My copy of Allen Guelzo’s new book, Gettysburg: The Last Invasion will arrive later this afternoon. I will likely dive right in. I’ve read all of Guelzo’s books and have learned a great deal. Yesterday the Civil War Monitor published a review of the book by Will Greene. At first I stayed away not wanting my reading to be influenced, but in the end my curiosity got the best of me. Greene highly recommends the book, which is a very good sign.
In his review, Greene cites a reference by Guelzo to the likely reception of his book among his fellow academics.
Guelzo, the Henry C. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, belongs to that class of academic historians who, Guelzo accurately notes, consider studies that deal with battles as possessing “a reputation close to pornography” (xvi). His Acknowledgments serve primarily as fair warning to his scholarly colleagues that they are unlikely to approve of this book because it dares to commit almost purely military history.
I think such a concern is misplaced unless Guelzo is referring to the academic world beyond his colleagues in Civil War/Southern studies. My guess is that many, if not most, of his academic colleagues are going to devour this book even if they don’t admit so in polite company. And those who don’t will certainly not hold it against him.
The question that I find much more interesting is whether the hardcore Gettysburg buffs will accept Guelzo. Will the battlefield guides at Gettysburg take it seriously or will they brush it off in favor of the non-academic classics by Coddington, Sears, and Trudeau? What about that small group of writers, who focus on specific moments (even hours) during the Gettysburg campaign? What will they say, along with the relatively small group of readers, who can never get enough Gettysburg minutiae? Will they accept this academic upstart into the Gettysburg community?
Book sales on Amazon topped 400 even before it hit the shelves on Tuesday. It will be widely read by folks who have never read a book about Gettysburg or perhaps the Civil War. Who knows, we might even see Guelzo again on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in July. Enjoy the ride, Allen.