Thursday, April 05, 2012

Alternative History - I'm Reading Gingrich?

Normally, I don't read much fiction, but when I ordered a book on the other day that they said it might ship sometime in May, I took a closer look at versions. The kindle version I could get right away, and also the free PC kindle software. Downloaded the kindle app, and was reading the book a few minutes later. I'm now a kindle fan and will buy one.

So I started browsing kindle books, and happened on Newt Gingrich, William Fortschen, and Albert Hanser's "Gettysburg - A Novel of the Civil War". This is an alternative history of the battle of Gettysburg that happened on the first three days of July 1863.
I said what the hell, let's see what this is all about, and downloaded the kindle version.

I love this whole kindle experience, by the way. Books are cheaper, they download in no time at all, and the reading experience is fine.

Bobbie Lee. Just as Lee only
called one of his generals by their
first name, only one person on earth
is allowed to call me Bobbie.

So, as background, what happened at the real battle of Gettysburg, as succinctly as I can put it, was a meeting engagement on July 1 north and west of town, that ended with the routed Union army spending the evening rallying and entrenching on Cemetery Hill and Culps Hill just south of town. They eventually extended their line further south, where it was to be anchored on the roundtops. On July 2, Longstreet's corps executed an en echelon attack against the now fully extended Union left, crushing Sickles idiotically deployed third corps, with Hancock and Meade (and McGilvery, for that matter) barely saving the day after Sickles nearly singlehandedly lost the Civil War by mis-deploying his corps. Longstreet got a brigade up onto the Union position on Cemetery Ridge, which had to withdraw, being unsupported, but proving that the Union line could be breeched. The third day brings the infamous Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble assault, better known as "Picketts Charge".

Gingrich's book recounts the first day pretty much as it happened, but then it diverges dramatically from the actual events, and it works well. We know that on the second day of the real battle, Longstreet argued for a flanking movement around the Union left, to get in their rear, and also cut their lines of communication with their supply base at the railhead in Westminster, Maryland. Lee vetoed this.

In this book, Lee agrees with Longstreet's concept, and maneuvers his army south, flanking Meade, capturing the Union supply depot at Westminster, and establishing a strong defensive position along Pipe Creek, where Meade had originally planned and hoped to fight his own defensive battle. A nice irony, one of many in this book.