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Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26--June 3, 1864
Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26--June 3, 1864
by Gordon C. Rhea
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.89
72 used & new from $5.08

16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Part 4 of a masterful series, February 14, 2008
Cold Harbor Grant and Lee May 26-June 3, 1864
by Gordon C Rhea

Anyone who would understand the complexities and difficulties of the duel between Grant and Lee in 1864 would do well to start with Gordon Rhea's masterful four-volume "Overland Campaign" series.

Cold Harbor is the culminating Volume and the agony of that battle is not diminished by the fact that it is actually a very different battle from the one people have talked about in generalities.

Cold Harbor was the logical culmination of Grant's continuing efforts to get around Lee's right flank. Grant had a sophisticated understanding of the strategic problem he faced. If he simply kept maneuvering Lee backwards he would eventually be in the fortifications of Richmond and Petersburg. The war would be reduced to a grand siege. Grant was confident he would win such a siege (just as he had won the siege at Vicksburg in 1863) but he also knew it would run the risk of exhausting the patience of the North and costing Lincoln the election.

To a degree, modern American military officers often underestimate Grant. He understood that the Civil War was political and that if he could not produce victory within a politically acceptable time table the war would be lost.

Lee understood the exact mirror image of Grant's challenge. If Lee could not find a way to outmaneuver Grant and fight a decisive battle in the open he would be forced back into a siege and once pinned to Richmond in a siege he would inevitably lose.

Thus, the aggressive assaults were not mere butchery nor were they tactical incompetence.

Two of the best generals in American history were grappling with how to force a battle of decision out in the open before the realities of siege war closed in on both of them.

They failed, in part because Lee no longer had the forces necessary to fight a battle of decision and the Union Army was not a fast enough instrument to execute the kind of maneuvers Grant and Sherman had exploited in the West.

Rhea brilliantly helps us understand how this happened and why.

He also notes that the common soldiers understood the importance of digging in and entrenching long before their officers did and that the challenges of the First World War were already showing up in the last year of the civil war--some half century earlier.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 6, 2012 8:34 PM PDT

To the North Anna River: Grant and Lee, May 13--25, 1864 (Jules and Frances Landry Award Series)
To the North Anna River: Grant and Lee, May 13--25, 1864 (Jules and Frances Landry Award Series)
by Gordon C. Rhea
Edition: Paperback
Price: $23.16
66 used & new from $7.22

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Part 3 of a masterful series, February 14, 2008
To the North Anna River: Grant and Lee May 13-25, 1864
Gordon C Rhea
LSU press, 2000,505pp

This is volume three of the Overland Campaign which captures the duel between Grant and Lee in May and June of 1864.

In some ways this is the most interesting of the four volumes because this part of the campaign is the least studied and the least discussed.

Having tried to slug his way through the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse, Grant tried a grand maneuver with a lot of effort at surprising Lee and deceiving him into looking the wrong way.

Anyone who thinks Grant could not be a subtle and psychologically-oriented general should read this volume.

Grant actually misleads Lee for the better part of a day. Furthermore Lee's army is gradually being worn down. Lee has a very limited supply of reinforcements available. Grant can draw on the massively greater manpower reserves of the North and the North is beginning to mobilize African American troops in an effort to create an even greater manpower advantage.

Thus even when Lee figures out what is happening and responds with his usual speed and energy (diminished some because he is physically sick) the forces are simply not their to outflank the Union Army and force a battle of decision.

This is a little studied sequence in the larger operations that dominated the East in the spring and summer of 1864 but it is an elegant campaign between two brilliant masters of war and it is well worth studying.

Gordon Rhea outlines it vividly and in a detailed manner which any student of the civil war or of the art of war in general should find very useful.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 20, 2014 8:46 AM PDT

The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5--6, 1864
The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5--6, 1864
by Gordon C. Rhea
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.90
70 used & new from $6.08

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Part 1 of a masterful series, February 14, 2008
The Battle of the Wilderness May 5-6, 1864
By Gordon C Rhea

This is volume one of Gordon Rhea's masterful four volume study of the Overland Campaign.

The Wilderness Campaign is particularly worth studying for two reasons. First, it is one of the most complex and frustrating battles ever fought on American soil. Second, it is the first encounter between Grant and Lee.

