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Bloody Spring: Forty Days that Sealed the Confederacy's Fate Hardcover – April 29, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Joseph Wheelan's previous books

Terrible Swift Sword

"An exciting and crisply written biography that...fairly gallops across the page."—Wall Street Journal

"Essential reading.... [A] worthy testament to the man (General Philip Sheridan)"—Civil War Times

"[A] well-written, thoroughly-researched biography...that reads like a novel"—Washington Independent Review of Books

"[A] brilliant biography"—Military Officer

"A remarkably well-researched and [an] exquisitely composed narrative"—Choice

Mr. Adams's Last Crusade

"A solid and entertaining account"—Boston Globe

Invading Mexico

"[Wheelan] gives the narrative a queasy realism reminiscent of a Cormac McCarthy novel."—Houston Chronicle

Jefferson's Vendetta

"An elegantly-written and smartly-conceived revisionist history that is sure to engage and entertain."—Publishers Weekly

Jefferson's War

"[A] lively recounting.... The stuff of good historical fiction—and a treat for military buffs"—Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews, May 2014
“Well-researched and argued—a text that Civil War scholars and buffs will consume with glee.”

Roanoke Times, 6/29/14
“Wheelan presents history as if he were a reporter in the field, telling stories about the combatants, describing their movements in a way that is entertaining and informative, and avoiding the overly technical and pedantic references that so often find their way into stories about war—especially the American Civil War.”

Seattle Times, 7/27/14
“[Wheelan] offers a well-written, diligently researched and highly readable account of the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse, North Anna and Cold Harbor. He adds some fine personal touches.”

About the Author

Joseph Wheelan is the author of six previous books, including the highly-acclaimed Terrible Swift Sword and Jefferson's War. Before turning to writing books full time, Wheelan was a reporter and editor for The Associated Press for twenty-four years, where he also wrote about the Korean War. He lives in Cary, North Carolina.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (April 29, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306822067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306822063
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #618,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I always wanted to write books and I finally got the opportunity after many years as a journalist. I have tried to make the most of it. I love to write, and primary research is pure pleasure, particularly reading the original documents and the actual handwritten letters and journals. I would recommend this to anyone who has an inquisitive mind and enjoys hanging around libraries.

When I am not writing and doing research, my wife Pat and I like to hike, bird-watch, and sample North Carolina's unique barbecue restaurants. We both enjoy reading American history from all eras.

Of special interest to me is the early national era, when everything was new and undergoing severe trials. We were fortunate to have leaders during these perilous early decades who put the American people and the nation's needs before political parties and sometimes even personal ambition. And they also happened to be terrific writers, thinkers, and warriors.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Longstreet on June 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
As a longtime Civil War buff, I greatly enjoyed “Bloody Spring” from beginning to end. Along with providing an enormous amount of important detail and character background of those involved in the conflict, Wheelan is a truly gifted writer who makes every moment come alive. Coming from a family who was actively involved on both sides of the war, I have read an enormous number of books on the Civil War; and, this being said, I feel “Bloody Spring” is one of the best I have come across in quite some time.
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Key on May 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Napoleon vs Wellington at Waterloo has produced tons of books with many more probably coming next year on the 200'th anniversary. You would think the heavyweight matchup between Lee and Grant, by far the two best generals of the Civil War would generate a similar wealth of books, but not so. Given that their first meeting featured two of the most bloodiest battles of the war would only add spice to the mixture. Granted Gordon C. Rhea's magisterial four volume history covering The Overland Campaign up to Cold Harbor is the definitive work on the subject, but like most multi-volume history's it can sometimes be too much of a good thing and you sometime long for a more digestible one volume work. Yet the list of one volume works on this slugfest are very slim indeed.
Most of them like Mr. Wheelan recent contribution which is a very weak one at that.
I don't mean to disparage all the work Mr. Wheelan evidently put into this work, but it comes across like one of those series books like the T-L series of works on the Civil War or U. of Neb. series, where the writer has serious constraints on him in regards to book length, though without the cartographic support those publishers provided. There are all off five maps in this book covering this complicated campaign. One general map showing the movements of the whole campaign. Two on the wilderness battle and one each on Spotsylvania, North Anna and Cold Harbor.
This is a book for those with a casual interest in the Civil War. There is nothing here for a serious Civil War buff. For the longest I was hoping that Stephen Sears would turn his magic to this campaign, but I guess that's not going to happen. So I wait for some author to give this heavyweight fight the one volume history this campaign deserves.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Eric C. Evans on August 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover
BLOODY SPRING:FORTY DAYS THAT SEALED THE CONFEDERACY’S FATE by Joseph Wheelan, is a good book recommended for readers interested in a short overview of the Overland Campaign (also called the Wilderness Campaign and The Forty Days).

