Gettysburg: The Last Invasion (Vintage Civil War Library) – Allen C Guelzo

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I read a lot of military history including accounts of campaigns and battles – but Allen C Guelzo’s “Gettysburg: The Last Invasion” is possibly the best single battle study I have read.

The first quarter of the book provides an excellent description of the men and the armies involved and then the manoeuvring, and the logic behind those manoeuvres, that takes place in June 1863. The battle and the account is split over the three days in July commencing with the Hill & Ewell assaults to the north-east of the town on 1st July; then Longstreet’s attack along the Emmitsburg Road towards Cemetery Ridge on the 2nd and concludes with the spectacle of Pickett’s Charge on Friday, 3rd July.

The strength of this book is that it goes from analysing the thought processes of the commanders through to the individual experiences of the men on the ground. By taking this approach, Guelzo provides strategic analysis, with numerous maps, and comment while also placing the reader in the heat of the action through use of personal accounts. The political landscape that surrounds the action is also covered providing context from Washington and Richmond.

Guelzo holds strong opinions of the combatants and is not afraid to express them, which has gone down less well with readers entrenched in one or the other camps. Lee‘s over-confidence in his own forces combined with inexperienced corps commanders under him lead to the view that “Lee lost a battle he should have won” through a premature engagement that lacked concentration of his forces, poor co-ordination of the forces available and a failure to understand how tenaciously the Army of the Potomac would hold their ground. Meade, appointed to command only three days previously, comes out of the encounter only marginally better – his subordinates act “as though he didn’t exist” seeing him as an equal – with his performance being seen by Guelzo as “entirely reactive”. Guelzo’s conclusion on the two commanders is that “Robert E Lee lost the battle of Gettysburg much more than George Meade won it.”

By the 4th July as the Confederate troops slowly retire south – and Vicksburg falls – Guelzo concludes that Gettysburg while “less than decisive in strictly military terms, it was decisive enough to restore the sinking morale of the Union”, that “the Confederacy would never be able to mount a serious invasion again” and that “the momentum of the war would from now on belong solely to the Union”. He ends with the observation that “after Gettysburg, the sun never shone for the South again.”

Dr. Allen C. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era, and Director of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College. He is the author of “Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President”, which won the Lincoln Prize for 2000, “Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America”, which won the Lincoln Prize for 2005, and “Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates That Defined America”, which won the Abraham Lincoln Institute Prize for 2008.

Very highly recommended.

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Colonel (Retired) T L May CBE DL lately Chairman of the Oxfordshire Yeomanry Trust and Director of Soldiers of Oxfordshire.

Very sad news today about the passing of Colonel Tim May on Thursday 10th December 2015.  Apart from his immense role in promoting the Oxford Yeomanry and the establishment of the superb museum now open in Woodstock – his role in Winston Churchill’s state funeral has gone down in history.

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I covered this incident in my Masters Dissertation on the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars as follows:

The final act that illustrates Churchill’s continuing connection with the QOOH, came with his plans for his own funeral. The stipulation that the QOOH was not only to be included in the procession but to be the fifth military detachment, a position that placed the detachment ahead of the Guards regiments.[1] This provoked a Guards officer to suggest to Major Timothy May, QOOH commander on the day, that the QOOH were “incorrectly” arranged to which May responded “In the Oxfordshire Yeomanry we always do state funerals this way”.[2]

[1] Operation Hope Not, TNA, DEFE 25/38.

[2] Jenkins, Winston Churchill, Oxfordshire Hussar, p.61.

Churchill funeral for Katie

Requiescat in pace.

Captain the Hon. Arthur Edward Bruce O’Neill (1876-1914)

Does anyone know the source for this photograph of Arthur O’Neill or has access to a better copy than this?  This was copied off the excellent “The History of Parliament” blog which noted O’Neill as the first Member of Parliament to lose his life in active service during the Great War.  All suggestions gratefully received!

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Daily Telegraph – Monday, 3rd August 1914

One hundred years ago, it was a bank holiday Monday – but the clouds were gathering.

“Germany has drawn the sword. On Saturday night, she formally declared war on Russia.”

“Germany has deliberately commenced war with France without a formal declaration.”

“The Germans have seized the roads and railways of Luxembourg.”

“German troops in Switzerland.”

Our response – “Cheering crowds at Buckingham Palace.”

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In memoriam – Dr Bob Bushaway

Photo was taken on January 21, 2006  by Katie Fleming (auril2008 on Flickr)

Photo was taken on January 21, 2006 by Katie Fleming (auril2008 on Flickr)

1915 – The making of a World War: Dr Bob Bushaway. Recorded at the WFA’s President’s Conference 2012: A World at War 1914 – 1918: A Centenary Preview held in Birmingham, UK on 3 November 2012.

(c) Western Front Association

Biography from the Centre for War Studies website where Bob was an Honorary Research Fellow:

Bob Bushaway is best known for his work on popular culture. He is the author of By Rite: Custom, Ceremony and Community in England 1700-1880 (London: Junction Books, 1982), but has long been fascinated by the Great War, both its cultural and military history.

His article ‘Name Upon Name: The Great War and Remembrance’, in Roy Porter (ed), Myths of the English (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992) made a major contribution to the emerging scholarship on the construction of memory. He developed some of these ideas in ‘The Obligation of Remembrance or the Remembrance of Obligation: Society and the Memory of World War’, in John Bourne, Peter Liddle and Ian Whitehead (eds), The Great World War 1914-45 (Volume 2, London: HarperCollins, 2001), pp. 491-507. He has also contributed to the Oxford Companion to Military History ed. Richard Holmes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

In addition to “By Rite”, Bob also edited along with John Bourne – “Joffrey’s War: A Sherwood Forester in the Great War”, Salient Books (31 Mar 2012).