Save Big On Open-Box & Used Products: Buy "The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5--6, 1864” from Amazon Open-Box & Used and save 70% off the $45.00 list price. Product is eligible for Amazon's 30-day returns policy and Prime or FREE Shipping. See all offers from Amazon Open-Box & Used.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.75 shipping
The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5--6, 1864 Hardcover – January 6, 1994
Curated Collections of History Books
Browse through handpicked collections of rare, vintage and antiquarian history books. Learn more on AbeBooks.com.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Special offers and product promotions
From Publishers Weekly
Rhea, a Virginia attorney, offers what will likely become the definitive account of one of the Civil War's most confusing engagements: the Battle of the Wilderness, the first encounter between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, fought in Virginia. The author's reconstruction of the fighting highlights the difficulties of controlling troops once they had been committed to action. Grant's original plan was to maneuver Lee out of his defensive position along the Rapidan River, then crush his troops with superior numbers. Instead, Rhea notes, the Wilderness became a "soldiers' battle," with raw courage compensating for inadequate generalship on both sides. Grant relied too heavily on the Army of the Potomac's commander, George Gordon Meade, who failed to coordinate the movements of subordinates disoriented by the broken ground they fought over. Rhea also critizes Lee for consistently taking the offensive with an army that could not afford the major losses it sustained in attacking. History Book Club main selection.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Fought in a dense woods, the Battle of the Wilderness was the first clash between Grant and Lee. Two days of close-quarters fighting ignited the woods and trebled the casualty list with no advantage to either side; Lee stalemated Grant's superior force. Historian Rhea's revisionist history considers the Wilderness a Union victory. The author questions Lee's reputation as a brilliant strategist while praising Grant for a well-conceived battle plan. Personalities aside, the battle of attrition that would win the war had begun. Powerfully written, mingling official histories with diaries and letters, this study is filled with dramatic tension. As written by Rhea, the Battle of the Wilderness underscores how the Confederacy won many battles but lost the war. Strongly recommended for academic and public collections.
Robert C. Moore, DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co. Information Svcs., Wilmington, Del.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
During the month of May 1864, Grant, Lee, and their soldiers were in virtually constant contact in a war of movement after movement and battle after battle, a bloody chess match that is absolutely riveting. Gordon C. Rhea has captured the story in a compelling way that is certain to enrapture any military history buff.
This is a prodigious work. As the other reviewers point out each book is a stand alone volume but the four books together form a seamless narrative of the entire Overland Campaign that is indispensable to the comprehension of any of its parts.
The first accomplishment of Mr. Rhea's work is to establish a timeline of the Campaign's events from the crossing of the Rappahannock at daylight of May 4, 1864 to the cessation of hostilities at Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864. In between the narrative never leaves the action for more than 12 hours and at times the detail is hour-to-hour. The cross-referencing must have required a warehouse of file cabinets. Crucial events are described with contemporary accounts (in 1865 that meant official reports and newspaper accounts), letters home to friends and loved ones, and post-war accounts from biographies to unpublished diaries and compilations like university libraries and military societies. When all of these sources are culled through for pertinent information and focused on any single event the effect can be tremendous.
The morning after the Battle of the Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania, for instance, the collections of the participants from the Union side - since they were the ones in possession of the combat arena - reveal their mood. The reports, letters and recollections combine to give the reader the dread feeling of resignation that descended on the men who policed the battlefield. One soldier told years later how, after separating bodies and digging graves, he found an isolated spot in the woods and broke into tears from the experience. I found it hard to see the words through my own tears due to the effect of the narrative.
Mr. Rhea's technique thus reveals the Campaign in its entirety, leaving nothing for mere filler. The marches are every bit as exciting as the battles as both armies race to the next objective. The emotional ups and downs are palpable to the reader as the collected relevant texts spanning decades are focused in on any single event and can almost transport the reader though time to be a participant in history.
The next accomplishment, at least to this reader, is what is called the study in command. The difference between the way the two armies functioned comes clear in these books and the way the collective character of the opposing forces are revealed as expressed by the actions of the soldiers is another by-product of the chronicles. The dysfunctional nature of the Union command structure affects the sluggish, brutish nature of the way in which commands are followed all the way down to the lowest private, whereas in the Confederate ranks things sometimes happen without orders because everyone knew what was required of them. The fighting at the Mule Shoe again, for instance, is a good example. Mr. Rhea vividly describes the situation after the Union breakthrough where a few Confederate brigades fought three Union Corps to a standstill due mainly to the attitudes of the participants. Southern companies commanded by sergeants and equipped with inferior equipment had greater impact than leaderless Northern brigades unable to exploit the breakthrough because there was no one present willing or knowledgeable enough to take responsibility.
Other reviewers have described how Mr. Rhea does not shrink from objectively evaluating General Lee's mistakes as well as his virtues. Contrast that to the way he elevates General Grant from any "butcher" characterization to reveal the triumph of his strategic vision even while detailing his tactical blunders. The reputations of the two commanders thus gravitate more toward each other, more the same than opposite in capabilities, than in other studies.
One other contribution I can make that I do not see talked about in the other reviews is to mention the historical "scoops" author Gordon C. Rhea presents for the record. There are a number of them starting with General A.P Hill's performance in the Wilderness to General Hancock's performance, well, anywhere after the Wilderness - you'll have to read the books to find out what they all are - to the big finale, his amazing revelation about the Battle of Cold Harbor. That last is a historical revision that will have a loud echo in any subsequent history of the Cold Harbor engagement.
And finally, Mr. Rhea left a glaring omission right at the end. As knowledgeable Civil War readers will attest there was a final controversy concerning the Cold Harbor engagement involving the way the wounded were treated (or, rather, not treated) after the battle and a testy exchange of correspondence between Grant and Lee about who bore the responsibility for a cease-fire. I was looking forward to more of Mr. Rhea's insightful analysis of that final echo of the Overland Campaign but he did not even mention it. It was the only disappointing thing about the entire series; otherwise, these four books are, in my opinion, the definitive treatment of the Overland Campaign.
Overall a good view of one of the more confusing battles of the Civil War.