as the 900 officers and enlisted men of the 26th North Carolina Regiment, "beaming in their splendid uniforms," filed from their camp at Fredericksburg, Virginia. It was a beautiful morning on 15 June 1863, and the 26th, with its three sister regiments of Brig. Gen. James Johnston Pettigrew's brigade, was heading off on its first campaign with the vaunted Army of Northern Virginia. "Everything seemed propitious of success," recalled a veteran in later years. It was heady stuff for the virtually unbloodied Tarheels who had been guarding the coastal areas of their native state from Federal invasion. But in a month their uniforms would be worn, and the North Carolinians would learn that war can be horror and hardship as well as beating drums and flaunted colors.[1]

Table of Contents

Introduction. Fredericksburg to the Potomac
Chapter 1. Ewell's Raid
Chapter 2. Lee's Army Concentrates
Chapter 3. Meade's Pursuit
Chapter 4. Meade and Reynolds
Chapter 5. Reconnaissance in Force
Chapter 6. Reynolds's Final and Finest Hour
Chapter 7. Cutler's Cock Fight
Chapter 8. McPherson Woods
Chapter 9. The Railroad Cut
Chapter 10. Noon Lull
Chapter 11. Howard and the Eleventh Corps
Chapter 12. Ewell and Rodes Reach the Field
Chapter 13. Oak Ridge
Chapter 14. Daniel's and Ramseur's Brigades Attack
Chapter 15. Daniel Strikes Stone
Chapter 16. Schurz Prepares for Battle
Chapter 17. Early's Division Attacks
Chapter 18. Gordon and Doles Sweep the Field
Chapter 19. The Brickyard Fight
Chapter 20. Heth Attacks
Chapter 21. Retreat from McPherson Ridge
Chapter 22. Seminary Ridge
Chapter 23. Retreat through the Town
Chapter 24. Cemetery Hill
Chapter 25. Epilogue
Appendix A. John Burns
Appendix B. The Color Episode of the 149th P.V.I.
Appendix C. Children of the Battlefield
Appendix D. Order of Battle

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Gettysburg--The First Day continues Harry Pfanz's superbly researched, beautifully written, and exquisitely detailed study of the battle. The three volumes now in print comprise a great classic, and the best Gettysburg material ever published.--Robert K. Krick, author of Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain and Lee's Colonels

No one knows and understands the battle of Gettysburg better than Harry W. Pfanz. Since he joined the National Park Service as a historian in 1956, he has never been far from what for the public is America's best-known and most controversial battle. His credentials as a researcher, raconteur, and historian par excellence are attested to by his applauded books on the battle's second and third days. Now, thanks to Pfanz and the University of North Carolina Press, Gettysburg--The First Day fills a void and completes in masterful fashion a trilogy long needed and guaranteed to stand the test of time.--Edwin C. Bearss, Chief Historian Emeritus, National Park Service

