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Beyond the Book

496 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 54 photos, 16 maps, appends., notes, bibl., index

Civil War America

ISBN  978-0-8078-7131-7
Published: March 2010

Gettysburg--The First Day

By Harry W. Pfanz

Awards & Distinctions

A Washington Post Book World Nonfiction Rave, December 2001

For good reason, the second and third days of the Battle of Gettysburg have received the lion's share of attention from historians. With this book, however, the critical first day's fighting finally receives its due. After sketching the background of the Gettysburg campaign and recounting the events immediately preceding the battle, Harry Pfanz offers a detailed tactical description of events of the first day. He describes the engagements in McPherson Woods, at the Railroad Cuts, on Oak Ridge, on Seminary Ridge, and at Blocher's Knoll, as well as the retreat of Union forces through Gettysburg and the Federal rally on Cemetery Hill. Throughout, he draws on deep research in published and archival sources to challenge many long-held assumptions about the battle.

About the Author

Harry W. Pfanz (1921-2015) is author of Gettysburg--The Second Day and Gettysburg--Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill. He served for ten years as a historian at Gettysburg National Military Park and retired from the position of Chief Historian of the National Park Service in 1981.


"An exhaustive and intimate description of the tactical events of day one."
--Washington Post Book World

"A fast-moving narrative liberally sprinkled with anecdotes and fascinating details. . . . Extremely well researched. . . . Highly recommended."
--Civil War News

"Pfanz is superbly qualified to guide us through Gettysburg--The First Day. In this long-awaited book, Pfanz. . . has produced a fitting companion to his earlier work, Gettysburg-The Second Day. . . . [This book] is a careful reconstruction of events, based on extensive research in official reports, contemporary accounts, and soldiers' memoirs. . . . The result is certainly a success."
--Civil War Book Review

"Pfanz . . . has new things to say about the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, the least studied of the pivotal three-day Civil War battle. . . . His riveting narrative of battlefield emotions and dynamics is richly detailed on various levels, from individual enlisted men to the officers of brigades, regiments, and armies. Pfanz even looks at Gettysburg's residents. . . . Recommended for academic and public libraries with in-depth collections on Civil War battles."
--Library Journal

"An intricately detailed narrative of the opening act of the battle, revealed through the artful weaving of countless first-person accounts left by participants. Pfanz draws upon a wealth of original sources to allow the officers and soldiers on the field to tell the story of an extremely confused fight."
--North Carolina Historical Review

"Pfanz writes with a uniquely exuberant style, always selecting appropriate anecdotes that demonstrate a complete mastery of the battle's primary source materials. He has crafted a well-organized and thoroughly researched account. . . . A welcome addition to the library of any Civil War scholar or buff."
--Georgia Historical Quarterly

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