This entry in the Campaign series looks at the siege of Petersburg, the longest siege in American history and the battle that effectively ended the Civil War in Virginia, pinning Lee and the Army of Virginia in place while Sherman destroyed the Confederacy.
This book covers the early Union attempts to capture a poorly defended Petersburg (both Butler's early attacks from Bermuda Hundred and Grant's crossing of the James River in Jun 1864), then moves on to look at the series of battles fought along the siege lines, starting with the battle of the Crater and other attempts to break the Confederate lines and moving on to the battles that saw the Union armies slowly extend their left flank around the south of the city, cutting the supply lines leading into Petersburg and Richmond and ending with the battle of Five Forks, the defeat that triggered the fall of Petersburg and led to the end of the Civil War.
Field gains immediate credit with me by explaining what a 'plank road' actually was and why it was significant – a useful piece of information given that so many of the later battles of the campaign were fought to cut individual plank roads.
This book's main strength is also its main weakness. Field concentrated on the set-piece battles that punctuated the siege, producing a clear account of the most significant moments of the nine month long siege and as a result the overall course of the campaign is clear. The focus on the battles is so pronounced that we learn very little about the less dramatic fighting that went on throughout the siege or about conditions in the two side's siege works. Perhaps more surprisingly we don't visit Petersburg itself
The text is supported by five normal maps, three 3D maps (including one for Five Forks) and two double page illustrations as well as the normal wide range of contemporary photographs.
This is an good account of the main battles of the siege, and provides a good overview of the course of this lengthy campaign
The Opening Phase
The Battle of the Crater
The Long Siege, August 1864 to April 1865
The Fall of Petersburg
The Battlefield Today
Author: Ron Field