Gettysburg’s Bloody Wheatfield


This is a book by Jay Jorgensen.  It covers the most complex, most difficult to understand portion of the Battle of Gettysburg, the fight in George Rose’s 26-acre field of wheat.  There are a number of reasons why the fighting is so difficult to understand and is largely only mentioned with general terms about the fighting in battle histories.  “A total of six Confederate brigades battled thirteen Federal brigades during the three and one-half hours of fighting.  Units were sent into the fight in piecemeal fashion, making it difficult for any organized analysis.  Another reason for the lack of study on the Wheatfield is that neither side had anyone in overall control of the field.  For the Federals, troops from four different army corps were engaged, yet none of the corps commanders (except Major General Daniel E. Sickles, who was severely wounded during the action) was present.  Of the Federal divisional commanders, only Brigadier General John C. Caldwell exercised any meaningful, hands-on command in the Wheatfield.  For the Confederates, only Major General Lafayette McLaws executed command above the brigade level in the fighting.” [p. 2]

Jorgensen’s narrative is clear.  Along the way he gives short biographical sketches of the major commanders in the fighting.  The book is well illustrated with good maps, and it has a very good bibliography at the end.  Also helpful are appendices listing the units on each side that fought in the Wheatfield and their estimated casualties in the fighting.  I recommend this book for anyone wishing to understand the complex fighting in this portion of the battlefield.


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