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The Battle of the Crater: A Novel Hardcover – November 8, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 87 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for the works of Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen:

“Masterful storytelling.” --William E. Butterworth IV, New York Times bestselling author of The Saboteurs

“Creative, clever, and fascinating.” --James Carville

“Compelling narrative force and meticulous detail.” --The Atlanta Journal Constitution

“Gingrich and Forschten write with authority and with sensitivity.” --St. Louis Post Dispatch

“Grim, gritty, realistic, accurate, and splendid, this is a soaring epic of triumph over almost unimaginable odds.”  --Library Journal on To Try Men’s Souls

“With each book… Gingrich and Forstchen have gone from strength to strength as storytellers.” --William Trotter, The Charlotte Observer

“The authors’ research shines in accurate accounts of diplomatic maneuvering as well as the nuts-and-bolts of military action.” --Publishers Weekly

“The writing is vivid and clear.” --Washington Times

About the Author

NEWT GINGRICH, front-running Republican primary candidate for the 2012 Presidential Election, former Speaker of the House, bestselling author of Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor, the longest serving teacher of the Joint War Fighting Course for Major Generals at Air University, and an honorary Distinguished Visiting Scholar and Professor at the National Defense University. He resides in Virginia with his wife, Callista, with whom he hosts and produces documentaries, including their latest, “A City Upon A Hill”.

WILLIAM R. FORSTCHEN, Ph.D., is a Faculty Fellow at Montreat College in Montreat, North Carolina. He received his doctorate from Purdue University and is the author of more than forty books.  Forstchen’s doctoral dissertation on the 28th USCT was one of the first in depth studies of a USCT regiment. He is the New York Times best selling author of One Second After, published by Tor/Forge. He resides near Asheville, North Carolina, with his daughter, Meghan.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312607105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312607104
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #731,593 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
When it comes to adding "color" to a historical event, I don't do a great job in my mind. I can read a paragraph spanning weeks or months of history, and that's as far as my mind takes it. I miss the pain, suffering, glory, and everything else that actually occurred. It's for this reason that a good historical fiction novel can open my eyes and help me understand some event on a much deeper emotional level. Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen are masters of the historical fiction genre, and they once again hit a home run with their new novel Battle of the Crater. I was offered an advance reader copy of the book, and was blown away by the raw emotion that Gingrich and Forstchen add to the Civil War battle also referred to as the Battle of the Mine Explosion (depending on what side of the conflict you were on).

Battle of the Crater focuses on a battle that occurred on July 30th, 1864 during the Civil War. Northern and Southern troops were faced off outside of Petersburg, Virginia. The South had to hold the line, as a break there would likely allow the North to take Petersburg and Richmond and end the war. They were dug into trenches and had a fortress (Fort Pegram) that was well situated to hold their position and break the siege. A plan was devised and presented to Major General Burnside that was audacious in its effort and scope. A group of soldiers who were also miners would tunnel under the open battlefield, ending up under the fort. They would pack the mine full of explosives and blow a hole in the Confederate line, followed by an immediate charge of black soldiers who would be trained especially for this operation. In the course of a few short hours, they could take Petersburg and Richmond and deal the death blow to Lee's army.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gingrich and Forstchen have written one of the most meaningful Civil War novels to date. It reveals the northern general's blunders and also reports hereto unknown information on the brave United States Colored Troops ( the USCT ). After reading this historical novel, I wonder how the Union won the war? The missteps and bobbles by Generals' Meade and Burnside are mind boggling! Sending thousands of troops to their meaningless death is unconscionable, if not criminal! Why would leadership send wave after wave of Union soldiers against Confederate troops hidden in protective trenches only to be slaughtered like sheep?

The novel is narrated by a Harper's Weekly artist and illustrator, James Reilly. He is also a friend and visual spy for Abraham Lincoln. Reilly's job is to be at the front lines sketching what he sees and listening for officer and troop reactions towards the war. Shortly after the Union debacle at Cold Harbor in Virginia, James Reilly meets up with the 28th USCT of the 4th Division- Ninth Corps. They are led by Sergeant Major Garland White under white Colonels' Russell and Pleasants. After laboring as a burying detail at Arlington, Virginia; the black unit is finally going to see action near Petersburg, Virginia. Once at the site of the conflict, the black troops are trained every day by battle hardened sergeants. The plan by Col. Pleasants is to tunnell underneath the Confederate lines to their fort and blow it up, while the colored troops charge the shocked Johnny Rebs and continue the attack all the way to Richmond, thus ending the war. The plan was approved by a enthused, but shaky General Burnside and begrudgingly by his disobliging superior General Meade. Just before the operation, Gen. Meade changes everything!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I visited the Crater over the summer and saw this book at the gift shop. I wrote the title down and when I got back from vacation, I bought it. I have always been a Civil War buff and have a passion for reading. I started this book a couple of days ago and have sailed through it. I was impressed by the background given the attention to the 28th and how it showed their dedication. Very enjoyable book and well worth reading.
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Format: Hardcover
During the long, hot, bloody summer of 1864 the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia found themselves in a long series of battles. General Ulysses S. Grant changed the situation on the front by changing the strategy of the Army of the Potomac and the way it dealt with the Army of Northern Virginia. Rather than fighting a battle, withdrawing from one another, regrouping and then seeking out the enemy again Grant just kept his army in constant contact with Lee. His plan was simple - he knew that the Union forces had a lot more soldiers and a near limitless supply of ammunition and food, at least when compared to Lee's army. The math was simple - Grant could afford to lose more of everything so long as he was depleting Lee at the same time.

Eventually, this settled down into a siege around Richmond and its suburb, Petersburg. Petersburg was a train hub and a vital link in the supply chain that fed the Confederate capital and its army. Both armies dug a maze of trenches, much like the ones used in World War I.

The problem was, although Grant was slowly squeezing Lee's army to death, it was not quick enough. The Presidential election of 1864 was quickly coming and war weariness had settled in - this change in strategy was causing so many more Union deaths and casualties. It was feared that Lincoln would not win and his opponent, McClellan would win. McClellan's platform promised a quick end to the war and would most likely end in recognition of the Confederacy as a separate country - the war would be lost.

At this point some Union soldiers who were coal miners before the war had an idea. Why not dig a tunnel under the Confederate lines, fill it full of gunpowder and then blow it up like a giant bomb?
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