“Stand to It and Give Them Hell”: Gettysburg As The Soldiers Experienced It From Cemetery Ridge to Little Round Top, July 2, 1863 by John Michael Priest. Savas Beatie, 2014. Cloth, ISBN: 978-1611211764. $32.95.
In “Stand to It and Give Them Hell”: Gettysburg As The Soldiers Experienced It From Cemetery Ridge to Little Round Top, July 2, 1863, John Michael Priest offers a narrative of the second day’s fighting during the Battle of Gettysburg through personal reminiscences of veterans of the battle.
“Stand To It and Give Them Hell” does not offer a new theories or arguments about the events of July 2, 1863. What it does offer is a fresh perspective on the well known events of the battle, strictly using accounts from the battle’s veterans. The recollections employed in the storytelling are largely voices that readers have not heard from directly in other histories of the battle. Priest has selected accounts primarily from the common soldier, rather than soley from the staff and officers. In fact, the commander’s actions and quotes are often presented through the eyes and memories of the men serving under them.
The soldiers’ stories are pulled together so that the reader can get a sense of what the common soldier saw and felt in a specific time and place, hour-by-hour, on the battlefield over the course of July 2, 1863. This really does create an “in the moment” feel for the reader, as the battle seems to unfold in real time.
Through the accounts of these soldiers, we see the fighting from their small vantage point on the battlefield. The book brings to the forefront individuals whose stories were lost in the pages of unit histories and small run memiors published long ago.
There are no biographies or background offered here, so this may not be your first book on the subject. But I believe you should consider a place for it on your bookshelf, for hearing about the battle from the perspective of the soldiers involved is well worth it.
Benjamin Neely is the Executive Director of the Adams County Historical Society in Gettysburg.