Review of So You Think You Know Gettysburg?

Gindlesperger, James and Suzanne. So You Think You Know Gettysburg?:  The Stories Behind the Monuments and the Men Who Fought One of America’s Most Epic Battles. Winston-Salem, NC:  John F. Blair Publisher, 2010.

This book is an interesting take at the park where the bloodiest battle on American soil occurred. While other books focus on the tactics, men, and other aspects of the real battle, James and Suzanne Gindlesperger chose to look at the history of the many monuments that dot the battlefield park. It represents the growing influence of both history and memory and public history.

The title is quite proper, as while most may think they know everything about the battlefield, there are many places and monuments included in this book that readers may not be aware of. The coverage of the work goes beyond the park area and includes several sites and locations in and around the town of Gettysburg. Each chapter is devoted to a specific section and area of the Gettysburg, which allows readers visiting the park to use each chapter as a guide to areas including Culp’s Hill, Little Round Top, Gettysburg, etc.

Three key things stand out that make this book great. First is the wonderful use of maps. The authors included an overview map of all areas covered, then incorporated into each chapter a map of the area covered, with locations of each monument or spot numbered on that map. Second is the abundance of photographs, one of each spot. This allows those visiting the park to know which monument they are looking at, and, allows readers unable to visit Gettysburg to view one of the more striking features of the region. Finally, the descriptions are quite detailed, incorporating latitude and longitude coordinates, which is good for users of GPS touring the park, as well as providing brief, but detailed descriptions of the site or monument and the people that motivated the particular item covered. The only thing that would have been great to include was a suggested reading section, as well, as a notes section to give background to where information on locations featured was found. Though a minor issue, it does not really detract from the overall value of this work.

The authors, though not trained historians, according to the description, do have great credentials for writing this book. They live in Pennsylvania and are members of the Friends of Gettysburg Foundation, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Civil War Preservation Trust. Though not an academic book, this is a must have for anyone interested in public history, history and memory, or Gettysburg in general. If visiting Gettysburg in the near future, pick up a copy of So You Think You Know Gettysburg? and see how it changes your visit.