by Sean Michael Chick
Lincoln: Nebraska Potomac Books, 2015. Pp. xviii, 460.
Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 1612347126
A Fresh Look at the Start of the Petersburg Campaign
Wargamer and historian Chick gives us a very detailed, somewhat revisionist account of the Union attempt to capture Petersburg in mid-July of 1864. In several ways one of the Civil War’s most unusual actions, Grant’s attempt to take Petersburg was plagued by more than the common run of miscalculations, “fog of war,” poor communications, quarrelsome generals, missed opportunities, strokes of good and bad luck; and yet also one of the most potentially decisive where a Union win could have shortened the war considerably.
Chick starts his account with three chapters that cover, in increasing detail, operations from March through early June of 1864, as Grant pressed Lee ever closer to the Richmond/Petersburg lines. The four days of maneuver and combat around Petersburg (June 15-18) each get their own chapter, and this is followed by a chapter giving an overview of events through to the end of the war.
Although he is perhaps a bit too generous to some, Chick offers some useful critical assessments of many of the generals. He is more favorable than usual in his views of P.G.T. Beauregard and Benjamin Butler, who in particular deserves a better reputation, while others usually viewed favorably, most notably U.S. Grant and even Robert E. Lee, are brought down a notch. Chick’s battle pieces are very well written, clear and careful, and accompanied by some very useful maps, which help make it much easier to follow the action.
This a good addition to the literature of the Campaign of ’64.