Saturday, September 5, 2009

"Complete Gettysburg Guide" audio companion update

A wonderful review of the book appears in the November 2009 issue of America's Civil War magazine, in subscriber's hands and on newsstands now. I repeat it here, but also importantly for the last paragraph of Robin Friedman's review:

Casual visitors to Gettysburg usually do just fine following the National Park Service's auto tour map to get their fill of the historic battlefield. But if you really want to explore the sites and events surrounding the epic three-day battle, this comprehensive new guide by Civil War historian J. David Petruzzi and accomplished cartographer/photographer Steven Stanley is a welcome and
invaluable resource.

The guide's subtitle - Walking and Driving Tours of the Battlefield, Town, Cemeteries and Other Topics of Historical Interest - tells you all you need about the authors' goal here. Petruzzi and Stanley have developed 11 separate tours of the battle in stunning, colorful detail. The first is a tour of the June 26 Marsh Creek skirmish between Confederate cavalry and Pennsylvania militia and the final two examine the battlefield's beautiful rock carvings and its outlying field hospital sites.

Published on high quality, glossy paper, the 320-page hardcover book is both durable and easy to hold as you follow the tours. Directions for each tour's sites are provided in meticulous detail, and Stanley's maps and photographs are first-rate.

Petruzzi opens the guide with an extensive overview of the Gettysburg Campaign and then the Marsh Creek skirmish tour. The first day of the main battle often gets bypassed in favor of the fighting on July 2 and 3, but the authors want to make clear that what happened on July 1 is critical to comprehending the battle as a whole. Petruzzi and Stanley provide 12 specific stops on this tour, including the often-overlooked memorial three miles west of town marking the conflict's opening shots.

The tour for the July 2-3 fighting comes in a single chapter, with the action arranged by location rather than chronologically. This approach allows the reader to see the interrelationships between the fighting on those days. Thus, the tour begins with the Confederate position on Seminary ridge and covers the Southern penetration of the Union center late on July 2, almost at the same point it attained briefly during Pickett's Charge.

Other tours cover the little-known but significant fighting at Brinkerhoff's Ridge on July 2, as well as the July 3 battle between J.E.B. Stuart and David Gregg at East Cavalry Field. Separate tours cover the obscure July 2 cavalry clash at Hunterstown and the July 3 engagement at Fairfield, a loss for the Union mounted arm.

The authors give the Evergreen and Soldiers' National cemeteries deserved attention but should have looked further at the African-American presence during the battle. The town's small Lincoln Cemetery, a historic burial ground for African Americans, offers
eloquent testimony to the Civil War and is worth a visit.

Thank you, Robin, for such a great review of the book. As to your final point, I had actually considered trying to work in a tour of the Lincoln Cemetery (one I have visited many, many times and as recently as this past July), along with visits to Cashtown and the pass, Black's Cemetery, the battle at Hanover, etc. However, space was the consideration. If you look carefully at the book, you'll see that our publisher Ted Savas at Savas-Beatie chose the much higher quality (and expensive) sewn binding of the heavy, gloss paper - rather than the common glued binding. Note that many sections of dozens of pages, each sewn together and then bound together to produce the book, make up the whole. Logistically, with this type of production, you can't just add, say, 3 or 4 more pages. You'd have to add dozens. That's why we had to make the decision to include what we did. Another sewn section in the book would have added perhaps $5 or $10 more to the price... knocking out a huge segment of the buying public. The book retails for only $39.95 ( less than many black-and-white hardcovers today) and less than $30 on online sellers like Amazon. A bigger book would retail closer to $50, and no one would buy it.

When we began the book, we were given the 320-page limit by Ted (all with an eye toward desired production costs of the book driving the affordable retail price), meaning that once all the text, maps, and photos were produced and chosen, Steve had to lay it all out to see how it would fit. Also, notice that the opening of each tour chapter features a photograph that "bleeds" over a facing two-page spread, which is how we wanted each chapter to begin. This, then, is another factor that dictates how, and on what page, each preceding chapter must end - further dictating the page count of each tour chapter. Obviously, we knew how many of Steve's maps had to be in the book - we were not going to short-change those, period. Depending on their size, they all take up a certain amount of space. Of course, you also have to calculate in the front and back matter, bibliography, and index. (Now do you see why Steve, in the Introduction, tells what a long, tedious process it was to design the book? :) We had originally chosen to include a tour of Hanover, but it just wouldn't fit. At the end, we also had to remove several photos that Steve had planned, and wanted, to include, but it was either remove them or remove text. It was a long process of choosing what could be included (based on necessity and desire) and what had to go.

In the end, then, the desire to include "one more tour" of, for example, the Lincoln Cemetery, or Cashtown, or whatever, would have driven us to add an entire section of many more pages, driving up the price of the book and making it much less affordable to a wide variety of folks. So it was a question of adding all those 4 or 5 other tours - or none of them. Not one or two. This type of question has come up since the book's release ("Why not add this, it would have taken only a couple pages....?") and folks understand the logistics of book production when I explain this to them.

However, it allows us to... include these sites in the audio tour! The audio tour will compliment (not replace) the book. So there will be tours, sites, and events in the audio tour not in the book, and vice versa. The audio tour will not be a simple reading of the book text, and in fact the two will be quite different, giving the visitor a much fuller, broader experience when they have both (a must!). Steve and I have many, many different sites and events planned for inclusion in the audio tour, and if anyone has any suggestions please do let me know - we'd be interested and grateful for all ideas.

So that's the answer to why this or that didn't make the book - but is very likely to be in the audio companion. Stay tuned.


  1. JD-
    I received my copy yesterday, and I must agree with you on the terriffic production values of the book. It is a joy to hold and browse through. Can't wait to dig in.

  2. Great, thank you! Be sure to let me know what you think, and if you can post a review on Amazon it would be very much appreciated.