Although this book is a novel about the Civil War, it is written through the eyes of the soldiers and generals on both sides, the North and the South. That is the factor that makes it so unique and engaging. It is not a textbook account of the battle, nor does it show the Union troops in a better light than the Confederate troops. Every viewpoint from the great General Lee, to a Union colonel, to a spy, to a British adversary is shown, among others.
The book opens with a spy for the Confederates discovering the Union Army of the Potomac marching straight towards the Lee's Confederate Army. Shortly after on July 1, 1863, a small part of Lee's army collides with Union cavalry at Gettysburg. Throughout that day, troops from both sides pour into the countryside around the town. At the end of the day, the Confederates had repulsed the Union army and taken the town, but failed to take Cemetery Ridge, the hill that the Union troops had settled on, and very good ground. Lee then must impatiently wait for Longstreet, his second in command, and Longstreet's army to arrive. Meanwhile, on his way to Gettysburg with more of the Union army, Union soldier Colonel Chamberlain, commander of the 20th Maine, receives the responsibility of dealing with the remaining soldiers in the 2nd Maine. Before the war, he was an English professor, and he manages to talk the 2nd Maine into serving under him.
When Longstreet arrives at Gettysburg, he tries to convince Lee to pull out and move around the Union's left flank to get between it and Washington, but Lee sees that as a