Cold Harbor

Updated 02/23/04

Eastern ACW Books

Grant vs. Lee, Round 3. This battle is so shrouded in myth and legend that it'll be tough to accept new facts. Well, maybe it won't be so tough since Gordon Rhea is the one doing the presenting. I haven't yet bought his book, but you can bet that I'll own it after my next trip to the book store. As it stands now, I only have Ernest Furgurson's book on the battle. Some know-it-all who apparently has written an article for North & South magazine was on a tour of the Cold Harbor battlefield in the same group as me this summer, and he apparently didn't like it too much. I don't really have a problem with it, but I'm sure I'll like Rhea's book better.

 Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26-June 3 1864

Gordon C. Rhea

Updated 02/23/04 Rhea challenges the title of Grant as a butcher in this complete coverage of the Overland Campaign fromjust after the fighting around the North Anna up until just before Grant decided to cross the James. Rhea has an easy to understand and interesting style of writing. This latest volume in his Overland Series has 32 maps, which are again done by George Skoch. The book follows the two famous Generals from Lee's lost opportunity at the North Anna River to the fighting around Cold Harbor northeast of Richmond. Rhea disputes some of the commonly stated "facts" about how many men Grant lost in the famously regrettable charge on June 2, stating that Grant lost fewer men and in a greater amount of time than has previously been claimed. He mentions that people tend to erroneously use the casualty figures for the entire battle (almost the first two weeks of June) instead of those lost in the fateful charge. He also points out that the charge on June 2 was much less bloody than many other Union defeats in the East. All in all, this book was what I expected it to be based on Rhea's earlier work. It is a must-have for anyone interested in the War in the East.This is another superb addition to my library. 552 pp., 32 maps

Not War But Murder: Cold Harbor 1864

Ernest B. Furgurson

As I said above, I liked this book. Its problem is that it follows along with the old views of Cold Harbor, unlike Rhea's book which apparently breaks new ground. The maps are always brigade level, just like Furgurson's Chancellorsville book, but they are done by George Skoch, the same man who does Rhea's maps. Furgurson does get the common man's thoughts down very well, using numerous quotes to try to give the feel of what it was like to be there on June 3. He also condemns Grant and the other Union Generals for not asking for a flag of truce to bury the dead and tend to the wounded. Grant didn't want to do this because it would be admitting defeat to the Rebels. The end result was that many men who could have been saved lay out on the battlefield for days and finally died of their wounds or due to exposure. All in all, a pretty good book. But I still prefer Rhea's. 328, 13 maps