STONEWALL JACKSON AT GETTYSBURG
by Douglas Lee Gibboney
Sgt. Kirkland's Press
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The most popular turning points in American alternate history take place during the American Civil War. Recently, Harry Turtledove turned to the Civil War in How Few Remain and Peter G. Tsouras examined an alternate Gettysburg in Gettysburg: An Alternate History. In his short book, Stonewall Jackson at Gettysburg, Douglas Lee Gibboney postulates that rather than being killed at Chancellorsville, Jackson only received a few minor injuries. He returned to Lexington, VA to recuperate and acquired a neighbor's son, Jefferson Randolph Carter, as an aide when he returned to the front.
Although purporting to be a novel, Stonewall Jackson at Gettysburg can hardly claim that distinction. It is written in the style of Carter's memoirs and frequently seems to serve as a chance for Gibboney to pronounce the names of Confederate Generals as Carter's duties for Jackson brings him into contact with the various men.
There is very little character development throughout the book. Gibboney seems to dislike quoting dialogue and Carter's descriptions of events are usually merely lists of who did what without trying to expand from the historical record or delve into the General's personalities.
Gibboney's biggest failure when it comes to characterization is in Jefferson Carter, himself. Purporting to be Carter's memoirs, the book is not written in the style which most Civil War memoirs seems to be written. The language and sentence structure is too modern.
Gibboney does make use of editorial footnotes to expand on Carter's story where details would not be appropriate in the text itself, thereby following in the footsteps of the previously mentioned Gettysburg: An Alternate History and Sobel's For Want of a Nail. However, where those books creatively created source material from which to quote, Gibboney is content to merely inform us of things Carter did not include in his memoirs. Gibboney does, however, include a short bibliography of authentic books at the back of his work.
The book is strengthened by the inclusion of several photographs, drawings and maps to help the reader visualize the people Gibboney is writing about and, once the descriptions of Gettysburg begins, the action on the battlefield.
While Stonewall Jackson at Gettysburg completely fails as a novel, it does succeed as a thought experiment on Stonewall Jackson's role in the Confederate army if he had lived to see July, 1863. At the same time, it allows Gibboney to address (although never in an open manner) the "Great Man" theory of history. For Civil War afficianados or those interested in theories of historical change, Stonewall Jackson at Gettysburg will have something interesting to say.
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