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To the North Anna River: Grant and Lee, May 13--25, 1864 Hardcover – April 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This outstanding third volume in Rhea's analysis of the duel between U.S. Grant and Robert E. Lee in the summer of 1864 demonstrates the value of operational narrative: Rhea's conclusions depend heavily on his fingertip mastery of the details of some of the most confused fighting of the Civil War. This volume also shows that Grant and Lee, far from representing opposite poles of generalship, were remarkably alike. Both were aggressive; both were willing to attempt unorthodox operational maneuvers in quest of a tactical advantage that might lead to a decisive battle. Grant's goal was not to capture Richmond, but to destroy Lee's army. During the period covered here, as in the campaign's earlier stages, Grant kept Lee off balance with a series of feints and maneuvers that, as presented by Rhea (a practicing attorney), should discredit once and for all Grant's image as an unsophisticated grappler. He was frustrated by Lee's ability to match him thrust for thrust. Wherever Grant moved, Lee responded. By 1864 the combination of fieldworks and firepower had become sufficiently formidable on both sides to frustrate consistently what on maps seemed promising tactical opportunities. Even an outnumbered defense could hold positions long enough for support to arriveAafter which the attacker's valor and energy only increased casualty lists on both sides. The old Army of the Potomac and the old Army of Northern Virginia both died in May 1864, mutually eviscerated by a style of war that would harvest even more corpses to even less purpose on the European battlefields of 1914-1915. A History Book Club Main Selection. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Rhea continues his fine study of the 1864 showdown between Grant and Lee (The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864; The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-6, 1864). His new work is more focused than either William D. Matter's If It Takes All Summer: The Battle of Spotsylvania (Univ. of North Carolina, 1988) or J. Michael Miller's lesser-known The North Anna Campaign: Even to Hell Itself (H.E. Howard, 1989). Overall, this is an outstanding contribution to a comparatively little-studied period of the war, and Rhea makes excellent use of primary sources in analyzing this critical phase. His writing is engaging and clear as he unfolds events that would determine the outcome of the great struggle. The maps and photographs further enhance the text, and a solid bibliography is also included. Highly recommended. [History Book Club selection.]--Daniel D. Liestman, Kansas State Univ. Lib., Manhatta.
---Daniel D. Liestman, Kansas State Univ. Lib., Manhattan
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Lsu Press (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807125350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807125359
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #744,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on May 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gordon Rhea's "To the North Anna River: Grant and Lee, May 13-25, 1864" is his latest installment in his on-going series of military histories about the great Overland Campaign, following his earlier volumes on the Wilderness and Spotsylvania battles. "To the North Anna River" differs from the previous two books in that the focus here is not upon full-scale fighting between massed armies, but instead examines an extended interval of maneuvers and probes which always fell short of the assaults planned. Mistakes and misperceptions by both armies abounded, balanced by unfaltering determination and moments of genuine brilliance. This period has in the past attracted relatively little attention from military historians, probably due in large part to its lack of "big battle" drama. Yet, the story told by Rhea is one full of suspense and tension, as Grant vigorously sought a weak point where he could finally overwhelm his foe, while Lee scrambled to block each move. Ultimately, it is a story with neither clear-cut winner or loser. Certainly Lee managed to preserve his army, yet the North Anna portion of the Overland Campaign ended with an undeterred Grant sending his army even deeper into Virginia to ultimately pin the Army of Northern Virginia in place, defending Richmond and slowly bleeding to death.
Rhea's concentration is upon Grant and Lee and their chief deputies, the corps commanders, and he provides incisive analyses of the leaders for each step of the campaign. He thoroughly demolishes the tired old myth that Lee foresaw each of Grant's moves, but bestows strong acclaim upon the Confederate commanding general for his ability to find a way out of every scrape.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By E. E Pofahl on July 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Gordon C. Rhea's account of the Civil War in Northern Virginia covering the period after the Wilderness Battle through the fighting south of the North Anna River in late May 1864 is well written. During this period, Lee and Grant took measure of each other. Grant had only experienced Confederate generals in the West and probably had limited respect for Lee's generalship. The general officers of the Army of the Potomac, having fought Lee since June 1862, had few reservations regarding Lee's ability prompting Grant to remark to his staff on May 6 to "Think what we are going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do." Lee lacked direct experience with Grant but there is no indication that he questioned Grant's ability. Lee's problem was he didn't know how Grant thinks, reacts, etc. In many respects this book is an account of how Grant and Lee got to know each others abilities.
Chapter II details Sheridan' raid threatening Richmond . Grant and Sheridan took great pleasure in the defeat of J.E.B. Stuart. Sheridan had defeated his cavalry and killed Stuart. However, the Confederate Cavalry Sheridan defeated in May 1864 was not the same splendid cavalry that J.E.B. Stuart had led on his June 12-15, 1862 ride around McClellan.. By May 1864 Stuart's mounts were tired, worn out and hungry with no replacements. His cavalrymen were also tired, hungry and replacements were at best limited. Perhaps stung by Lincoln's remark "Who ever saw a dead cavalryman?" Sheridan seems to have had a personal vendetta against Stuart. As Rhea notes serious criticism can be leveled against Sheridan's campaign as it deprived Grant of badly needed scouting thus "severely handicapped Grant in his battles against Lee.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Virginia Native on October 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Gordon Rhea continues his study of Ulysses S. Grant's grinding Overland Campaign against Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. The third volume continues where his the first two volumes left off. Like the first two books, the tone is lively and interesting. Rhea does an excellent job conveying the thought process and difficulties involved in the major decisions made by both Lee and Grant. Rhea makes clear the reasons Lee was losing faith in Hill and Ewell. He continues an excellent analysis of the fractured Union command structure from the first two volumes expanding on the rift between Meade and Grant and the lack of talent among the corps commanders.
Rhea poignantly portrayed the misery and destruction in the Wilderness and at the Mule Shoe in his first two books. Those types of scenes are not in this work, but he successfully portrays the every day life of the common soldier on both sides. One such example is his vivid description of how fast the Confederate cavalry disintegrated after the disasterous battle at Yellow Tavern.
For the individual interested learning about the Civil War and the men of the conflict, this book is a necessary bridge between Spotsylvania Court House and Cold Harbor. This period is marked more by confusion and maneuver than bloody fighting. This work is a pause from the effusive bloodshed of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor where the reader can learn more about how Lee and Grant thought and how they adapted to the most competent foe either general faced in his career. We can only hope Mr. Rhea continues his study beyond Cold Harbor into the trenches of Petersburg.
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