edited by Gary W. Gallagher and Caroline E. Janney
SOPO’s Take: This long-awaited book in the Gary Gallagher/UNC Press essay series takes a look at the end of the Overland Campaign through the Battle of the Crater, covering essentially “Grant vs. Lee” from June 1-July 31, 1864. I glanced at the table of contents, and the last four articles focus on the Siege of Petersburg, with two on the Crater, one on civilians at Petersburg, and one on Confederate morale in the Petersburg trenches during June-July 1864.
Cold Harbor to the Crater: The End of the Overland Campaign contains ten main essays, not including the bibliographic essay, which focus on different specific aspects of this “campaign.” Let’s cover at a high level what this book contains. The ten main articles, encompassing a time frame of roughly June 1, 1864 at Cold Harbor to August 1, 1864 just after the Battle of the Crater, break down as follows:
- 4 Petersburg essays
- 2 Cold Harbor essays, one on the exit from Cold Harbor and Crossing the James
- Francis C. Barlow
- Confederate Engineering and Field Fortifications
- New Troops in ANV May-June 1864
- Perceptions of Lee and Grant Summer 1864
- Nothing on First Petersburg and Jerusalem Plank Road
The editors made an extremely odd decision to lump the Petersburg operations up to the Battle of the Crater into the greater Overland Campaign. If this decision is carried to its logical conclusion, all of the operations in 1864-65 between Lee and Grant through Appomattox should be lumped into a giant “Overland Campaign.” Instead, one should separate the May-June 1864 operations against Richmond and Lee’s army from the June 1864 to April 1865 operations against mainly Petersburg and Lee’s army. In addition, again in this reviewer’s opinion, one cannot make any clear separation between the operations which led up the Battle of the Crater in July 1864, and those which led into the Battle of Globe Tavern in August 1864. The logical separation point, both logically and geographically, is Grant’s Crossing of the James River in mid-June 1864.
UPDATE: Drew Wagenhoffer has some interesting news about the future of this series as it pertains to the Siege of Petersburg: “Now that the series has been revived, plans are underway for continuing on to Appomattox in the next volume and then backtracking to previously passed over First and Second Bull Run.”
BTC Siege of Petersburg Book Notes:
BTC Siege of Petersburg Book Sources:
Between the end of May and the beginning of August 1864, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. Robert E. Lee oversaw the transition between the Overland campaign—a remarkable saga of maneuvering and brutal combat—and what became a grueling siege of Petersburg that many months later compelled Confederates to abandon Richmond. Although many historians have marked Grant’s crossing of the James River on June 12–15 as the close of the Overland campaign, this volume interprets the fighting from Cold Harbor on June 1–3 through the battle of the Crater on July 30 as the last phase of an operation that could have ended without a prolonged siege. The contributors assess the campaign from a variety of perspectives, examining strategy and tactics, the performances of key commanders on each side, the centrality of field fortifications, political repercussions in the United States and the Confederacy, the experiences of civilians caught in the path of the armies, and how the famous battle of the Crater has resonated in historical memory. As a group, the essays highlight the important connections between the home front and the battlefield, showing some of the ways in which military and nonmilitary affairs played off and influenced one another.
Contributors include Keith S. Bohannon, Stephen Cushman, M. Keith Harris, Robert E. L. Krick, Kevin M. Levin, Kathryn Shively Meier, Gordon C. Rhea, and Joan Waugh.
About the Author
“The eagerly anticipated Cold Harbor to the Crater was worth the wait. It provides insightful analysis of the significant battles, the home front, leadership, and common soldier experiences, all while noting the connections between these themes and linking them to the larger issues of the Civil War era. This volume is superb.”
–Susannah J. Ural, University of Southern Mississippi
“Filled with impressive research and superb writing, Cold Harbor to the Crater provides wholly new perspectives on Grant’s Overland campaign and stands as a vital contribution to our understanding of the Civil War.”
–Steven E. Woodworth, Texas Christian University
Publisher: University of North Carolina Press
Release Date: September 2015
Pages: 360 pages
The Siege of Petersburg Online Pages Which Mention This Book:
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