by James Hessler
New York. Savas Beatie, 2009. Pp. xii, 490.
Illus, maps, notes, biblio., index. $22.95. ISBN: 1932714847
A refreshing look at a complex and difficult subject, Dan Sickles and his actions on the second day at Gettysburg that brought the Army of the Potomac to the brink of defeat.
Sickles' actions have sparked surprising acrimony, with some hailing him as the true hero of the battle, and others condemning him as wholly unfit for command. Avoiding this partisanship, Hessler, a Licensed Battlefield Guide, gives us a detailed, very readable account of the disaster that overtook the Union Third Corps on July 2, 1863, how it came about, what effect it had on the campaign, and, perhaps most importantly, the postwar "battle" over the battle, as it was fought and refought by participants and partisans on both sides, who were often more than willing to bend the truth for their personal glory or political objectives Naturally, this requires an overview of Sickles' extraordinary and rather scandalous life, which is covered succinctly, but quite well, and includes what is essentially a tribute to the general's role in preserving Gettysburg, despite his otherwise unsavory life and career. Hessler concludees that Sickles not only acted contrary to orders, and failed to communication his actions to the army commander, but also falsified testimony about the matter.
An important book for anyone interested in the Civil War and, of course,