Friday, December 19, 2008

"Complete Gettysburg Guide" information on tours

I've gotten a couple emails from folks recently, asking similar questions about what the battlefield tours in The Complete Gettysburg Guide, the upcoming (May 2009) book by myself and Steve Stanley, are like. Specifically, folks want to know what kind of detail are in them and what they can expect.

I'll take the tour of July 2/3 for example. This tour, which begins at West Confederate Avenue at the intersection with the Fairfield Road, proceeds to South Cavalry Field, the Round Tops, Devil's Den, Brooke Avenue, the Wheatfield, the High Water Mark, Culp's Hill, then finishes at East Cemetery Hill (with all stops in between). The tour, by its very nature and coverage of the ground, covers actions on both July 2 and 3. The only way to divide the days would be to take the visitor completely around the battlefield twice (and that's not really feasible!). Specifically, to take one tour stop example:

When the tour takes the visitor to the Virginia State Memorial on West Confederate Avenue, several logistical discussions take place, as they do for all of the other stops - what the terrain was like in July 1863, the fence lines, structures, tree lines, and even crops. Where all of the units of both armies were located at certain points during the days is pointed out. Basically, I want the visitor to be able to visualize what they would see if they were standing on a particular spot during the battle. At this particular spot, Gen. Ambrose Wright's assault on the Union center is discussed, and in context with all the other actions of Longstreet's July 2 assault on that part of the field.

Then the tour discusses Pickett's Charge and the perspective of it from that spot. So, at each spot, the visitor gets a full narrative of the actions taking place on the two days. Same for the High Water Mark on Hancock Avenue - when the visitor goes to that opposite-field perspective, Longstreet's assault of July 2 is discussed and then the Federal perspective of Pickett's Charge.

Along the way of each tour (whether it's July 1, 2 or 3) there are discussions of the most important or noteworthy monuments, troop movements, perspectives of the field, etc. And I have included many, many obscure spots to visit - such as a walk through the woods to Willoughby's Run behind the monument of the 7th Wisconsin, so see the Iron Brigade's fight with Archer's Brigade there on July 1. And at South Cavalry Field, I take you down the Emmitsburg Road to the Park property south of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry's monument to discuss Gen. Wesley Merritt's skirmish on the Confederate right on July 3. The tour of Farnsworth's Charge of July 3 takes the visitor up to the top of Bushman's Hill and then down to the D-shaped field and the Slyder Farm.

In our "Prelude to the Wheatfield" narrative for July 2, the visitor drives the length of Cross, Brooke, then Sickles Avenues near the George Rose farm to discuss the fighting there with Anderson's, Semmes', and Kershaw's brigades (many battlefield visitors have never or rarely even driven this avenue).

Other interesting elements are discussed along the way, such as the locations of gravesites on the field. For instance, when you drive along Stone and Meredith Avenue on the first day's field, then come to the intersection with South Reynolds Avenue, your car sits on what was a massive trench grave site of Federals killed on July 1. Many of these are pointed out.

The book contains the first published tour of the June 26 skirmish, including a visit to, and narrative of, the skirmish at Bayly's Hill (the Witmer Farm). As I've previously posted, the tour of the Battle of Fairfield is a first, and there are full tours of Hunterstown, East Cavalry Field, the historical town of Gettysburg, field hospital sites (that one really takes you on the back roads!), the National Cemetery and Evergreen Cemetery, and even all known rock carvings on the field.

All in all, both novices and "experts" will find much, we believe, to learn from the book. Steve has laid out and designed the book, and the appearance of the book (which is completely in full color) is eye-popping. Over seventy of his full-color maps appear in the book. Later on, if we are permitted by our publisher Ted Savas, I may be able to post an image of one of the pages here so folks can see it and get an idea of the look of the book.

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