Late last year, I heard rumors that my friend, J. David Petruzzi, was coming out with a new book. I was quite excited as I had read his previous books, “Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg,” co-authored with Eric J. Wittenberg and “One Continuous Fight: The Retreat From Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Norther Virginia, July 4–14, 1863,” co-authored by Eric Wittenberg, and Michael F. Nugent. Both of these books rank near the top of my “favorite Civil War books list,” and I highly recommend them. When I had learned that J.D.’s new book was a guide to the Battle of Gettysburg, part of me was less than enthused. With so many Gettysburg guides, I wondered what Petruzzi could offer, that was unique. J.D. was kind enough to send me the entire book electronically, so I could review it. After reading through the index, I quickly realized this book was sorely needed. “The Complete Gettysburg Guide” is the only guide on Gettysburg anyone will ever need. Not to disparage other Gettysburg guides, because there are other good ones, but none approach the level of this book. Let me explain my justifications.
First, “The Complete Gettysburg Guide” offers more detail on the actions that took place before, and during the battle, than has previously been offered. While not a complete narrative on the entire battle at Gettysburg, a novice to the battle will come away with a thorough understanding of the battle that would rival what they would learn by reading one of the better written books on Gettysburg. With that said, someone like myself, who has read dozens of books on the battle, and has walked Gettysburg many times, will also learn many new things. While you read the “Guide,” you will fully appreciate the many years that Petruzzi has spent studying the battle.
Second, the “Guide” has more maps than I have ever seen in any book, much less a battlefield guide – 72 by my count, including several period specific maps. The author enlisted professional cartographer Steven Stanley to produce the maps and the fantastic photography used throughout the book. Stanley, who many avid Civil War buffs know, through the use of his maps by the Civil War Preservation Trust, is undoubtedly today’s best cartographer. The maps alone make this book a terrific value. As I had mentioned to J.D., during our interview, every time that I wanted a map, to follow his text, it was either on the page I was reading, or the next page.
Third, Petruzzi uses many firsthand accounts of the actions on, and around, Gettysburg. This makes the book very enjoyable to read. Here is an example that I really enjoyed, “I would rather die on this spot than see those rascals gain one inch of ground.” US Brigadier General Stephen Weed’s last words.(i) Weed died seconds later.
Fourth, the “Guide” allows the Gettysburg visitor to locate many out-of-the-way markers and unique battlefield sites. I especially like the chapters on historic sites in village of Gettysburg, the Gettysburg National Cemetery, Evergreen Cemetery, Rock Carvings (actual carvings by battle participants) and the outlying field hospitals. These can take you off the “beaten path” and allow you to see, “…primary “documents” (that) reside on the battlefield itself…”(ii)
If you are planning a visit to Gettysburg, anytime in the future, you need to add this book to your collection. For those of you that have never been to Gettysburg, or for those seasoned Civil War enthusiasts, I encourage you to buy this book for the narrative, maps and pictures. It is a great stand alone narrative of the battle with new material that you will not find in any other full length books on the Battle of Gettysburg.
Enjoy reading this great book!
I had the pleasure of interviewing J. David Petruzzi, on Friday, May 29. The links below allow you to listen to the interview. There are eleven parts, so you can listen to all of them, or a few at a time, until you are done. J.D. gives some great insights on writing this book, and his experiences at Gettysburg National Battlefield Park. Let me know what you think about the interview, and “The Complete Gettysburg Guide,” by posting a comment on the article/interview. I am certain that J.D. will be monitoring the comments. If you leave a question for him, I am certain he will leave an answer for you.
Details about “The Complete Gettysburg Guide”
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Savas Beatie, LLC.
Date of First Edition: June 1, 2009
J. David Petruzzi Interview – 11 Parts
Total Time: 1 hour, 4 minutes, 27 seconds
Part 1: J. David Petruzzi Interview – Part 1
Contents: Welcome | About J. David Petruzzi | Growing interest in the Civil War | Why write a new Gettysburg guide? | Discussion of Petruzzi’s writing style
Part 2: J. David Petruzzi Interview – Part 2
Contents: The “most” Complete Gettysburg Guide | Petruzzi explains how he has learned about Gettysburg | Hidden treasures of the Day 1 tour | Prelude to the Wheat Field fighting – easy to miss areas on Day 2 | Helping readers understand the complicated parts of the battlefield
Part 3: J. David Petruzzi Interview – Part 3
Contents: Prelude to the Wheat Field (continued) | Can there be a complete Gettysburg guide? | Benefit of walking vs. driving
Part 4: J. David Petruzzi Interview – Part 4
Contents: Discussion on Steve Stanley’s maps | Steve Stanley’s contribution to the layout/design of The Complete Gettysburg Guide
Part 5: J. David Petruzzi Interview – Part 5
Contents: How long J.D. has been working on book | Discussion on the “Complete Guide’s” introduction
Part 6: J. David Petruzzi Interview – Part 6
Contents: Further discussion on the introduction | J.D.’s thoughts on writing magazine articles | Discussion on first hand accounts of battle | Publisher Ted Savas’ influence on the book
Part 7: J. David Petruzzi Interview – Part 7
Contents: The use of GPS coordinates in the “Complete Guide”
Part 8: J. David Petruzzi Interview – Part 8
Contents: Unique and little known sites at Gettysburg | Petruzzi’s methodology of research through listening | “Complete Guide” as a stepping stone to more complete knowledge of Gettysburg
Part 9: J. David Petruzzi Interview – Part 9
Contents: Coordinating text with the maps | Collaborating with Steve Stanley | Using the “Complete Guide” while visiting Gettysburg
Part 10: J. David Petruzzi Interview – Part 10
New areas to explore at Gettysburg | Students and schools using as a treasure hunt
Part 11: J. David Petruzzi Interview – Part 11
Upcoming projects and books | Thank you and wrap up
Other Titles by J. David Petruzzi
Hardcover: 456 pages
Publisher: Savas Beatie, LLC.
Date of First Edition: September 1, 2006
Hardcover: 576 pages
Publisher: Savas Beatie, LLC.
Date of First Edition: June 2008
(i) Petruzzi, J. David and Stanley, Steven, The Complete Gettysburg Guide, published by Savas Beatie, LLC. 2009, Pg. 85.
(ii) Petruzzi, J. David and Stanley, Steven, The Complete Gettysburg Guide, published by Savas Beatie, LLC. 2009, Pg. 242.