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4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  2,515 ratings  ·  122 reviews
A masterful, single-volume history of the Civil War's greatest campaign.

Drawing on original source material, from soldiers' letters to official military records of the war, Stephen W. Sears's Gettysburg is a remarkable and dramatic account of the legendary campaign. He takes particular care in his study of the battle's leaders and offers detailed analyses of their strateg
Paperback, 640 pages
Published November 3rd 2004 by Mariner Books (first published 2003)
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The Killer Angels by Michael ShaaraGettysburg by Stephen W. SearsStars in Their Courses by Shelby FooteGettysburg by Allen C. GuelzoGettysburg--The Second Day by Harry W. Pfanz
Battle of Gettysburg Books
2nd out of 67 books — 46 voters
The Killer Angels by Michael ShaaraGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellBattle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPhersonThe Civil War by Shelby FooteCold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Best Civil War Books
39th out of 567 books — 638 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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The sesquicentennial of the American Civil War fast approaches and I couldn’t be more excited. It promises to be a bonanza of books, movies, documentaries, and various other retrospectives, including the New York Times’ laudable and addicting Disunion blog. I can hardly contain myself, and have spent a bit of time preparing for the celebrations. Fireworks. Check. Flask of whiskey. Check. Stale crackers that I will substitute for hardtack. Check. Irritatingly pedagogic emails to be sent to my fri ...more
Sep 01, 2008 Karen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I was visiting Gettysburg the weekend I started reading this book and brought the book along as my textbook. I've read other books about Gettysburg, but I understand this is an especially good overview of the battle. During the weekend I was in Gettysburg, I got to see the monument that commemorates the first shot fired at Gettysburg. It's easy to miss because it's quite small and, until recently, was on private land. The Park Service recently purchased the house and property on which the monume ...more
Josh Liller
An excellent book about the most famous battle of the Civil War. Sears does a great job of covering every last bit of the battle in depth. He includes the lead up to the battle, with Lee's initial discussions with Jefferson Davis about invading Pennsylvania and the fallout from Chancellorsville in Hooker's army which eventually leads to Hooker's resignation (and replacement by Meade) when he is in the midst of chasing the Rebel army.

The book paints quite an interesting picture of the squabbling
I am going to Gettysburg this autumn and plan to read or re - read several of the most authoratative books of the battle. Sear's has written an excellent and gripping chronicle of the battle and the military and political context around it. His source material for the military intelligence and command decisions of Army of the Potomac is excellent. On the other hand , there is not any new insight or perspective on the reasons for the most controversial actions of Lee's army. Lots of speculation a ...more
Every time I visit Gettysburg (when I lived in MD it was usually once a year to play guide to visitors) I will re-read this book. The book makes the battle come alive in ways that just the facts and photos can't. Stephen Sears humanizes what to most is just historical facts learned in school.

If you are unable to visit Gettysburg, you can with this book, the details and descriptions are that good. If you can visit Gettysburg, reading this book will enhance the visit. You feel the sick sense of d
The title of this book is a bit deceiving. There is much more to this work than just the battle itself. Sears sets up the scenario by revealing how the different pieces for this accidental battle fell into place. It begins with Lee and Davis planning their invasion of the North with the parallel account of the political bickering in the Union Army which resulted in General Meade becoming the reluctant Commander of the Army of the Potomac.

The Gettysburg Campaign begins June 3 in Culpeper VA as L
This is an outstanding compilation on the Gettysburg campaign. I have read the Landscape Turned Red, Chancellorsville, and now Gettysburg. I enjoyed every page of every book. This book explains Lee’s reason for the invasion of Pennsylvania…. first the Army of Northern Virginia needed food and supplies for their men and forage for their horses and secondly the South needed a victory to offset the pending loss of Vicksburg. Lee believed reinforcing Vicksburg would do nothing more than dilute the o ...more
Oct 03, 2007 Christian rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Gettysburg buffs ... but then again, if you are one shouldn't you have read this already?
The word 'meticulous' was invented for this book. The sheer detail is amazing, and it has a positive and a negative effect.

