Book Review: All Roads Led to Gettysburg: A New Look at the Civil War's Pivotal Battle


by Troy D. Harman

Lanham, Md.: Stackpole / Rowman & Littlefield, 2022. Pp. vi, 360. . Illus., map, append., notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 081177063X

The Geographic Imperatives of the Gettysburg Campaign

In his latest book, Harman, a Gettysburg National Park Service Ranger, and adjunct professor at Penn State, provides a non-traditional evaluation of the Battle of Gettysburg, contesting the claim that the clash was inadvertent, but rather that it took place at the logical location, based on geography and infrastructure.

Harman argues that over the past sixty years, historians, from Coddington's Gettysburg Campaign (1968), to Sears' Gettysburg (2003), Brown's Retreat From Gettysburg (2005), and on through Guelzo's Gettysburg: Last Invasion (2013), have all evaluated Gettysburg on the premise that it began as accidental encounter, while ignoring the influence of water ways, rail lines, and roads, as well as mountains and valleys.

Throughout the book Harmon compares and contrasts the work of earlier historians on this basis of his analysis. He doesn't necessarily differ with their idea, but seeks to bring out how each author's work helps support he case for the environmental circumstances that set up the battle, much as they did for most major battles in the war.

Harman does an excellent job in allowing readers to understand the ways in which water, rail, and roads tended to bring the two armies together at in Gettysburg. Rivers framed the routes by which the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia traveled, helping conceal their movements and protect their lines of communication they maneuvered over roads, across mountains, and through valleys, to ultimately meet at Gettysburg.

More obviously, of course, once they began to settle into battle lines, both armies made use of local geography, hills, Rock Creek and Marsh Creek, approachable by east-west roads, but separated by the north-south Emmitsburg Road.

Harman also believed that Culp Hill was more than just a small part of the fighting, the end of the Union fishhook, for control of the hill offered control of the Rock Creek water supply, and was also essential to Union control of rail links to the rear.

Harman uses reports by officers, soldiers' personal accounts, civilian remembrances, and war correspondents' accounts, which together often included descriptions of waterways , rail line, and roads, and how movements were affected by these. To bolster his case, Harman's maps are significantly important, helping readers to better understand his ideas as to why and how the battle took place at Gettysburg.

Quite readable, well written, and for this reviewer hard to down, All Roads Led To Gettysburg is, however, more for well-read and knowledgeable students of the battle, than the novice. I highly recommend it.


Our Reviewer: David Marshall has been a high school American history teacher in the Miami-Dade School district for more than three decades. A life-long Civil War enthusiast, David is president of the Miami Civil War Round Table Book Club. In addition to numerous reviews in Civil War News and other publications, he has given presentations to Civil War Round Tables on Joshua Chamberlain, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the common soldier. His most recent previous reviews here include Their Maryland, The Lion of Round Top, Rites of Retaliation, Animal Histories of the Civil War Era, Benjamin Franklin Butler, Dreams of Victory: General P. G. T. Beauregard, Bonds of War, Early Struggles for Vicksburg, True Blue, Civil War Witnesses and Their Books, Love and Duty, When Hell Came To Sharpsburg, Lost Causes, Six Miles From Charleston, Five Minutes to Hell, "If We Are Striking for Pennsylvania", James Montgomery: Abolitionist Warrior, Cedar Mountain to Antietam, Lieutenant General James Longstreet, and Count the Dead.



Note: All Roads Led To Gettysburg is also available in e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: David Marshall   

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