Bloody Spring: Forty Days that Sealed the Confederacy's Fate

Bloody Spring: Forty Days that Sealed the Confederacy's Fate

by Joseph Wheelan
     
 

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For forty crucial days they fought a bloody struggle. When it was over, the Civil War's tide had turned.

In the spring of 1864, Virginia remained unbroken, its armies having repelled Northern armies for more than two years. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had defeated the campaigns of four Union generals, and Lee's veterans were confident they

Overview

For forty crucial days they fought a bloody struggle. When it was over, the Civil War's tide had turned.

In the spring of 1864, Virginia remained unbroken, its armies having repelled Northern armies for more than two years. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had defeated the campaigns of four Union generals, and Lee's veterans were confident they could crush the Union offensive this spring, too. But their adversary in 1864 was a different kind of Union commander—Ulysses S. Grant. The new Union general-in-chief had never lost a major battle while leading armies in the West. A quiet, rumpled man of simple tastes and a bulldog's determination, Grant would lead the Army of the Potomac in its quest to destroy Lee's army.

During six weeks in May and June 1864, Grant's army campaigned as no Union army ever had. During nearly continual combat operations, the Army of the Potomac battered its way through Virginia, skirting Richmond and crossing the James River on one of the longest pontoon bridges ever built. No campaign in North American history was as bloody as the Overland Campaign. When it ended outside Petersburg, more than 100,000 men had been killed, wounded, or captured on battlefields in the Wilderness, near Spotsylvania Court House, and at Cold Harbor. Although Grant's casualties were nearly twice Lee's, the Union could replace its losses. The Confederacy could not.

Lee's army continued to fight brilliant defensive battles, but it never mounted another major offensive. Grant's spring 1864 campaign had tipped the scales permanently in the Union's favor. The war's denouement came less than a year later with Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Joseph Wheelan's previous books

Terrible Swift Sword

"An exciting and crisply written biography that...fairly gallops across the page."—Wall Street Journal

"Essential reading.... [A] worthy testament to the man (General Philip Sheridan)"—Civil War Times

"[A] well-written, thoroughly-researched biography...that reads like a novel"—Washington Independent Review of Books

"[A] brilliant biography"—Military Officer

"A remarkably well-researched and [an] exquisitely composed narrative"—Choice

Mr. Adams's Last Crusade

"A solid and entertaining account"—Boston Globe

Invading Mexico

"[Wheelan] gives the narrative a queasy realism reminiscent of a Cormac McCarthy novel."—Houston Chronicle

Jefferson's Vendetta

"An elegantly-written and smartly-conceived revisionist history that is sure to engage and entertain."—Publishers Weekly

Jefferson's War

"[A] lively recounting.... The stuff of good historical fiction—and a treat for military buffs"—Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews, May 2014
“Well-researched and argued—a text that Civil War scholars and buffs will consume with glee.”

Roanoke Times, 6/29/14
“Wheelan presents history as if he were a reporter in the field, telling stories about the combatants, describing their movements in a way that is entertaining and informative, and avoiding the overly technical and pedantic references that so often find their way into stories about war—especially the American Civil War.”

Seattle Times, 7/27/14
“[Wheelan] offers a well-written, diligently researched and highly readable account of the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse, North Anna and Cold Harbor. He adds some fine personal touches.”

Kirkus Reviews
2014-04-08
The author of Terrible Swift Sword: The Life of Philip H. Sheridan (2012) and other works about the Civil War returns with a tactic-by-tactic, blow-by-blow account of the sanguinary actions between the forces of Ulysses Grant and Robert E. Lee near the end of the war.Wheelan begins in March 1864 and ends in mid-June. In between are grim images, insights into the characters of Lee, Grant (24 cigars per day!), Abraham Lincoln and others, as well as some second-guessing and deeply informed reasoning about why the North ultimately prevailed. By 1864, the Union Army was considerably larger and better equipped than the Confederates, as Wheelan continually reminds us. However, Lee—whose abilities the author patently admires—was tactically superior to most of the commanders he faced and had kept victory within the South's reach. But Grant was a different animal. As Wheelan shows us repeatedly, he simply sent waves of soldiers into battle. Although he sustained substantial losses, he also inflicted the same, and the South simply could not win a war of attrition. So the battles at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House and Cold Harbor—though not really "victories" for the North—were nonetheless successful due to their devastating effects on Confederate troop strength and supplies. Wheelan also provides interesting side stories—e.g., the career of Gen. George Meade, the flamboyant brilliance of George Armstrong Custer and the untimely death of Jeb Stuart. Some of the horrors are hard to read—not just the mere numbers of casualties, but the details about rotting piles and parts of dead human beings. The author also distributes helpful maps throughout, but he does not comment on the justness or causes or necessity of the war.Well-researched and -argued—a text that Civil War scholars and buffs will consume with glee.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780306822063
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
04/29/2014
Pages:
448
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.70(d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Wheelan is the author of six previous books, including the highly-acclaimed Terrible Swift Sword and Jefferson's War. Before turning to writing books full time, Wheelan was a reporter and editor for The Associated Press for twenty-four years, where he also wrote about the Korean War. He lives in Cary, North Carolina.

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