Book Review: The Wilderness Campaign


by edited by Gary W. Gallagher

Chapel Hill: Univ. North Carolina Press, 1997. 283 pp. Illus, maps, notes, index. $29.95. ISBN:0-8078-2334-1

A number of years ago Gary W. Gallagher inaugurated a series of essay collections on significant campaigns of the Civil War. It is one of the best series on the Civil War that has ever been done. The latest volume in the series, The Wilderness Campaign, which is an excellent addition to the literature on the war. The volume includes eight very good essays..

Brooks D. Simpson, one of the best Grant scholars today, starts off with a very perceptive article on the relationship between Ulysses S. Grant, the northern press, and the manner in which the Wilderness campaign was covered. The condition of the respective armies, the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac on the eve of the campaign are dealt with by Gary Gallagher and John Hennessy, respectively.

Gordon Rhea, author of one of the better volumes on the Wilderness, is justly critical of the performance of the Union cavalry in the campaign, which marked Philip Sheridan's debut as commander of the Cavalry Corps. Peter Carmichael's article is sympathetic towards the much maligned A.P. Hill and Richard Ewell, and much more critical of Robert E. Lee, whose failure to concentrate the army quickly almost resulted in a disaster on May 6 1864, before Longstreet's counterattack restored the situation. Carol Reardon's essay on Lewis Grant's Vermont Brigade is a fine examination of the unit that suffered the most casualties of all units involved in the battle on either side.

Finally, the book features a father-son combination. Robert K. Krick covers with his typically exhaustive research the famous "Lee to the rear” incident with the Texas Brigade, while his son Robert E. L. Krick provides an excellent study of Longstreet's flank attack on May 6 that resulted in that commander being wounded in a manner much like Jackson a year earlier at Chancellorsville.

Taken together, this is yet another terrific collection of essays, and a must for anyone with an interest in the American Civil War. Reviewer: R. L. DiNardo   

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