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Barksdale’s Charge describes the exact moment when the Confederacy reached its zenith, and the soldiers of the Northern states just barely succeeded in retaining their perfect Union.
On the third day of Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee launched a magnificent attack. For pure pageantry it was unsurpassed, and it also marked the centerpiece of the war, both time-wise and in terms of how the conflict had turned a corner—from persistent Confederate hopes to impending Rebel despair. But Pickett’s Charge was crushed by the Union defenders that day, having never had a chance in the first place.
The Confederacy’s real “high tide” at Gettysburg had come the afternoon before, during the swirling conflagration when Longstreet’s corps first entered the battle, when the Federals just barely held on. The foremost Rebel spearhead on that second day of the battle was Barksdale’s Mississippi brigade, which launched what one (Union) observer called the "grandest charge that was ever seen by mortal man.”
Barksdale’s brigade was already renowned in the Army of Northern Virginia for its stand-alone fights at Fredericksburg. On the second day of Gettysburg it was just champing at the bit to go in. The Federal left was not as vulnerable as Lee had envisioned, but had cooperated with Rebel wishes by extending its Third Corps into a salient. Hood’s crack division was launched first, seizing Devil’s Den, climbing Little Round Top, and hammering in the wheatfield.
Then Longstreet began to launch McLaws’ division, and finally gave Barksdale the go-ahead. The Mississippians, with their white-haired commander on horseback at their head, utterly crushed the peach orchard salient and continued marauding up to Cemetery Ridge. Hancock, Meade, and other Union generals desperately struggled to find units to stem the Rebel tide. One of Barksdale’s regiments, the 21st Mississippi, veered off from the brigade in the chaos, rampaging across the field, overrunning Union battery after battery. The collapsing Federals had to gather men from four different corps to try to stem the onslaught.
Barksdale himself was killed at the apex of his advance. Darkness, as well as Confederate exhaustion, finally ended the day’s fight as the shaken, depleted Federal units on their heights took stock. They had barely held on against the full ferocity of the Rebels, on a day that decided the fate of the nation
Table of Contents
1: “We have never been whipped and we never can be!”
2: “To lay my life on the altar of my country”
3: “We are going into Yankey land”
4: “Exceedingly impatient for the order to advance”
5: “The grandest charge ever seen by mortal man!”
6: “We want those guns!”
7: “The guiding spirit of the battle”
8: “On to Cemetery Ridge!”
9: “It seemed as if nothing could live an instant”
10: Death in the Gloaming
11: “Great God! Have we got the universe to whip?”
12: When Glory Was Out of Date
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Phillip Thomas Tucker, Ph.D., has authored or edited more than 40 books on various aspects of the American experience, especially in the fields of Civil War, Irish, African-American, Revolutionary, and Southern history. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, he has earned three degrees in American history, including a Ph.D. from St. Louis University in 1990. In 1993 his biography of Father John B. Bannon won the Douglas Southall Freeman Award for the best book in Southern history. For more than two decades, Dr. Tucker has been a military historian for the U.S. Air Force. He currently lives in the Washington, DC area.Review:
"Author Phillip Thomas Tucker's writing style leaves never a dull moment. Each scene is filled with heroic sallies, intriguing backstories, and elucidating quotes from and about various soldiers. The book is extensively researched [and] is an excellent account of one of the most successful but unfortunately mostly ignored actions of the war."
--San Francisco Book Review
"Though long overshadowed by the more famous Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge of July 3, 1863, the advance of Barksdale's men from Seminary Ridge, through the Peach Orchard, and across Plum Run toward Cemetery Ridge has been referred to as "the grandest charge ever seen by mortal man."
Here for the first time is the story of Barksdale's Mississippians and their gallant charge
told with the detail and passion it so richly deserves. Phil Tucker has produced a wonderful addition to the library of the most discerning Gettysburg collector."
--Terrence Winchel, Historian (Retired), National Park Service
"In Barksdale's Charge, Tucker, author of Irish Confederates, Burnside's Bridge and many other works on American history, argues rather effectively the point made in his sub-title, the real "High Tide" of the Confederacy was the grand assault of James Longstreet's troops on the Union Third Army Corps on July 2, 1863, and in particular the attack of William Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade . . . Tucker writes well. He shifts agilely between armies, individuals, and incidents, and knows how to use an anecdote to help make a point, while giving us a seamless account of the events as they unfolded . . . his careful retelling of the events makes Barksdale's Charge a valuable read for those interested in the Civil War, and an absolute necessity for students of Gettysburg."
"This is a superb book covering the charge that was made by Barksdale's Mississippians on July 2nd 1863. This is a 'must have' book."
"At times, the reader is almost rooting for the boys from Mississippi . . . This is a tribute to the earnestness of the writing and ability of the author to capture the personal stories, complexities and humanity of both the leading and the minor players and the thousands of swirling dramas that followed when the armies of the North and South collided near the small town of Gettysburg."
--Open Letter Monthly
"Thanks to Tucker's incisive analysis of the facts surrounding Gettysburg, Barksdale's Mississippians will now stand tall . . . a detailed look at an event of a battle about which so much has been written."
--Civil War Round Table of the District of Columbia
"Tucker is a prolific writer . . . while Pickett's Charge, on day three of Gettysburg, has received numerous book-length treatments . . . Barksdale's charge [unfortunately] has not . . . Tucker sets his narrative within the context of the battles and personalities leading up to that day of near victory for the Confederacy."
"Wonderful writing with splendid pacing propels the author's vivid account, Barksdale's charge was the precise moment the Confederate cause reached its apex on that day that truly decided the state of the Union and the future of the nation."
--Toy Soldier and Model Figure
""This is a detailed history of the men that charged and those who stopped them. The author lets them tell the story with extensive quotes from their letters and diaries . . . This is solid old-fashion battle history where heroics are commonplace . . . a good tactical history of how regiments and brigades fought . . . This is a fine addition to your Gettysburg library, well written, easy and fun to read."
"Phillip Thomas Tucker, who has written on topics as varied as the Alamo, the Revolutionary War, and African American soldiers, takes up Barksdale's charge with a vigor that would certainly have won the old fire-eater's approval . . . His narrative is thickly sprinkled with commentary from diaries and letters . . ."
--Allen C. Guelzo, Gettysburg College
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