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Gettysburg - the First Day (Civil War America Series) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
warpig3 More than 1 year ago
Mr. Pfanz book is not for the faint of heart. It is for the hardcore fan or historian. For all of those that have read other books about Gettysburg and always wanted to know more about the fighting on the individual days this is the book for you. Mr. Pfanz breaks down the whole first days action in detial. This will apeal to military leaders as well. For me individually it was great and a book that I enjoyed. Going through each action in detail gave new insight into what and why it happened on that fateful July morning. Ewell's delay is explained in detail as well as the controversy between Hancock and Howard as to who really did rally the union soldiers on Cementary Hill. This was new to me as I never had heard of this debate before and the controversy lasted long after the battle as well. If you new to Gettysburg or a seasoned fan,I'm sure you'll find new insight into the battle like I did. I also recommend the other books written by Harry W. Pfanz.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I eagerly anticipated reading this lastest book by Mr. Pfanz. In his earlier books covering Gettysburg and the events of July 2nd, he often broke that action and movements of men and equipment down to a company or individual level. This book offers little of that in-depth research that marked his previous efforts. We are introduced to the various generals and some of the enlisted personnel. But, the actual movement of the troops and their subsequent positioning in the battle are left to a more generalized scope. If you are interested in a cursory examination of the events of July 1st, this is your book. If you seek the high level of detail that Mr. Pfanz provided in his July 2nd books, you will be disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are a re-enactor or a museum curator building battlefield dioramas, you will want this book. Who else will want to know that the 36th stood to the left of the 47th? Poorly written and verbose, this book is long as such tediouness and short on synthesis, analysis and insight. My advice: look elsewhere.
RobertP on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You have to be a bit of a Civil War geek to read this book. But if you are and you do, it is worth it. It is a detailed and very readable description of the first day. It moves away from the set-piece received wisdom of the battle as shown in the (excellent) movie Gettysburg. It is fair to North and South; it is detailed; it does an acceptable job of showing the people involved, and in some cases not just the commanders. Well worth reading.
SgtBrown on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is not a light read, however, anyone interested in the events of Gettysburg needs to add Pfanz's works to their library.This volume captures all the events leading up to and including all the actions on the first day. The focus on indivdual unit actions is tremendous and very thorough. Both sides find equal time devoted, with a bit more time spent with the Union armies.Pfanz moves his narrative along with excellent and timely first hand accounts from the men who fought there.
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Harry Pfanz spent 10 years as a historian at the Gettysburg National Military Park. After retiring as Chief Historian of the National Park Service in 1981, he began publishing in 1987 what would be a 3-volume series on the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863. The first book covered the events of the second day; it was followed by a book in 1993 on the fighting on Culp¿s and Cemetery Hills over July 2nd and 3rd. . Although chronologically the first book in the series, Gettysburg: The First Day was the last published, in 2001. Pfanz gets the two armies to the Potomac in a brief but perfectly adequate Introduction. While the first chapter concerns itself with Ewell¿s raid into Pennsylvania, it¿s an excellent setting for the complicated massing of both armies. From this beginning, it is an exhaustive look at the events immediately leading up to the engagement and the fighting that occurred west of Gettysburg and in the town itself after the Union¿s defeat on McPherson¿s Ridge and Oak Hill. Pfanz describes troop movements not only at the division and regimental level but also down to the company level, where possible. The last chapter is a thoughtful look at Ewell¿s highly criticized decision not to press an attack at Cemetery Hill after the main fighting was over. The Epilogue is mostly a series of mini-essays on the post-Gettysburg careers of the most prominent commanders on both sides.There are four Appendices; the most important is the Order of Battle for both Armies on the first day. I found this invaluable for keeping track of the often-confusing numbers of names, not only of Corps and division, but of brigade commanders as well, many of whom were critical to the leadership of the fighting. To make it more convenient to use, I scanned and printed out the Order of Battle, keeping it handy to leaf through as I read the book.Included within the main body of the book, where appropriate, are mini-biographies of important commanders, both well-known ones such as Buford, Meade, Reynolds, A.P. Hill, Jubal Early, and Robert Rodes, but lesser luminaries as well: Jenkins, Doubleday, Archer, among many others. They are well written and bring a nice light to their actions on the field. Especially striking in this respect is the entire chapter on Major General Oliver Howard and the history of the Eleventh Corps under his command. One of Pfanz¿s aims in writing the book was to examine carefully some of the myths of Gettysburg¿including that of the cowardice of the Eleventh Corps. This chapter lays an excellent background for the analysis of the fight north of Gettysburg in which the greatly outnumbered and poorly-positioned Eleventh Corps divisions which finally broke under the weight of Ewell¿s Corps¿ attack. Pfanz credits Howard early on in the book with the foresight to keep most of von Steinwehr¿s Division back to hold Cemetery Hill in case of a union retreat. That foresight was well justified at the end of the first day¿s fighting.Also included as both personal commentary on the fighting and corroboration (or lack of it) to official accounts are many quotes from the memoirs, letters and recollections of individual officers and men of both armies. While these give a really nice perspective to the battle, they can tend to get in the way, interrupting the narrative so as to make it harder to pick up the thread of the progress of the fighting.The most serious fault in this book is the lack of adequate maps. On the credit side, the first two maps of the general area around Gettysburg are excellent in order to place, in the overall picture, the more detailed maps of segments of the different engagements. However, there are too few maps connecting the ones that are included. The maps of the fighting north of Gettysburg are particularly inadequate; for example, given the important role that von Amsberg¿s division played, it almost doesn¿t appear on any map of that sector. In addition, many of the later maps are not orient