This is the best review I have seen of Allen Guelzo's Gettysburg: The Last Invasion to date. It made me want to order a copy of the book and read it. I liked Jim Cullen's review for two reasons.
First, Cullen is the first reviewer to reflect on Guelzo's work as a military historian. As some of you know, Guelzo made his bones as an intellectual and religious historian before he turned toward writing trade books about the Civil War.
Second, Cullen defends Guelzo's literary style in light of David Blight's recent criticism in The New York Times.
Here is a taste of Cullen's review:
the goods you expect with a book like this: an overview that sets the
stage, a blow-by-blow account of the fighting, thumbnail sketches of the
principals, counterfactual assessments of the might-have-beens.
We get lots of active verbs: regiments and brigades don't simply
attack; they "lunge," "bang"or "slap" each other. In his recent review
of the book in the New York Times, David Blight criticized Guelzo for this, invoking the great John Keegan's complaint about a “'Zap-Blatt-Banzai-Gott im Himmel-Bayonet in the Guts' style of military history." I take the point. But overall I have to say that Guelzo's approach animates his narrative without really trivializing his subject. Indeed, Guelzo
uses numbers to suggest the gravity of the three-day battle, noting
that in the most conservative estimate, the damage the Army of Northern
Virginia was the equivalent of two sinkings of the Titanic,
ten repetitions of the Great Blizzard of 1888 and two Pearl Harbors --
and two and a half times the losses taken by Allied armies in Normandy
from D-Day through August of 1944. Union losses were comparable.