GETTYSBURG, which is subtitled “A Meditation on War and Values,” is a work of a modern writer who regularly visits the battlefield, contrasting the values of the Civil War era with those of today. Gramm’s historically accurate account of the battle provides a premise for his meditations, which are provocative and profound.
The conflict at Gettysburg, fought on the first three days of July, 1863, was certainly the greatest battle fought in the United States, with its casualties never since equaled, except by the Vietnam War. Yet such carnage is fading fast from the American memory.
GETTYSBURG is a brilliant attempt to understand the passions and values of the Civil War and how totally foreign they have become to modern generations. There was indeed a time when hundreds of thousands of Americans were ready to die for the ideals of union and states rights, not to mention slavery. “Where are the solid, humble brave of today?” Gramm asks. “Where are the honest, patient and true? Watching television.”
Gramm sees Gettysburg as more than a pivotal point in the Civil War. He sees it as the funeral pyre of a dead America. It is a springboard for his reflections on an emerging industrial society that has since poisoned the earth. He also muses on the bare-faced lies fed to the American people by their own government during the Persian Gulf War.
The author takes the reader with him in his walk across the open field that was the scene of “Pickett’s Charge.” Moving at the same leisurely speed as the attackers requires perhaps fifteen minutes. At the conclusion of the march, most Confederate troops who had not been killed by the point-blank firing of canisters from cannons or lead bullets from muskets let out the Rebel Yell and actually overran one of the Yankee cannons. Yet the Union’s superiority of manpower and weaponry ultimately snuffed out what has since been called “the high tide of the Confederacy.”
This book is a rare treat for the casual reader, the historian, and the Civil War hobbyists.