Book Summary: This is a book in the Virginia Civil War Battles and Leaders series focusing on Grant’s First Offensive on Petersburg. Thomas Howe does a fine job relating the thought process of the key Generals on both sides, Lee and Beauregard for the South; Hancock, Smith, Meade, and Grant for the North. The Union had more than one unbelievable chance to take Petersburg and avert the Siege to come, but timidity, command blunders, and darkness prevented them from taking advantage of the situation on all four days. Pierre Beauregard was at his best during this period, holding off the North while being massively outnumbered, and recognizing what Lee did not: that Grant had crossed to the south side of the James River with his entire force. Howe points out the fallacy in assuming that “Cold Harbor Syndrome”, the Union forces’ supposed fear of assaulting breastworks, had anything to do with the Union failures in the four-day battle. The maps are pretty good and numerous, although the regimental level detail I enjoy does not appear here. This is the only monograph on the battle, and is a must-have. 192 pp., 13 maps
Publisher: H.E. Howard (2nd Edition)
Release Date: June 1988
Pages: 192 Pages
Although quite a slim book, I’ve always thought this was an excellent account of the initial assaults. It’s a shame no-one has ever really taken it on from here, and produced a truly exhaustive account.
I agree with everything you’ve written. Richard Sommers produced an epic on the Fifth Offensive with Richmond Redeemed, Hampton Newsome produced an excellent account of the Fifth and Sixth Offensives in October 1864, and A. Wilson Greene produced an excellent look at the Ninth Offensive. David F. Cross covered the Sixth Corps portion of the Secpnd Offensive. The Crater portion of the Third Offensive has been done to death, but the right wing portion still needs a book. Every other offensive could use a much more in-depth treatment. John Horn has an extended version of his Fourth Offensive H.E. Howard book coming out this year, published by Savas Beatie. I’m waiting patiently for books on the Second, Seventh, and Eighth Offensives, as well as better coverage of the Army of the James in the Third Offensive.
Sommers remains the gold standard. I never even knew of the Newsome book before seeing it on this site.