The “Emerging Civil War Series” Series: The Last Road North

Gettysburg will always be a perennial favorite. From its devotees of the battle’s historiography to the battlefield trekkers that come back time and time again, in the field of the American Civil War, the battle of Gettysburg will always remain towards the top of the pile. From those with casual knowledge about the battle, knowing names such as Pickett and Chamberlain and places such as Little Round Top, to those consumed by its history, searching for the exact spot someone was wounded or trivial, obscure commemorative-era boundary markers, few of the masses rarely step outside the battle itself. Their knowledge base begins during the early hours of July 1 and ends during twilight of July 3.

But the battle of Gettysburg was just three days in a massive military campaign that spanned nearly six weeks.

The most enjoyable aspect of writing The Last Road North with co-author Rob Orrison was bringing this larger story to folks in a very accessible way. Campaign studies on this moment in the war can span 500-600 pages, with much about the periphery of the battle lost within its deep, often dry pages. Last Road North not only brought many other important moments of the campaign into clearer focus for readers, it also made these often deciding moments of the campaign to the forefront of its historiography.

Even more, however, we enjoyed being out in the field while writing this work, and making sure we could get our readers there as well. Found within its pages are several different driving tours, from following the Confederate and Union armies northward during the month of Jun 1863, Stuart’s famous ride, and the retreat and pursuit following the battle. My co-author and I drove on many backroads of Virginia, through horrific traffic in parts of Maryland, in extreme heat and heavy thunderstorms, visiting and walking every spot we mention in the book. While one of us drove, the other looked at troop movement maps, read descriptions of events that happened at our next stop, all with a healthy playlist of classic country music in the background. And, at many of those stops—often battlefields such as those cavalry actions in the Loudoun Valley or engagements during the retreat of the Confederate army in Maryland—”some of that fine southern tobacco” was enjoyed.

I’ve written all my other published works in much the same fashion, and if you are not studying, writing, or doing history this way, well, you are missing the best part of listening to and learning from our past.


The Last Road North: A Guide to the Gettysburg Campaign
by Robert Orrison and Dan Welch
Savas Beatie, 2016

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3 Responses to The “Emerging Civil War Series” Series: The Last Road North

  1. I enjoyed Dan’s book “Ohio at Antietam.” His writing style provides an enjoyable experience. I will put this book on my list. I do not need long tomes anymore.

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