Sunday, April 15, 2012
Chancellorsville & Gettysburg: Review
Campaigns of the Civil War: Chancellorsville & Gettysburg by General Abner Doubleday
The author, a Union general at both Chancellorsville and the Battle of Gettysburg, was purported to be the inventor of baseball--this has been debunked by almost all sports historians--although Doubleday himself never made such a claim. The book was initially published about 20 years after the Civil War ended. Doubleday's convictions permeate the book. As a commanding office in both battles, his perspective is essentially that of a military professional, yet is strongly flavored by personal feeling. In revisiting these campaigns, he rekindles old political hostilities that had lain dormant for almost 20 years.
My take: The 20 years theme is kind of interesting. Doubleday wrote this account about 20 years after the war had ended. I've had this reprint edition for almost 20 years. Back in 1996 when my parents wanted a suggestion for a birthday present, I gave them this title (among other present options) and it wound up on my shelf. Life and other interests have gotten in the way and I just now have gotten around to reading it. And, let me tell you, a gripping story-teller Doubleday ain't. This is a very dry-as-dust blow-by-blow rattling off of every little military move of the two campaigns. "General So-and-So had a brigade (division...regiment...insert suitable military unit) of Umpity-Thousand men. It was decided to move them over the XYZ Gap to try and hold off the enemy--Rebel General Whosiwhatsit's brigade (division... regiment...you get the idea) of Hmm-Hmm Thousand men." The only time Doubleday gets passionate or injects any interesting bits into his narrative is when he is talking about how General So-and-So disobeyed this order or that OR when various generals disagreed with one another or jockeyed for position.
Give me Michael Shaara's account of Gettysburg in The Killer Angels any day. 2 stars--very informative, but better as a sleep aid than as a riveting tale of the Civil War.