The Battle of Petersburg, June 15-18, 1864

The Battle of Petersburg, June 15-18, 1864

The Battle of Petersburg, June 15-18, 1864

The Battle of Petersburg, June 15-18, 1864

Synopsis

The Battle of Petersburg was the culmination of the Virginia Overland campaign, which pitted the Army of the Potomac, led by Ulysses S. Grant and George Gordon Meade, against Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. In spite of having outmaneuvered Lee, after three days of battle in which the Confederates at Petersburg were severely outnumbered, Union forces failed to take the city, and their final, futile attack on the fourth day only added to already staggering casualties. By holding Petersburg against great odds, the Confederacy arguably won its last great strategic victory of the Civil War.

In The Battle of Petersburg, June 15-18, 1864, Sean Michael Chick takes an in-depth look at an important battle often overlooked by historians and offers a new perspective on why the Army of the Potomac's leadership, from Grant down to his corps commanders, could not win a battle in which they held colossal advantages. He also discusses the battle's wider context, including politics, memory, and battlefield preservation. Highlights include the role played by African American soldiers on the first day and a detailed retelling of the famed attack of the First Maine Heavy Artillery, which lost more men than any other Civil War regiment in a single battle. In addition, the book has a fresh and nuanced interpretation of the generalships of Grant, Meade, Lee, P. G. T. Beauregard, and William Farrar Smith during this critical battle.

Excerpt

I came upon the Battle of Petersburg in 2006 as I was writing a paper on Maj. Gen. Gouverneur Kemble Warren. In the paper I took special note of Warren’s spectacular failure at Petersburg on June 17, 1864. I knew of the battle from snippets, but as with the mass of Civil War buffs and historians, I paid the engagement little attention. I was intrigued to see that it was in fact a large field battle in which even the broad details were sometimes obscure. Its importance is undeniable. Yet in trying to find out what had happened, the paucity of germane works compelled me to take it up as my master’s thesis topic at Southeastern Louisiana University. If not for fate, it would have been the topic of my PhD dissertation as well.

I am obliged at this moment to acknowledge the help of many colleagues and professors. In my studies at the University of Kentucky, I was honored to be in contact with these fine professors, each of whom helped me as I developed as a historian: Jane Calvert, Ron Eller, Ron Formisano, Joanne Pope Melish, Jeremy Popkin, and Mark Wahlgren Summers. I only knew Shearer Davis Bowman briefly, but his kind words and manner will always stay with me. He was a true Southern gentleman. Of the scholars and students I met in Kentucky, I wish to extend my warmest regards to Andy Adler, Lee Anderson, Jon Free, Karen Gauthier, Peter Overstreet, William Sariego, Lian Thomas, Rachel Waters, and Eric Young. Without them my stay there would have been worse for wear. Of more direct consequence to my work was the faculty . . .

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