Isn't This Glorious!

Below you will find a series of reviews

1.  Review From  Br. Benet Exton, O.S.B, 2006

“Isn’t this glorious” were the words shouted by a Massachusetts soldier just before he was killed by a Confederate bullet. Edwin Root and Jeffrey Stocker researched three Massachusetts volunteer regiments which fought at the Battle of Gettysburg in the now-famous "Pickett's Charge" close to the center of attack near a copse of trees and provide quotes from actual members of those regiments, which helps to make this book a very interesting study of those involved in the battle and its aftermath.

The authors split the book into two parts. The first part is about how the three regiments were formed and includes some of their early engagements before the Battle of Gettysburg, but mostly it covers the Battle of Gettysburg and what happened immediately to the soldiers. The authors use the diaries and other primary sources for the narrative of the three regiments in the battle, as well as pension records and other records from the National Archives and other sources previously unpublished. They also include several maps and original photographs, which add tremendously to the story.

The second part of the book covers what happened to the survivors and the battlefield after the fighting. The Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association was organized to preserve the site and over time acquired the various sections of the battlefield. The regiments on both sides wanted to memorialize their fallen comrades and their heroic deeds by putting up monuments at the places they served or where particular soldiers died. The three Massachusetts regiments had monuments created then placed on the appropriate spots where they served during the battle near the Copse of Trees, dedicated with much fanfare and celebration.

The authors also provide stories of what happened to some of the soldiers based on various records, showing the financial help survivors of the soldiers received from the government. They even provide the notarized letter of one soldier, asking for an increase in his pension, who provides a lengthy recounting of the events of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Edwin R. Root is a retired systems business analyst and a two-time past president of the Civil War Round Table of Eastern Pennsylvania, Inc. He also served on the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association and is involved in the Board of Families of Flight 93, Inc. Jeffrey D. Stocker, a practicing attorney in Pennsylvania and a past president of the Civil War Round Table of Eastern Pennsylvania, Inc., is the editor of From Huntsville to Appomattox, Robert Cole’s History of the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment (1996).

Root and Stocker provide an extensive bibliography including primary sources, photographs, maps, and Internet sites. Isn’t This Glorious is recommended to Civil War enthusiasts, especially those interested in the Battle of Gettysburg and its various regiments and what happened afterwards. This book is also recommended to academic and public libraries for their Civil War sections.

2.  Newsletter of the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table of Philadelphia, Pa. 
(Written by Steven J. Wright, former Curator of The Civil War Library & Museum of Philadelphia)  

“Isn’t This Glorious!” is, quite simply, a remarkable book. Most works on the battle of Gettysburg chronicle a unit’s exploits in the battle and might give a cursory examination to the post-war veteran years. This volume gives equal weight to each, demonstrating that for the men who lived through the battle, perhaps their comrades were given a more timely death.

The origins of this book date to 1993 when the Civil War Round Table of Eastern Pennsylvania, in Allentown, took on the project of funding the re-installation of iron battlefield markers to the 15th, 19th, and 20th Massachusetts Infantry near the Copse of Trees. Seven years later the authors led a battlefield tour of the area so that members of the round table could see the fruits of their fund raising labors. Much of their research, which included poring over untapped pension records for all three regiments, discovering heretofore unseen diaries and letters, hometown newspapers, and the fortuitous discovery of a period map led the authors to a unique analysis of the role of these regiments in the repulse of Pickett’s Charge as well as the events of the July 2nd.

  As with all history, their story and their relationship with the battlefield did not conveniently end for these veterans on the afternoon of July 3rd, 1863. Root and Stocker not only carefully document the aftermath of the battle, but the survivors’ efforts to honor their fallen comrades. The second part of the book details the often frustrating efforts in placing monuments to their comrades, and explains how monuments were often moved throughout the years. It is also in the second part of the volume where one sees the ultimate tragedy of war – veterans who were horribly wounded dying of their wounds years later or a man who went through the entire Civil War only to die senselessly and tragically years afterward.

This is a tremendous book! It is extremely well researched and very well written! One cannot help but become enrapt in the action that the men of these regiments themselves describe. One also cannot help but feel that he or she knows each and every man in the 15th, 19th, and 20th Massachusetts Infantry after reading this book. There is a plethora of photographs in this volume and a number of outstanding fold-out maps, which are hand-sewn into the binding. With over fifty pages of endnotes and a detailed bibliography any historian should be able to follow the paths of these researchers.

3. Civil War News - Review by David F. Riggs

As indicated by the subtitle, this book differs from the typical unit study that focuses upon a single regiment or brigade. Instead it concerns three Massachusetts regiments in Winfield Scott Hancock’s Second Corps that fought at Gettysburg ’s Copse of Trees during Pickett’s Charge.