Volumes have been written about each one of the battles covered in this book and in some cases volumes have been written about a single day in some of these battles. So moderately serious Civil War buffs will not find much new information here. Certainly any such reader will understand that this campaign resulted in the one outcome that Lee could not survive: a siege. And, as alluded to in the the title, that sealed the Confederacy’s fate.

Still, Mr. Wheelan does not simply rehash the mainstream views in all cases and at a couple of points he does stray interestingly afield.

One area on which Mr. Wheelen focuses some significant attention, and to good advantage, is illustrating that, even though the North had more human resources to draw upon in replacing its casualties, the caliber of the draftees at this point in the war that replaced the yankee wounded and killed was nowhere near that of the soldiers they were replacing. This important point is often lost when considering the toll these battles took. Mr. Wheelan is at his most persuasive here. Of course, replacements of any kind, subpar as they may have been, were far superior to none at all and that was the situation the South confronted.

The chapter on Cold Harbor is the strongest part of the book. Mr. Wheelan is harsh in his treatment of Grant’s conduct of this battle, but not as harsh as many historians. He does agree that the final Union assault was a doomed and futile effort which should not have been made.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By GatoRat on December 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is a huge contrast to a recent book I read on Sherman; it is extremely well written, clearly well researched and very interesting. I have long wondered why Grant's stature as a great general wasn't dramatically diminished the Overland campaign, considering the mistakes made. This book explains many reasons why--the shocking incompetence of far too many Union generals. Unfortunately, this raises some unanswered questions about Grant, after all the job of the top general is also to keep the lower generals in line (the buck stops here and all that.) However, this was a book about the Overland campaign, not Grant specifically, so I'll let it slide.

My only other criticisms, and gentle ones at that, are that a few times I got very confused by the troop movements. A few more maps might have been helpful. And, about two thirds through the book there was a little repetition and some passages got a little dry. I'd knock off a quarter star for those. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By G. Ware Cornell Jr. VINE VOICE on May 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, by birth and accomplishment could not have been more different. They met for the fist time in battle in the Spring of 1864. For forty days, great armies clashed by day and night from the Rapidan to the James. Lee, a stellar cadet at West Point and General Scott's Chief Engineer, was a Virginia aristocrat, the son of Light Horse Harry Lee, a Revolutionary War hero and one term Congressman. Grant, by contrast, was the son of a tanner, whose career at West Point was decidedly unimpressive. A second lieutenant in Mexico, he only once met his future foe, and he assumed until told differently at Appomattox that Lee would never remember him because of their differences in age and rank. After Mexico Grant left the Army and began farming in Ohio.

Both men were aggressive warriors. Grant secured his command of the Union forces by virtue of his successes in the West. Lee had been offered the same command by General Scott, but declined upon the succession of Virginia. Offered the command of the Army of Northern Virginia, his acceptance gave the South a commanding general who had the respect of the professional soldiers and civilians of both armies.

Grant was given command of all the federal forces in arms. He devised a combined war plan in the West under Sherman, the Mobile offensive up from the Gulf along withGrant's own campaign in Virginia. Met at every turn by Lee, Grant nonetheless succeeded in holding ground and wearing down the men and materiel of Lee's army.

The battles were fought by day and night, with artillery, cavalry, and infantry often hand to hand literally on top of the bodies of fallen comrades and foes. 70,000 Americans were killed, wounded, captured or missing over this forty days of hell.
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