We were saddened to learn of the recent death of esteemed Gettysburg historian Harry W. Pfanz. He served ten years as a historian at Gettysburg National Military Park and retired from the position of Chief Historian of the National Park Service in 1981. He was also author of three major works on the battle of Gettysburg published by UNC Press, which are now available separately in print and together in an omnibus e-book. UNC Press published those works thanks in part to the guidance of series editor Gary W. Gallagher. Over at our Civil War 150 site, Gallagher offers a remembrance of their long professional and personal connection.
I have the fondest memories of working with Harry Pfanz in the very early period of developing a Civil War list at UNC Press. In the mid-1980s, Matthew Hodgson, who served as director of the Press from 1970 to 1992, had a number of discussions with me about how such a list might look. We agreed it should be expansive in scope, including books on military and nonmilitary aspects of the conflict and open to historians from inside and outside the academic world. Matt had extensive experience in commercial publishing before going to Chapel Hill and prophesied—correctly, as it turned out—that studies of battles and campaigns probably would sell better than any other titles. Harry’s eventual contributions to UNC Press’s Civil War America series underscored the prescience of Matt’s thinking.
I told Matt in the fall of 1985 that Harry had a big manuscript devoted to part of the battle of Gettysburg. Impressed that Harry was chief historian of the National Park Service and had spent many years at Gettysburg National Military Park earlier in his career, Matt asked to see a sample chapter. Harry sent him one, prompting a very enthusiastic reply (Matt usually was not given to obvious enthusiasm). “I have read your chapter with considerable interest,” Matt wrote Harry in December 1985, “and would very much like to read your manuscript in its entirety.” Matt closed with an assurance that UNC Press “has committed itself to publishing (on a continuing basis) outstanding manuscripts on the Civil War and its leaders.”
Harry promptly delivered a narrative of more than 1,000 pages devoted to fighting on the southern end of the battlefield on July 2. After going through the entire text with great care, I assured Matt that it was as an absolute model of the genre that “quickly should take its place among the classic Civil War tactical studies.” I made the same point to Harry a bit later. He responded with his usual quiet modesty, expressing the hope that what he had written would please Matt and the Press. “It covers well known ground that has been scratched but not plowed,” he observed, adding with understatement: “The subject ought to have considerable appeal.”
Gettysburg—The Second Day was published in December 1987 and became an instant success. It set a standard for tactical studies that few other historians, before or after, have equaled.
Read Gallagher’s full post, “Remembering Harry W. Pfanz as a Historian and Friend,” at uncpresscivilwar150.com.