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To the Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign

To the Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign

4.5 4
by Stephen W. Sears

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The Peninsular Campaign of 1862 was the largest offensive of the American Civil War. General McClellan's grand scheme was to advance up the Virginia Peninsula and destroy the Confederate army in its own capital. Initially successful, the plan deteriorated at the gates of Richmond.


The Peninsular Campaign of 1862 was the largest offensive of the American Civil War. General McClellan's grand scheme was to advance up the Virginia Peninsula and destroy the Confederate army in its own capital. Initially successful, the plan deteriorated at the gates of Richmond.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sears complements his 1988 biography of George McClellan with this definitive analysis of the general's principal campaign. McClellan's grand plan was to land an army at Yorktown, move up the Virginia peninsula toward Richmond, and fight a decisive battle somewhere near the Confederate capital, thereby ending the Civil War while it was still a rebellion instead of a revolution. The strategy failed in part because of McClellan's persistent exaggerations of Confederate strength, but also because under his command the Federals fought piecemeal. The Confederates were only marginally more successful at concentrating their forces, but Sears credits their leaders, especially Lee, as better able to learn from experience. Confederate victory on the Peninsula meant the Civil War would continue. The campaign's heavy casualties indicated the kind of war it would be. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Sept.)
Library Journal
This companion to Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam ( LJ 5/15/83) continues the author's narrative of the fortunes of the Army of the Potomac and its leader, General George B. McClellan. Sears's compelling Civil War chronicles rival those of the late Bruce Catton, and this work resonates with authority derived from a thorough knowledge of McClellan and his adversaries and immediacy achieved by extensive use of eyewitness accounts gleaned from the reminiscences of combatants on both sides. Lucid maps, accurate tables of command, and a comprehensive bibliography all contribute to the book's usefulness. Those reading it may also want to consult Richard Wheeler's Sword over Richmond ( LJ 4/1/86) for other eyewitness accounts and William C. Davis's The Guns of '62 ( LJ 2/15/82) for a superb photographic record of the campaign. Recommended for most libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/92.--Lawrence E. Ellis, Broward Community Coll. Lib., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Kirkus Reviews
In George B. McClellan (1988) and his work editing the papers of the Union general, Sears established himself as the critical but indispensable authority on flawed "Little Mac." Now, in a stirring prequel to Landscape Turned Red (1983), his superb account of the Battle of Antietam, the author reaffirms his mastery of historical narrative. In March 1862, the egotistical but timorous McClellan was prodded by Lincoln into finally launching the first major offensive by the Army of the Potomac. Instead of marching directly overland from Washington, McClellan used Federal sea power to advance on Richmond by way of the peninsula between the York and James Rivers. The "Grand Campaign," however, soon belied its creator's Napoleonic pretensions by becoming a three-and-a-half-month nightmare of feints and pitched battles, ultimately engaging up to a combined quarter-million men on both sides and leaving one of every four men dead, wounded, or missing. Using hundreds of eyewitness accounts, Sears demonstrates how the most creative use of military technology (ironclad warships, 200-pounder rifled cannon, battlefield telegraph, and aerial reconnaissance) existed side by side with the most appalling mismanagement (Stonewall Jackson's uncharacteristic lethargy; McClellan's mistaken belief that the numerically inferior rebels possessed a two-to-one manpower advantage; out-of-sync attacks by both Confederate and Union generals). Above all, though, Sears casts the campaign as a clash of wits and wills between McClellan—whom he accuses of losing "the courage to command"—and Robert E. Lee—who, upon succeeding the wounded Joseph E. Johnson as head of the Army of Northern Virginia, seized theinitiative, repulsed the assault in the series of "Seven Days" battles, and began his long journey into legend. An authoritative, ironic, and stirring addition to Civil War annals. (Two 16-page b&w photo inserts.)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.04(h) x 1.49(d)

Meet the Author

STEPHEN W. SEARS is the author of many award-winning books on the Civil War, including Gettysburg and Landscape Turned Red. The New York Times Book Review has called him "arguably the preeminent living historian of the war's eastern theater." He is a former editor for American Heritage.

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To The Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just finished reading this book and it was probably the the best Civil War book I've ever read. Sears has a balanced, clear, insightful style that far surpasses his too-partisan or too-dramatic predecessors. I'd never read about this incredibly influential campaign that basically set the stage for the rest of the war. HIGHLY recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sears presents a readable and understandable review of the events and main characters of the Peninsula Campaign of 1862. The Peninsula Campaign led Lee to decide to cross the Potomac into Maryland in late 1862. This book leaves many doubts in my mind about General McClellan. General Lee comes to the head of the Confederate army at Richmond. The battle of the Seven Days and related battles of the Peninsula campaign are tied together in a clear fashion. This book clarifies the main events of the Eastern Theater that determined the course of the war in the East in 1862.