Rhea adeptly outlines Grant and Lee's eagerness to impose their will on the other. Each was coming from a long series of victories (Grant in the West and Lee in the East) and each was confident they could win.

What is amazing to a student of their generalship from a more distant viewpoint is how often both Grant and Lee were uninformed, misinformed, confused, and out of touch with events.

The Wilderness was an area of overgrown second growth forest so dense and so impossible to travel outside the limited road network that it turned into a constant blind fight of small units doing their best in isolation and with limited leadership from above.

Both Grant and Lee were confident they could find a way around their opponents flank and both were willing to run tactical defeat in specific areas in order to push and probe until they found a way to break through.

In the end, the Army of Northern Virginia held on by a very narrow margin but in the process took so many casualties that its ability to maneuver and fight in the open was almost broken.

Lee had blocked Grant for the moment but only by engaging in the kind of attrition which would ultimately guarantee a northern victory.

Rhea's careful outlining of the hour by hour intensity is well worth studying.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 30, 2010 5:39 AM PST

The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7--12, 1864
The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7--12, 1864
by Gordon C. Rhea
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $30.27
114 used & new from $3.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Part 2 of a masterful series, February 14, 2008
The Battles for Spotsylvania Courthouse and the Road to Yellow Tavern
By Gordon C Rhea

Between the opening round in the Wilderness and the culminating blood-letting at Cold Harbor there were two other major areas of action in the Overland Campaign.

In volume two of Rhea's extraordinary four volume series the action moves out of the wilderness as Grant seeks to outflank Lee and force a battle in the open where the weight of Union artillery and manpower would give it the opportunity to break the Army of Northern Virginia.

In a pattern which would remain true for this entire campaign, Lee's army simply moved faster and counterattacked faster than the Union Army. The culture of the Army of Northern Virginia was a culture of automatic aggressiveness. When attacked they immediately began to organize a counterattack. When they discovered the Union Army they immediately began to probe to see if they could get around its flank. When they had to defend they immediately began entrenching and dug as deep and fast as possible to give themselves the maximum advantage in stopping a Union attack.

Grant' had a much bigger Army but it was simply a lot slower and a lot more hesitant than its Southern opponent.

The Army of the Potomac was a very courageous and stubborn army when it was attacked but it had a hard time spontaneously engaging Lee.

Grant kept trying to overcome these institutional weaknesses by surprising Lee with night marches, diversions to distract him, and carefully planned mass assaults.

At Spotsylvania the Union Army almost gained an advantage using a surprise move which, if it had worked, would have put Lee at a huge disadvantage. Unfortunately the Confederate Army moved fast enough to get there first and by the margin of a few hours entrench enough to stop the Union advance.

Grant then prepared a massive assault at a vulnerable salient and actually won a shocking victory. Unfortunately , in a pattern which would become the norm in the first world war some fifty years later, the disorganization inherent in breaking through made it impossible to exploit the breakthrough and by the time the Union forces reorganized the Confederates had created a new and equally formidable line a short distance back.

Rhea carries you step by step through the agonizing bloodletting in which two powerful armies tried to maneuver but found themselves again and again engaged in bloody fights of attrition which were sapping northern morale and southern capacity to fight at about the same rate.

These books are a remarkable accomplishment.

Stalin's Ghost: An Arkady Renko Novel (Arkady Renko Novels)
Stalin's Ghost: An Arkady Renko Novel (Arkady Renko Novels)
by Martin Cruz Smith
Edition: Hardcover
248 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Martin Cruz Smith doesn't dissapoint, February 14, 2008
Stalin's Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith
Simon and Shuster New York 2007, 332 pp.

In Wolves Eat Dogs, Martin Cruz Smith taught us about deliberate nuclear poisoning and the kind of lingering death which was actually used to kill a Russian defector in London (and has since led to some very harsh diplomatic activity between Great Britain and Moscow as the British try to extradite the people they think killed someone on British soil and Putin's government continues to protect the accused assassins).

Now, in Stalin's Ghost, he portrays a further level of official corruption infecting the new Russian autocracy as the institutions of Soviet repression reassert themselves within money-oriented corrupt ties that extend deep into the police and the prosecutors.