Co-authors Edwin R. Root and Jeffrey D. Stocker divide their narrative into two parts. The first describes the regiments’ role in the Gettysburg Campaign, which was victorious. The second is a postwar account of the veterans’ unsuccessful struggle with the memorial association and park commission to have their monuments placed at the “High Water Mark.”

This is a well-researched chronicle that neatly weaves the tale of individual soldiers into the story. The authors are adept at distributing this material between the narrative and the endnotes, and the notes should not be ignored by readers who desire a wealth of supplemental information.

Many regimental histories conclude with the war years, which often is appropriate. But Root and Stocker discovered that Gettysburg ’s 19th and early 20th century battlefield preservation efforts were significant in minimizing the credit due to the Bay State .

Their meticulous investigation provides insightful provides insightful revelations about the politics of monument placement and its impact upon the perceived role of the Massachusetts units.

A variety of historical mysteries are solved by the authors, including the disputed mortal wounding of Col. Paul J. Revere, commander of the 20th Massachusetts . And should anyone wonder, the book’s title is from words shouted by Lt. Sumner Paine, also of the 20th, just prior to his mortal wounding as he charged toward the Copse of Trees to stem the Confederate advance.

The fluid nature of troop movement in battle is demonstrated with maps that use a series of dots to depict the alignment of regiments. Excellent photographs show wartime images of the soldiers and postwar views of reunions, monuments and the battlefield.

This volume will be especially welcomed by readers with interest in Gettysburg , Massachusetts ’ role in the war, and the early battlefield preservation movement.

David F. Riggs is a museum curator at Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown . He has a BA in history from Lock Haven University and MA in history from Penn State . His publications include Embattled Shrine: Jamestown in the Civil War and Vicks-burg Battlefield Monuments .

4.  New York Civil War Round Table - Michael Wolf

This book tells of two battles. The first, familiar to all of us, lasted three days, from July 1 to July 3, 1863. The combat on Cemetery Ridge on July 3 is described in detail, especially as it involved these three regiments. The second battle, about where to place monuments, lasted two decades, from the early 1880s to the early 1900s. The authors are past presidents of the CWRT of Eastern Pennsylvania, based in Allentown. The book assumes that the reader is familiar with the details of Pickett's Charge. (If you can't identify and located the Codori farm and the Emmitsburg Road, this isn't for you.)

The 20th, known as the Harvard regiment (31 of its officers and men had attended Harvard), had more men killed in battle than any other Massachusetts regiment. Their letters and diaries are descriptive and articulate, and the authors use them well in depicting the chaos and carnage of that terrible after­noon. The book's title comes from a shout by 2nd Lt. Sumner Paine, during the heat of battle. "As Lt. Paine, pistol in hand came within 15 yards of the trees and 15 feet of the stone wall, he shouted, 'Isn't this glorious!' His face aglow with excitement. Moments later he dropped to his knees as a piece of shell tore through his ankle, almost cleaving it from his leg. Raising himself up on his left elbow he waved his sword and yelled, 'Forward, forward!' Immediately he fell, never to rise again, struck by bullets in his arm and chest. Buried in grave E-l, Massachusetts Plot, in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Sumner Paine would remain forever eighteen years old." On May 5, 1863, he had written to his family, "I want to see some good tough fighting and try a few bayonet charges."

Soldiers' reminiscences and official reports are meticulously researched. So are pension records, which reveal the horrible and lasting effects of the soldiers' wounds, the meager payments to the widows and children of the dead, and the paltry benefits given to the wounded. The standard widow's pension was $8/month, plus $2/month for each dependent child. Private Charles Murray, age 21, of Company I of the 15th, was a drover and a horse-dealer before the war. He survived but totally lost the use of one arm. Beginning in March 1864, he received a disability pension of $8/month from the Federal government, which had increased to $12 by the time of his death in 1893.1 don't know how this translates into 2006 dollars and wish the authors had made some compar­ison, however imperfect.

The second half of this 132-page book tells the story of the formation of the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association in April 1864 and its subsequent purchase and management of land (70 acres) by June 1864. As the years passed, delegations of veterans toured the battlefield, pointing out where they had fought and their comrades had fallen. Controversies and lawsuits erupted almost at once. The 1st New York Independent Battery erected a monument whose "3-inch Ordnance rifles pointed directly at the ISth's monument." Then a slight adjust­ment in the location of the 19th's monument was made because some visiting regimental survivors felt the initial position south of the Copse of Trees did not accurately reflect the route taken by the unit to repel Pickett's men. All this wrangling is described at length, clearly and impartially. The authors and their Round Table obviously care a lot about these regiments and their monuments; this book and their efforts are clearly a labor of love.