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Review In Brief: The Battles of Appomattox Station and Appomattox Court House, April 8-9, 1865

Books on the Appomattox Campaign

The Battles of Appomattox Station and Appomattox Court House, April 8-9, 1865, 2nd Edition
by Chris M. Calkins
300 pp., 19 maps, numerous illustrations

A long time ago at TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog, I reviewed Chris Calkins’ self-published book/pamphlet titled Thirty-Six Hours Before Appomattox. It covered April 6-7, 1865, the two days prior to the last two days of the Amry of Northern Virginia. In this volume, part of the H.E. Howard Battle & Leaders series, Calkins covers the final two days of that famous army. This book, like the earlier effort, is a strictly tactical history. This may surprise some people. The author even mentions early on in the book that many people have the misguided idea that there was no fighting after Sayler’s Creek on April 6, 1865. This couldn’t be further from the truth. After Sayler’s Creek, there were two engagements at High Bridge, a battle at Cumberland Church, and the occupation of Farmville with some ensuing skirmishes on April 7, the Battle of Apopomattox Station (where part of Walker’s Artillery column was captured) on the night of April 8, and the Battle of Appomattox Court House on April 9 as Gordon’s veterans attempted to break open an escape route to the west and south. Once Lee discovered that infantry blocked his way (members of the Army of the James made an incredible forced march of between 28 and 38 miles on April 8 into the morning of April 9), he decided to end the struggle. One of Calkins main points, however, is that Lee did not go quietly. Had he met only cavalry and had Gordon succeeded in brushing them out of the way, Lee fully intended to keep marching and fighting. However, he had been trapped in the valley surrounding Appomattox Court House instead and the rest is history.

This is an excellent tactical rendering of the final struggles between the two main armies in the east. The numerous maps go into a lot of detail for the Federals, but they are a little more vague for the Confederates. I also would have liked to have seen a zoomed out map showing the positions around Appomattox in relation to the rearguard action between Longstreet and the Federal II and VI Corps about four miles to the northeast. The text comprises 180 pages, with the rest consisting of numerous photos and illustrations, quite a few interesting appendices, and a rather large bibliography. Calkins is the authority on the appomattox Campaign, and these two books covering April 6-9, 1865 show why.

I hope to read William Marvel’s rendition of the Appomattox Campaign soon as well. I have heard it is more of a campaign study with less focus on the tactics of each individual action.

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