First the negatives: at some points it reads like a college textbook, especially in the opening few chapters when it is listing the various corps and their commanders. You can not easily breeze-read this book (unless you don't sweat comprehension). There's also the problem with keeping track of the seemingly thousands of regiments and divisions and their leaders that are det
If you are fascinated by civil war history and enjoy a well researched history book than you should give Stephen Sears a try. I read this book last year in expectation of a trip to the Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania. It was a slow read for me but one well worth the time. I found myself re-reading sections of the book as I traversed the town and battlfield upon finishing the book. A fantastic piece of historical documentation. The best thing about Sear's books are the variety of sources h ...more
This is probably the most comprehensive and indepth study of what's arguably the most famous battle of the Civil War, and possibly of American history. It covers more than just the events of those three fateful days; it delves briefly into the events of the war so far that led up to the battle, the personalities of the generals and their subordinates, and attempts to explain the rationalizations for the decisions (both good and bad) that ultimately helped decide the victor. In particular, I love ...more
Faulted Sears's Chancellorsville for spending too much time locating every bullet that was ever fired. Then my National park ranger and old room mate took me on a trip through Fredricksburg, Marys Heights, and on to Chancellorship where he forced marched us along Stonewall Jackson's flanking maneuver. Made me appreciate Sear's detail.

His Gettysburg is even better. Here he not only locates the bullets but the soldiers that fired them and all but climbs into the minds of the field general's who f
Once I began this I was unable to do much else except read it to the end. A good battle story should cover both the top-level political and strategic context and decisions as well as the view of the soldiers on the ground, bringing out both the exhaustion, horror and heroism. Sears does all of this well and in detail. General Lee, brilliant in earlier victories, is portrayed as out of action here. General Meade, later criticized for not pursuing the confederates afterward, comes across well as i ...more
One of, if not the, most amazing volume of history I've ever read. He not only dives into the details of each day's battle, but he goes to great lengths to examine the events the lead up to and essentially set up the battle of Gettysburg. He lends a very fair and intellectual curious eye and writes with the power and suspense of fiction.
A truly great work on the battle. Does a very good job of covering the transition from Hooker to Meade and addresses the many questions regarding Lee and his subordinates during the battle.
I would recommend this work to anyone interested in the battle. Detailed, even-handed without being non-judgmental just a great work.
Mark R
This is by far the best history of the battle of Gettysburg that I've ever read (and I've read too many). I would, however, recommend that you have a basic knowledge of the military jargon of the time, specifically dealing with the organization of the respective armies.

Highly Recommended.
Monte Lamb
This is an outstanding book on the battle. It has enough detail for the serious student of the battle yet the story doesn't bog down with too much detail. The writing is clear and all facets of the fighting are covered.
Reading this in honor of the 150th anniversary next week. I have read THE KILLER ANGELS, this being my second Gettysburg book but I hear this is one of the best so I'm looking forward to this one!
Brilliant, should be read after the "The Killer Angels." This book replaces the emotion of the latter with the factual details of the overall execution of these horrific days.
May be the best of the many Gettysburg books. The author captures the human experience as well as explaining the military tatics.
Stephen Sears provides an excellent one volume work on the battle of Gettysburg. Like many of Sears’ books he does an excellent job of staying in between north and south perspectives and acknowledging the views of both sides going beyond the old adage that history is written by the victor. The faults of southern command structure against the timidity of the north are well drawn out and while no excuses are made for either side the reader gets a great sense of the battle. In addition to telling t ...more
Stephen Sears' GETTYSBURG is an enthralling narrative about what arguably are the most precarious three days in American history.

What stands out about Sears' work is his focus on Union Gen. George Meade's robust, engaged, and tactically sound generalship (frequently overlooked in other Civil War books)--in stark contrast to the rigid, static, and downright arrog,ant planning by overrated Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Consistently Lee refused to change his battle plans based on changes in circu
Bob Aarhus
By all measures, this is the best book on the Gettysburg Campaign that I have read so far (although Shelby Foote's "Stars in Their Courses" is still on my to-do list). Even if Sears' work were to lose that distinction, it would not dampen my enthusiasm for this work.

