This is really a rather remarkable novel about the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania - probably the most famous battle of the Civil War. The Southern Armies, under General Lee, decided to invade the North in order to strike a blow that would "hit home" and make the Northerners wish to end the war. North and South met in the small farming town of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania and engaged in bloody battle for three days. The cost in human life was devastating to both sides. The defeat of the South at this battle seemed avoidable, but turned out to be decisive in the overall outcome of the war.
What is remarkable about this book is both the completeness of the picture we are given of the importance and complexity of the battle and the humanity of its key players. It is surprisingly unbiased toward either side, instead focusing on understanding the multitude of motivations that influenced the key players. The book contains twenty-three chapters. Each chapter tells a piece of the story from the point of view of different characters (a number of the characters have more than one chapter - four chapters are from General Lee's point of view, six chapters are from Colonel Chaberlain's point of view, etc.) The author seems to take special care in elaborating upon the South's General Longstreet and the North's Colonel Chamberlain.
High school students and adults will come away from this book with a much fuller sense of the gravity and scope of the civil war. It is intense, although not overly graphic and does contain some coarse language (which is both realistic and not overdone).
Note: The recent movie, Gettysburg, is based on this book and is quite good. It is remarkably non-gory without destroying the necessary sense of reality. I would recommend reading the book first as it provides some details not shown in the movie and makes it much easier to follow the multitude of characters. My one caveat is that I didn't care for the way General Lee was portrayed in the movie. They left out some important details that would have affected his admittedly poor decisions (namely his bad health) and in general, I found Martin Sheen's portrayal too buffoonish and undignified in contrast with the book.