Book Review: Barksdale's Charge: The True High Tide of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863


by Phillip Thomas Tucker

Philadelphia: Casemate, 2012. Pp. iv, 312. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $32.95. ISBN: 1612001793

The Real “High Tide” of the Confederacy?

In Barksdale’s Charge Tucker, author of Irish Confederates, Burnside’s Bridge, and many other works on American history, argues rather effectively the point made in his sub-title, that the real “High Tide” of the Confederacy was the grand assault by James Longstreet’s troops on the Union Third Army Corps on July 2, 1863, and in particular the attack by William Barksdale’s Mississippi brigade that began at about 6:00 pm. 

Tucker makes an intersting case.  The attack on July 2nd brought the Army of the Potomac to the edge of defeat, destroying one corps entirely, and seriously wounding several others, and almost turned the Union left, with possible disastrous consequences.  In contrast, the grand assault on the July 3rd, in common usage usually known as “Pickett’s Charge,” for all its power, grandeur, heroism, and drama seemed foredoomed even as the troops stepped off, which is in part one of the reasons the attack is so well-known.

Tucker writes well.  He shifts agilely between armies, individuals, and incidents, and knows how to use an anecdote to help make a point, while giving us a seamless account of the events as they unfolded. 

While Tucker's case is interesting, it's not wholly convincing and will certainly generate some controversy.. Nevertheless, his careful retelling of the evetns makes Barksdale’s Charge a valuable read for those interested in the Civil War, and an absolute necessity for students of Gettysburg. 

Note:  Barksdale’s Charge is also available in a digitia edition, ISBN 978-1-61200-180-7

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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