Book Review: If We Are Striking For Pennsylvania

I was a bit skeptical when asked to review this book… sometimes I suffer from “Gettysburg fatigue” and wonder if another study is really necessary. When I learned that this is Part One of a two-volume work, I was even more curious. How could there be enough information available to fill one book, much less two? It turns out that I was very pleasantly surprised. Scott Mingus and Eric Wittenberg are excellent, noted historians and writers. I have always enjoyed their work and this volume certainly did not disappoint.

The authors have crafted the book in a very interesting way. Each chapter covers the action of one day. Although most readers already know the outcome of the campaign, the reader is pulled back in time and becomes lost in the narrative. What will happen next? It is somewhat reminiscent of Gordon Rhea’s treatment, To the North Anna River, which has the same kind of feel and is one of my favorite books.

Mingus and Wittenberg have dug deeply into primary resources, and through lively prose have crafted a very engaging work. Letters and diaries of soldiers, officials, and ordinary citizens are used to good effect. Newspapers also are cited. You can feel the confusion, the fear, and the misinformation that people were dealing with. Stories passed around of Confederates stealing property and sending captured Blacks south into slavery. Events would prove that while this was sometimes accurate, it was not always. Many Southern soldiers treated civilians with kindness and respect. The book says “The coming days would be trying for the perplexed politicians,” but also for the common people. Each day brought more uncertainty and fear. One chapter ends with, “Each sunrise brought the Army of Northern Virginia that much closer to their doorstep.” This is compelling writing.

A letter from Union Secretary of State William H. Seward demonstrates the lack of clarity as to Lee’s intentions. In mid-June he wrote “Lee has moved westward from Fredericksburg… but the object of Lee’s strategy is not developed.” As part of Lee’s army moved into Pennsylvania, would the remainder follow, or go elsewhere? Confederate Cavalry effectively shielded Lee’s operation, leaving the Union Army’s commanders very confused. When and how should the Federal Army move in response? Was Washington the goal? Baltimore, Philadelphia? The best Hooker could seem to do was to keep between the Confederates and these cities and watch developments. There were several large engagements along the way, and many smaller ones. Brandy Station and Second Winchester are treated in detail, but many other skirmishes are also mentioned. Each day the Confederates inched closer, and nerves were on edge.

The authors have been very generous in the use of maps, including 31 high-quality ones by Edward Alexander. These are important to understanding the movement of the armies, and are much appreciated. A lack of good maps can really make it difficult to follow a narrative, and Alexander’s are of high quality. While several other appendices will probably be included in the second volume, there is one contained here that is quite helpful. The itineraries of the armies are listed day-by-day. Readers and future researchers will find this very handy.

In closing, I would like to quote Dr. Jennifer Murray from the book’s Foreword, when she states that the authors have created “a masterful overview of the Gettysburg Campaign that skillfully demonstrates that, yes, we do need another book on Gettysburg.” I certainly agree. This reader thoroughly enjoyed this book and looks forward to the second volume. Highly recommended.

If We Are Striking for Pennsylvania: The Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac March to Gettysburg. Vol. 1: June 3-21, 1863

By Scott L. Mingus Sr. and Eric J. Wittenberg

Savas Beatie        2022      $34.95 hardcover

Reviewed by Doug Crenshaw



14 Responses to Book Review: If We Are Striking For Pennsylvania

  1. I am almost done reading Volume 1. What an amazing book. Wittenberg and Mingus seem to be made to write together! Cannot wait for Volume 2! Highly recommended for the reader interested in how the Battle of Gettysburg came to be and the many behind the scenes activity of both armies and the governments in charge of them.

  2. Thanks for the kind in-depth review, Doug. Glad you enjoyed it. The final design work on Volume 2 is nearly finished, and we look forward to sending it to the printer in January for an April release. Vol. 1 first edition is more than 2/3s sold out, so those who want one should hurry. https://www.savasbeatie.com/if-we-are-striking-for-pennsylvania-the-army-of-northern-virginia-and-army-of-the-potomac-march-to-gettysburg-volume-1-june-3-22-1863/

  3. Doug, I really appreciate the very kind words about our work. I had said, “I’m done with Gettysburg–I’ve done what I wanted to do with it, and there’s nothing left for me to do.” Then Scott came to me with this project, and I obviously changed my mind. It was a joy writing these two volumes with Scott, and we hope we’ve left behind a contribution to the body of work that is worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as Wilbur Nye’s classic Here Come the Rebels, which was the model for what we’ve done.

    The editing of volume 2 is finished, and Ted Savas is in the process of laying it out now. It should be published in the spring. There are 26 more of Edward’s excellent maps, and lots more images yet to come….

  4. Thanks so much for your kind words! This was a labor of love and represents a lifetime of collecting sources on the Gettysburg Campaign. Volume 2 will be out in 2023!

  5. Thanks for the kind review, Doug. Everyone, Vol. 2 is almost finished and will be out in April. If you want a matching first edition set, hurry. Vol. 1 is 2/3s sold out, and in this printing environment it is difficult to say when or IF, we go back to press on V1. Pick up a copy today with a signed book plate by both authors, while you can.

    https://tinyurl.com/dafk6pyj

  6. From Ted Savas:

    Everyone, Vol. 2 is almost finished and will be out in April. If you want a matching first edition set, hurry. Vol. 1 is 2/3s sold out, and in this printing environment it is difficult to say when or IF V1 will be available in 2023. Pick up a copy today with a signed book plate by both authors, while you can.

    https://tinyurl.com/dafk6pyj

  7. From Ted Savas: Everyone, Vol. 2 is almost finished and will be out in April. If you want a matching first edition set, hurry. Vol. 1 is 2/3s sold out, and in this printing environment it is difficult to say when or IF V1 will be available in 2023. Pick up a copy today with a signed book plate by both authors, while you can.

  8. Thanks for the kind review, Doug. Everyone, Vol. 2 is almost finished and will be out in April. If you want a matching first edition set, hurry. Vol. 1 is 2/3s sold out, and in this printing environment it is difficult to say when or IF, we go back to press on V1. Pick up a copy today with a signed book plate by both authors, while you can at Savas Beatie dot com.

  9. I look forward to Volume 1. I like Eric’s clear writing style and copious use of eyewitness accounts. Mike Hardy

  10. I loved volume 1 read it quickly as soon as it came out. Cannot wait for volume 2. Well done Scott and Eric!

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