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Customer Review

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Overland Campaign series, July 21, 2006
This review is from: To the North Anna River: Grant and Lee, May 13--25, 1864 (Hardcover)
The Battle of the Wilderness May 5-6, 1864

Product Details

* Hardcover: 520 pages

* Publisher: Louisiana State University Press (July 1994)

* Language: English

* ISBN: 0807118737

The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern May 7-12, 1864

Product Details

* Hardcover: 483 pages

* Publisher: Louisiana State University Press (May 1997)

* Language: English

* ISBN: 0807121363

To the North Anna River: Grant and Lee, May 13-25, 1864

Product Details

* Hardcover: 505 pages

* Publisher: Louisiana State University Press (May 2000)

* Language: English

* ISBN: 0807125350

Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26-June 3, 1864

Product Details

* Hardcover: 552 pages

* Publisher: Louisiana State University Press (September 2002)

* Language: English

* ISBN: 0807128031

I am reviewing the four books a single series although each book is a full stand-alone history. This is a highly detailed military history of Grant's Overland Campaign of 1864. Two of the best generals commanding two of the best armies, in American history, decide the Civil war in the East. Gordon Rhea gives this month the detailed attention it requires and had never received. The 2,000 pages allows for the full story of the campaign, the personalities, failures and success.

The first book covers the major battle of The Wilderness an area Grant wished to clear and Lee hoped to trap him in as he had Hooker in 1863. Through a series of Union miscalculations and command problems, Lee manages to get in Grant's way. What follows is a confused bloody two-day battle that has been termed "Bush whacking on a grand scale". An excellent series of maps, help the reader stay abreast of the battle and understand the confusion of both sides. Lee loses Longstreet and starts to make the hard decisions about personnel that he has avoided since 1862. Grant while testing his relationship with Meade and Burnside, is trying to learn the AOP's generals too. This process dominates the four books as repeatedly Grant is forced to deal with the problems this creates and Lee takes steps that were unthinkable in 1863.

The second book moves the battle from The Wilderness south to Spotsylvania and Yellow Tavern. Grant refuses to "play the game" and retreat behind the Rappahannock but pushes past Lee and continues south. What follows is a race from defensive point to defensive point, which the AOP concedes to the AoNV. Union commanders hesitate at critical moments while the AoNV reinforces the objective. This allows Lee to stay up or ahead producing one of the bloodiest battles in our history at Spotsylvania. In addition, this book covers the critical cavalry operations, Grant's reasoning, and the price paid in taking Sheridan away from Meade. J.E.B. Stuart's death, is well covered. Both in terms of what it means to the AoNV, to Lee and to the Confederacy.

After one of the hardest weeks in their history, the two exhausted bloodied armies eye each other over their entrenchments. Lee understands that he is being trapped and that defensive war can only end in defeat. Grant is trying not to be stuck in a siege and determined to continue south. What follows is a series of forced marches and small battles as Grant and Lee test each other. Each general wins and loses daily as the armies march, counter march and fight. However, at the end of each day, Grant is always closer to Richmond. Lee produces a brilliant trap, Grant takes the bait but circumstances keep lee from springing it. Almost to late, Grant sees the trap pulls back, changes direction and continues south. Book 3, To the North Anna River covers this brilliant and exciting time in detail. Rhea produces some excellent analysis of both commanders and the developing personnel problems they are facing. Neither man is having an easy time of it and both understand they have never faced an enemy like this.

The last book takes us to Cold Harbor, one of the most controversial battles of the war. The detail history and excellent analysis leads us through this battle and produces some startling conclusions. As always, the author provides full support and justification for them. This might be the most important book of the series and the definitive book on the battle of Cold Harbor.

Each book has a full set of maps and illustrations. The writing is uniform and very readable. While detailed, the actions are understandable and you are seldom lost in a sea of names and/or unit numbers. Each book is a stand-alone history and is readable as such. The books were published from 1994 to 2002 and had to be written that way. This is the best account of the Overland Campaign available. It is both an invaluable reference and a great reading experience.
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Review Details



James W. Durney

Location: Tampa Bay area

Top Reviewer Ranking: 956