With To the North Anna River, the third book in his outstanding five-book series, Gordon C. Rhea continues his spectacular narrative of the initial campaign between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee in the spring of 1864. May 13 through 25, a phase oddly ignored by historians, was critical in the clash between the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia. During those thirteen days an interlude bracketed by horrific battles that riveted the public's attention a game of guile and endurance between Grant and Lee escalated to a suspenseful draw on Virginia's North Anna River.
From the bloodstained fields of the Mule Shoe to the North Anna River, with Meadow Bridge, Myers Hill, Harris Farm, Jericho Mills, Ox Ford, and Doswell Farm in between, grueling night marches, desperate attacks, and thundering cavalry charges became the norm for both Grant's and Lee's men. But the real story of May 1325 lay in the two generals' efforts to outfox each other, and Rhea charts their every step and misstep. Realizing that his bludgeoning tactics at the Bloody Angle were ineffective, Grant resorted to a fast-paced assault on Lee's vulnerable points. Lee, outnumbered two to one, abandoned the offensive and concentrated on anticipating Grant's maneuvers and shifting quickly enough to repel them. It was an amazingly equal match of wits that produced a gripping, high-stakes bout of warfare a test, ultimately, of improvisation for Lee and of perseverance for Grant.
|Publisher:||Louisiana State University Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)|
About the Author
Gordon C. Rhea is also the author of The Battle of the Wilderness, May 56, 1864, winner of the Civil War Regiments Book Award; The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 712, 1864; and Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26June 3, 1864, winner of the Austin Civil War Round Table's Laney Prize.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I been reading Civil War History for 60 years and somehow, I've overlooked this battle. With the leadership the Union Soldiers was given at this battle, by the Corps Commanders & above, you have to wonder how any of them got out alive. Thanks to this book, my son who is a 1st Lt. with the 69th New York N. Guard (Fighting69th) and I will be able to find the location, where a great uncle was WIA with the 170th New York. He later died in Washington D.C. and somehow, the goverment lost where he was laid to rest.
The period of time from May 2 to June 9, 1864 is known as the Overland Campaign or Grant¿s Overland Campaign, in which Grant and Lee engaged for the first time; it ended with the Confederate retreat to Petersburg. During that time, the armies fought nearly nonstop. Several of the battles are notorious for the some of the worst casualties and vicious fighting: the Wilderness (May 5-6), Spotsylvania Courthouse (May 7-12) and Cold Harbor (May 26-June 3).While the engagements were bloody, the entire campaign was a series of maneuvering for both generals--a series of flanking maneuvers on Grant¿s part as he shifted time and again around Lee¿s right, trying to interpose the Army of the Potomac between the Army of Northern Virginia and Richmond, trying to force a fight on favorable ground so that the Union superiority both in numbers and artillery would cause a crushing defeat. For a variety of reasons, of which luck was crucial, that didn¿t work.The battle of wits and maneuvers between Grant and Lee reached its peak during two weeks starting in mid-May. The Union was stalemated at Spotsylvania; Lee¿s army was entrenched behind impregnable fortifications that even Grant was unwilling to assault. Grant¿s decision: to once again slip the Army of the Potomac around the right of Lee¿s army, headed for the North Anna River where the potential seemed highest to fight the kind of battle that would finish off Lee¿s army and end the war.Because this stretch of the Overland Campaign lacks the drama of the major battles of the other segments, there isn¿t much written about it in the general histories--just a sort of place and time marker on the march from Spotsylvania Courthouse to the nightmare of Cold Harbor. But it¿s fascinating in its own right, as a record of two generals and how they thought. Rhea has done a remarkable job in bringing this phase of the Overland Campaign to life. Using memoirs, official records, journals and other primary sources, he carefully reconstructs the battle of wits that played out between Grant and Lee. Unable to take the offensive, Lee could only hope to second-guess his opponent and make an effective, defensive countermove to whatever Grant planned.While primarily a drama of maneuvering armies, there were sharp engagements, including a cavalry battle at Haws Shop and several infantry fights. Rhea narrates these in outstanding fashion.But the big drama was Grant¿s maneuvering of the Army of the Potomac in a race with Lee to reach the North Anna River. Rhea does a superb job of illustrating this complicated series of shifts.One of the highlights of the book, however, is Rhea¿s, painstaking reconstruction, as much as is possible, of Lee¿s and Grant¿s thought processes--and mistakes. He makes several points and makes excellent cases for them:Lee was not the practically supernaturally intuitive commander he has been given credit for, a myth arising from his aides, particularly Walter Taylor. He made plenty of mistakes and this segment of the campaign shows that clearly.Grant acquired a reputation in his own time for being a butcher--someone who was callous about his soldier¿s lives, throwing them needlessly in frontal assaults against heavily fortified entrenchments. He did do some of that, but Rhea points out in several cases Grant¿s (flawed) thinking in doing so. Mostly, however, he tried to maneuver to gain the advantage over Lee. That he did not do so was due to a combination of bad weather, lack of judgement on the part of subordinates--and sheer bad luck.There are historians who like to do the ¿what if¿--who assume that if luck had turned this way or that way, the Confederacy could have won. But Luck plays no favorites, and nowhere is this more dramatic in two stages in this part of the campaign. Due to bad luck, Grant lost a chance to cut Lee¿s army in two, thanks to a mistake Lee made; equally bad luck coming in the form of a severe case of dysentery prevented Lee from being in command at
This is the third in the four volume series, The Overland Campaign. The books are very well written and make good use of contemporary sources. This is really very good history. The author provides good analysis of the actions by Grant and Lee and their subordinates. The difference between good and excellent history is the analysis. In this volume the author points out that Lee is winning the battles but Grant is winning the campaign. This volume does not have the large battles in the other volumes of the series. The emphasis is on movement by the armies. The author does a good job of telling what is going on in the minds of Grant and Lee as they maneuver their armies to try to gain an advantage on each other. The four volumes are an excellent portrayal of a critical campaign in the Civil War.