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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Alternate Gettysburgs by various authors

It's a collection and like all collections...

...it suffers from the fact that it was written by a dozen different authors. Some are very good, most are decent. Two are awful.

The gimmick in this alternative history is, of course, 'What if the Battle of Gettysburg had turned out differently?' It is inspired by this Faulkner quote:

Confederate Major General
George Pickett (1825-1875)
'For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two o'clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it's all in the balance, it hasn't happened yet, it hasn't even begun yet, it not only hasn't begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armstead and Wilcox look grave yet it's going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn't need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble...'

Is it worth reading? If you're a Civil War buff and don't mind 'slumming' by reading an alternative history rather than a normal history book - yes it is worth your time. Personally, I don't think of it is as slumming - I think of it as nice little foray into what-may-have-been. However, alternative histories are often looked down on by more than a few serious readers of history.

I would recommend if you are not very familiar with the facts of the Civil War and general and the Battle of Gettysburg in particular that you read the Appendix (the last section) first - included are the 'Gettysburg Address', three good short histories of the war and the battle and one interesting essay (controversial, but also my favortite) that tells you why the Confederacy never could have won anyway, no matter the outcome of the battle.

I rate this collection 4 stars out of 5.

Reviewed September 19, 2005.

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