How many of you know that there was a SECOND battle of Fair Oaks, and that it occurred in late October 1864 during the Siege of Petersburg? This is one of four neglected battles from October 1864 that lawyer Hampton Newsome tackles in his new book Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864. Newsome has already been involved with the Petersburg Campaign, helping to edit a book collecting more “Civil War Talks” from George Bernard and friends. This is more of a preview than a review, as I’m halfway into the book. A VERY heavy load at work has prevented me from just digging in, but with the holidays soon upon us I hope to knock the rest of this one out in one or two sittings. The book is interesting because it covers a month at Petersburg, rather than an offensive. October saw the end of Grant’s Fifth Offensive and the conception and carrying out of his Sixth Offensive. North of the James, three battles were fought on or near the Darbytown Road, on October 7 (Darbytown and New Market Roads), 13 (Darbytown Road), and 27-28 (Second Fair Oaks). In addition, the more well known Battle of Boydton Plank Road was also fought on October 27-28 near Hatcher’s Run southwest of Petersburg. The book is important because it covers these events in detail for the first time. Try Googling “Second Fair Oaks” and see how much useful information you get on that battle. The Darbytown Road affairs are given similarly scant attention online and through the years. Newsome changes all that with what is a very good (so far, I’m on the October 13 Darbytown Road battle) “battle book” with good maps and heretofore lacking tactical detail. In addition to the tactics, the author sets these events into the greater war situation in October 1864. The Presidential Election was only weeks away, and Lincoln couldn’t afford any military disasters. In spite of the risk, Newsome notes, Grant took the offensive and continued to pound away at the Cockade City. This book fills a need, one which has gone unfilled for almost 150 years. There are no books I know of that deal with these battles specifically and in this much detail, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time mucking around enthusiastically in the primary sources associated with the Siege of Petersburg. I hope to have a detailed review up here at at The Siege of Petersburg Online in the near future, hopefully over the Christmas break, work and two young boys permitting.
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