Thursday, August 30, 2007

Road to Appomattox

by Robert Hendrickson

From Publishers Weekly:
This book offers more than its title suggests. Henderson (Sumter: The First Day of the Civil War) presents Appomattox as the final act in a complex series of military and political events that began in early 1864.

When Grant assumed command of the Union armies, his goal was a coordinated campaign to destroy the Confederacy by breaking its armed forces, particularly Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.

Hendrickson's account will appeal to general readers through his use of well-known first-person accounts to convey the human dimension of the fighting: the ferocious hand-to-hand combat in the Wilderness, the doomed charge at Cold Harbor, the fiasco at the Battle of the Crater.

Specialists, although unlikely to find significant new evidence in these pages, will appreciate Hendrickson's argument that Grant's pursuit of Lee and his army was the only way to defeat an opponent determined to keep the field at any price, even after Sheridan's Shenandoah Valley campaign and Sherman's "March to the Sea."

By the spring of 1865, the Army of Northern Virginia was too hungry and too understrength to fight outside the entrenchments around Richmond and Petersburg. Having maneuvered into the open, it was a run to earth in a campaign whose speed and sophistication Hendrickson correctly praises for closing off the possibility of an extended guerrilla war that might have intensified the bitterness between the opponents. Instead, as Henderson demonstrates, the mutual respect demonstrated by victors and vanquished at Appomattox proved a significant element in the postwar healing process.