Gettysburg--The Second Day

By Harry W. Pfanz

624 pp., 6 x 9, 84 illus., 13 maps, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4730-5
    Published: March 1998
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6973-4
    Published: June 2011

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The second day's fighting at Gettysburg--the assault of the Army of Northern Virginia against the Army of the Potomac on 2 July 1863--was probably the critical engagement of that decisive battle and, therefore, among the most significant actions of the Civil War.

Harry Pfanz, a former historian at Gettysburg National Military Park, has written a definitive account of the second day's brutal combat. He begins by introducing the men and units that were to do battle, analyzing the strategic intentions of Lee and Meade as commanders of the opposing armies, and describing the concentration of forces in the area around Gettysburg. He then examines the development of tactical plans and the deployment of troops for the approaching battle. But the emphasis is on the fighting itself. Pfanz provides a thorough account of the Confederates' smashing assaults -- at Devil's Den and Litle Round Top, through the Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard, and against the Union center at Cemetery Ridge. He also details the Union defense that eventually succeeded in beating back these assaults, depriving Lee's gallant army of victory.

Pfanz analyzes decisions and events that have sparked debate for more than a century. In particular he discusses factors underlying the Meade-Sickles controversy and the questions about Longstreet's delay in attacking the Union left. The narrative is also enhanced by thirteen superb maps, more than eighty illustrations, brief portraits of the leading commanders, and observations on artillery, weapons, and tactics that will be of help even to knowledgeable readers.

Gettysburg--The Second Day is certain to become a Civil War classic. What makes the work so authoritative is Pfanz' mastery of the Gettysburg literature and his unparalleled knowledge of the ground on which the fighting occurred. His sources include the Official Records, regimental histories and personal reminiscences from soldiers North and South, personal papers and diaries, newspaper files, and last -- but assuredly not least -- the Gettysburg battlefield. Pfanz's career in the National Park Service included a ten-year assignment as a park historian at Gettysburg. Without doubt, he knows the terrain of the battle as well as he knows the battle itself.

About the Author

Harry W. Pfanz is author of Gettysburg--Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill. He served 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.
For more information about Harry W. Pfanz, visit the Author Page.


“A definitive account of the second day’s brutal combat.”--Susquehanna Life

"Pfanz has created a lasting legacy with his analysis of the crucial second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. His book, Gettysburg--The Second Day is a masterpiece. It is the last word on the fighting for Peach Orchard, Wheatfield and Little Round Top, and represents microtactical history at its finest."--Blue & Gray Magazine

"[Pfanz] put in a 10-year stint at Gettysburg, and he knows the ground there about as well as it is possible to know it. He brings this knowledge to Gettysburg--The Second Day, and along with it meticulous research and a vigorous, lucid sense of narrative. . . . A tribute worthy of the efforts of the men who took part in what the Confederate Gen. James Longstreet called 'the best three hours' fighting ever done by any troops on any battle-field.'"--Richard Snow, New York Times Book Review

"[Pfanz] has done a meticulous research which has resulted in a book rich in detail. He has covered the action vividly, including experiences of the highest ranking officers as well as the ordinary soldiers. . . . Solidly researched, well written, and will hold the reader's interest. . . . If your special interest is Gettysburg, then this book is a must!"--Civil War Courier

"For Civil War readers not familiar with Harry Pfanz, be advised that he is today the greatest living authority on Gettysburg. . . . What he has done here is to produce the most complete account of the main fighting on July 2 that will ever be written. . . . Both a fast-paced narrative and an all-inclusive encyclopedia. . . . If only such books like this existed for the other stages of the great battle of Gettysburg."--James I. Robertson Jr., Richmond News-Leader

"Provides fresh insights and details. . . . Pfanz has an intimate knowledge of the battlefield and a real understanding of Civil War soldiers."--Choice