Sears' writing style is approachable and enjoyable. It is clear his work is well-researched, yet it does not read like a dry historical tome. Sears does have his own set of opinions which he quietly weaves into his narrative. After
Having read various portions of this book over the years, I decided now was the time to sit down and read it all. Sears has a way of being very detailed at times and very brief at other times. The book as a whole reads as a narration... with the occasional primary source quote thrown in. It is much easier to read and understand the battle from an episodic perspective than Trudeau's book "A Testing of Courage", which was chronological... and thus jumped all over the battlefield from paragraph to ...more
Shellys♥ Journal
A wonderful and detailed narrative that keeps the reader moving on. Yes, we all know and live the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg. Sears gives us the big picture view starting after the death of Stonewall Jackson. Robert E. Lee comes up with a plan to invade the North. He sells his plan and then begins his move. Meanwhile, Washington is having a stand off with it's own general Joseph Hooker and as this conflict escalates, George G. Meade finds himself as the leader of the Army of the Potomac ...more
Jenny Karraker

I really enjoyed this book, especially after having attended a conference in Gettysburg and touring the battlefield. The details were informative, the maps very helpful. I especially liked the closing chapter in which the author summarized what he thought were some major reasons for victory and defeat, missed opportunities on both sides, the consequences for both sides having lost so many to death and casualties, and the impact on the war (or seeming lack of impact) and the town. Having grown u
Donna Davis
This is the most thorough and brilliant account of the Battle of Gettysburg (all three days, plus the approach and the departure) I have ever read.

I have to laugh at the reviews that claim there is too much detail here. Hey, folks, look at the title, and look at the number of pages. If you aren't ready to have the complete, detailed account, you should know before you buy it or check it out from your library that this isn't for you.

I used to teach about the American Civil War, and it continues
John Osman
It was a timely to finish this book on July 1st - the first day of Gettysburg. A previous Google search - before I joined goodreads - provided reviews of Antietam Civil War books and resulted in recommending Stephen Sears. So after reading Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam, which is another excellent Civil War book, I turned my attention to Gettysburg.

It helped me greatly to visit the battlefield and obtain an overview of the battles of Gettysburg before embarking on this book.

I wish I could give half stars here. I found this to be a very moving account about Lee's second invasion North. My only gripe (a very small one) is that Mr. Sears declares in the introduction that the person at fault for the Confederate loss at Gettysburg is General Lee and General Lee alone. By the end of this, it felt like the entire leadership of the Confederacy (excluding General Longstreet), was at fault. A leadership that has been given so much praise throughout the years seems to be tota ...more
I am becoming enthralled with Gettysburg and its history. America's bloodiest/deadliest battle. Amazing tales of leadership are found within the events of the three days. Sad that our Country had to fight brother against brother, but I am happy the history has been well preserved. This book is the most complete to my knowledge.
tracy berkman
Excellent Read

As a frequent visitor to this battlefield I can say that the author puts you in the thick of it. The personalities of the generals severely impact both the strategies and execution of the battle plans. All history and civil war buffs will applaud this book! EB
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  • Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage
  • The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command
  • Gettysburg--The Second Day
  • The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7--12, 1864
  • Vicksburg, 1863
  • The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War
  • Mr. Lincoln's Army
  • This Terrible Sound: The Battle of Chickamauga
  • Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg
  • Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War
  • General James Longstreet: The Confederacy's Most Controversial Soldier
  • Gettysburg: The Last Invasion
  • Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor
  • General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse
  • Lee
  • Hardtack and Coffee or, The Unwritten Story of Army Life
Stephen Ward Sears is an American historian specializing in the American Civil War.

A graduate of Lakewood High School and Oberlin College, Sears attended a journalism seminar at Radcliffe-Harvard. As an author he has concentrated on the military history of the American Civil War, primarily the battles and leaders of the Army of the Potomac. He was employed as editor of the Educational Department a
More about Stephen W. Sears...
Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam Chancellorsville To the Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign George B. McClellan: The Young Napoleon The Civil War: The Second Year Told By Those Who Lived It

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