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The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7--12, 1864 Hardcover – 1997

4.8 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The most cogent analysis ever written on this confused and often misunderstood campaign." -- Blue and Gray

"No one will ever write about the 1864 Virginia campaign with the same clarity, drama, and perceptiveness of Rhea." -- Civil War History

From the Back Cover

The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864 continues Gordon C. Rhea's peerless treatment of the Civil War's clash of titans: Grant's Army of the Potomac versus Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Inlaid with detail, innovative analysis, riveting prose, and an abundance of supporting primary evidence, it is a worthy sequel to Rhea's first, acclaimed work, The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-6, 1864. Here Rhea examines the maneuvers and battles from May 7, 1864, when Grant left the Wilderness, through May 12, when his attempt to break Lee's line by frontal assault reached a chilling climax at what is now called the Bloody Angle. Rhea draws exhaustively upon previously untapped materials - most notably contemporary newspaper accounts and diaries and letters only recently made available - to construct the definitive account of Grant and Lee at Spotsylvania. Here for the first time is a detailed description of the cavalry's role in the campaign, from the grim fighting at Todd's Tavern through Philip Sheridan's Richmond raid and Jeb Stuart is mortal wounding at Yellow Tavern. Here, too, are fresh and challenging interpretations that often contradict conventional wisdom.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 483 pages
  • Publisher: LSU Press (1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807121363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807121368
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #323,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Freeman on December 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent study of what must be one of the most horrific among Civil War battles. Though one reviewer's comments about sloppy notation are well taken, Rhea's scholarship overall seems solid, and he uses quotes to great effect to make the fighting come alive.
Not only Spotsylvania but the tragic cavalry battle at Yellow Tavern are covered here. Relevant to this, no other study I have seen, not even bios of Stuart, brings out Stuart and his troopers' role in initially forming the crucial defensive line on Laurel Hill and then deploying the infantry in ideal positions. Little known, but perhaps one of Stuart's finest hours.
Rhea seems even-handed ideologically speaking, and his criticisms of Grant and Sheridan seem well supported by the facts. I would recommend this book not only to scholars but to amateurs who want to know why the Civil War was a horrible conflict. This is not light reading. It is a story of appalling human suffering, courage, and unbelievable sheer endurance.
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Format: Hardcover
Gordon C. Rhea has done it again. Mr. Rhea wrote a compelling battle narrative on the desperate fighting in the Wilderness that appeared on the book shelves in 1994. After I read that history, I wondered to myself, how in the heck would he follow up on his excellent treatment on the Battle of the Wilderness. With his latest volume on the Battle of Spotsylvania, he has certainly done that. Rhea, with this latest book has established himself as one of the finest historians writing about the war today. He has brought all of the elements together...Bravery, tragedy, incompetence, and yes, humor in a narrative that truly describes the horrors Americans went through during those awful days in early May, 1864. Mr. Rhea's description of the events on May 12, 1864 are harrowing, unbelievable, and heartbreaking. The struggle for the Bloody Angle becomes all too real for the reader. The unbelievable, heroic combat for those earthworks on the hallowed ground of the Spotsylvania Battlefield makes me proud of both sides as they fought during that rainy day. Each side gave their all....and they showed what Americans are all about. Special thanks for the maps of George Skoch. Mr. Skoch's work really helps the reader understand the campaign. A must for all students of the Civil War....Rhea has written a classic!
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Format: Hardcover
With the year only four-and-a-half months young, it would still be a safe bet to put your money on Gordon C. Rhea's "The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern-May 7-12, 1864" for "Best Civil War Book of 1997".

Rhea, who gave us his "Battle of the Wilderness" in 1994, has only improved upon that award-winning volume with his latest effort. "The Battles for Spotsylvania" covers the vicious and nearly-disastrous engagement between Grant and Lee during the middle weeks of May, 1864. Here, near this sleepy little village southwest of Fredericksburg, Grant's bluecoats met Lee's butternuts in a mortal maelstrom of some of the most bloody fighting the Old Dominion had yet seen.

Long neglected by Civil War writers, this pivotal and oft-confusing series of continuous combats was brought to the modern Civil War buff's attention by William Matter's fine "If It Takes All Summer" in 1988. Rhea, however, takes the torch from here and weaves a masterful narrative, both highly-detailed and smooth flowing at once, to give us, perhaps, the best coverage of this engagement we shall ever have.

How so, one might ask? First, Rhea adds to the records and histories, a plethora of unpublished accounts from diaries, letters, memoirs, newspapers, and the like to give this book the comprehensive personal side of battle. Yet, the strategic and tactical concerns of the fighting do not suffer at all. To be sure, the author, once again, has found that special touch in blending the larger and smaller "pictures" into one without detracting from either.

Nearly every imaginable aspect of the battle is covered in deft fashion, always maintaining the easy-reading flow in the text.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a good book for civil war buffs.

There are two important things to know about this story. Firstoff is Grant loses Sheridan for this particular campaign, so, he basically loses his whole cavalry, because Sheridan wants to do a raid on Richmond. Rhea will go into great detail on how this handicaps Grant as far as the decisions he makes during the campaign.

The death of J.E.B Stuart is short but well covered. Rhea explains well what the death of J.E.B Stuart means for the Confederate calvary's future. This explanation is short,but well covered.

I would also read the Epilogue. I just think it's interesting because it basically reiterates what I was taught in college. It does a good jobs of explaining the Confederacy's future and hopes as the war progresses. It also does a good job of explaining Grant's current plans and future actions as well.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you want to really understand this episode in Civil War history- read this book! Gordon Rhea is spot on correct in his research and writing. His books clean off the clutter of inconsistencies of past books by other authors and makes you feel you are standing right there on the battlefield watching the events take place.

When I need to clarify anything on the Overland Campaign, I turn to Mr. Rhea's books.
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