The Siege of Petersburg - The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864, John Horn

The Siege of Petersburg - The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864, John Horn

The siege of Petersburg lasted from the summer of 1864 into the spring of 1865. During that period Grant made a series of attempts to break the deadlock, now split into a number of campaigns. This book focuses on the fourth offensive, of August 1864, an attempt to cut the Weldon Railway, south of Petersburg, and in particular on the three main battles of that campaign.

There are two main strands to this book. Much of the space is taken up with very detailed accounts of these three battles, with the first two getting four full chapters each, and the third two chapters. This takes us down to the small unit level, and is well supported by contemporary memoirs. The second strand looks at the overall strategic impact of the campaign and the battles, and the qualities of the two armies and their commanders.

The first strand will be of interest to American Civil War enthusiasts, but perhaps less to the general reader. For me the second strand was of wider interest, and the author makes some good points about both the Union failings in these battles, and Grant's overall strategic success. The Union army and most of its commanders were outperformed by their Confederate opponents during much of the Petersburg campaign, and Horn doesn't pull his punches when examining why. On the other hand he acknowledges that Grant saw these battles as part of a nation wide campaign, and at this level the fourth offensive was a great success. Lee was unable to go onto the offensive in the eastern theatre, and the Confederate high command was unable or unwilling to move troops west to try and stop Sherman. The fall of Atlanta gave Lincoln the victory he needed to ensure his re-election at the end of 1864, and the fourth offensive helped Sherman win that crucial victory.

Chapters
1 - The War at its Crisis
2 - The Second Battle of Deep Bottom, August 14, 1864
3 - The Second Battle of Deep Bottom, August 15, 1864
4 - The Second Battle of Deep Bottom, August 16, 1864
5 - The Second Battle of Deep Bottom, August 17-21, 1864
6 - The Battle of Globe Tavern, August 18, 1864
7 - The Battle of Globe Tavern, August 19, 1864
8 - The Battle of Globe Tavern, August 20, 1864
9 - The Battle of Globe Tavern, August 21, 1864
10 - Wrecking the Weldon Railway, August 21-24, 1864
11 - The Second Battle of Reams Station, August 25, 1864
12 - The Second Battle of Reams Station, August 25, 1864: The Second Confederate Assault
13 - Had Not Success Come Elsewhere

Author: John Horn
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 336
Publisher: Savas Beatie
Year: 2015


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