Smith always writes well and he has a knack for capturing you with a dozen little details and then keeping your interest throughout the mystery.

Stalin's Ghost offers a different perspective on the new Russian semi-dictatorship as well as a pretty good mystery story at the same time.

I read everything Martin Cruz Smith writes and I have never been disappointed.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 17, 2012 1:26 PM PST

Down River
Down River
by John Hart
Edition: Hardcover
169 used & new from $0.01

135 of 145 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impossible to put down, October 2, 2007
This review is from: Down River (Hardcover)
I thought John Hart had a remarkable beginning with The King of Lies, a book which captured me and kept me glued to the page as it wove together a southern baroque small town family oriented sense of fantasy, reality, and mystery in a way that is totally believable. However, he may have surpassed himself in Down River, a novel which I found impossible to put down and which carried the sins of the past into the crimes of the present and the pain of the future with a human, personal touch that was endlessly gripping. I cannot recommend it too highly if you are interested in the human condition, the complexity of people, or the nature of southern gothic traditions. I believe that John Hart is going to become a writer that many readers look forward to every year for his latest volume. This certainly builds on King of Lies and continues his development as a major fiction writer.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 23, 2009 3:16 PM PDT

Invisible Prey
Invisible Prey
by John Sandford
Edition: Hardcover
484 used & new from $0.01

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a fine novel, September 20, 2007
This review is from: Invisible Prey (Hardcover)
John Sandford does it again with Invisible Prey. Lucas Davenport, who is one of the most believable characters in modern crime fiction, continues his career in breaking a case that is deliciously complex, involves wonderfully convoluted and perverse characters and carries you from connection to connection until suddenly it will all make sense. This is a fine novel about interesting people, some of whom are doing violent and destructive things and others whom simply want to lead nice, decent lives and catches both the way in which the innocent can without cause be destroyed by evil, and the way in which good can in the end triumph. As an optimist, I find it always comforting to read John Sandford's novels and in particular I enjoy his Lucas Davenport pursuit of justice.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 26, 2009 9:19 PM PST

The Watchman
The Watchman
by Robert Crais
Edition: Hardcover
305 used & new from $0.01

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Watchman is a remarkable book, September 20, 2007
This review is from: The Watchman (Hardcover)
Robert Crais' The Watchman is a very inventive change from his novel focus on Elvis Cole to a stunningly intense focus on Joe Pike, Elvis Cole's side-kick and chief muscle. By developing a book in which Pike has to protect a young woman who is wanted by a relentless team of criminal killers, the book moves you straight into a world of non-stop violence, steady commitment to survival by doing whatever it takes and the virtues of a highly trained, very skilled person doing what he does best against bad people trying to do the worst they can. If you want an evening of forgetting everything else and going along for the ride, The Watchman is a remarkable book.

Natural Selection
Natural Selection
by Dave Freedman
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
77 used & new from $0.01

13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pop-Darwinism carried to its ultimate extreme, September 20, 2007
Dave Freedman's Natural Selection is just plain fun. It is pop-Darwinism carried to its ultimate extreme, but it stresses your mind, gets you to wonder about the species that could be in the ocean deep and reminds you that things aren't always the way they seem. While this book is fantasy rather than science, it brings just enough science and high technology in to make you pay constant attention. The intelligence of the dangerous new species makes this a cross between Jaws and Michael Crichton's description of intelligent nano-biology. I recommend it for pure fun and for getting you to think a little differently about the possibilities on our planet.

Immoral (Jonathan Stride)
Immoral (Jonathan Stride)
by Brian Freeman
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
62 used & new from $0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable book, September 20, 2007
Immoral is a remarkable book for a first time author. Brian Freeman has a great career in the tradition of Michael Connelly or Stuart Woods in that he creates believable characters that you care for and then he walks you step by step through how their lives intersect and what it means at a human level to encounter violence and understand what it does to people's lives. Immoral jumps from Minnesota to Las Vegas and back in a way that kept me riveted to the book. His portrait of a systematic deliberate killer with no remorse is utterly believable and extraordinarily chilling. I would read anything Brian Freeman wrote.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 6, 2009 7:01 AM PDT

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