The Battle and Siege of Petersburg

Updated 12/29/06

The Siege of Petersburg Online: Beyond the Crater

Siege of Petersburg Bibliography Page at Beyond the Crater

Grant vs. Lee, Round 4. Grant fooled Lee badly after Cold Harbor, but botched attacks on the town of Petersburg kept the war in the east going a lot longer than it could have. The Siege of Petersburg still needs a lot of coverage as far as I'm concerned. I'm sure within the next decade you'll see a lot of new books on this campaign, with at least one or two by Gordon Rhea leading the way. I found out lately that there were more books than I had thought. H.E. Howards Virginia Battles and Leaders series provided four excellent books. Monographs for Jerusalem Plank Road, Burgess' Mill, Hatcher's Run and the IX Corps efforts at the Breakthrough on April 2 are still missing, however.

William G. Robertson

New 12/29/06 Read the full REVIEW.

143 pp., 3 maps.

Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion: The Final Battles of the Petersburg Campaign

A. Wilson Greene

Updated 8/18/03 After owning this book for a very long time, I was finally able to read it after going through the Petersburg books below in sequence. Greene focuses on the VI Corps breakthrough on April 2, 1865 against A.P. Hill's Rebel Corps, but he also gives a nice overview of the Siege in 1865. His narrative is interesting, and allows you to see the action clearly. There are a bunch of maps and they often go down to the regimental level. All in all, this looks to be a positive contribution to the thin amount of books already out there on the Siege of Petersburg. 556 pp., 32 maps

The Petersburg Campaign: June 1864-April 1865

John Horn

This is another Combined Books "Great Campaigns" book. Horn does a good job providing the reader with an overview of the siege. But the maps are few and very disappointing. With all of the different actions covered, you would think they could have a few more maps in here. But Horn's book aside, now all that's left is for a full book or two to be published on each individual action of the siege. There are numerous separate fights, such as Jerusalem Plank Road, the Crater, First Deep Bottom, Globe Tavern, the Weldon Railroad, Second Deep Bottom, Hatcher's Run, Reams' Station, Fort Harrison, Peebles' Farm, the Darbytown Road, Fort Stedman, The Breakthrough, and Five Forks Buy this book for now because it is one of the few works out there. Read up on the campaign and then prepare yourself for the flood of Petersburg books I'm expecting in the next decade. Most other major fights have been exhausted, so Petersburg is a logical choice for new material. 288 pp., 6 maps

The Petersburg Campaign: Wasted Valor: June 15-18, 1864

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Thomas J. Howe

New 8/01/03 This is a book in the Virginia Civil War Battles and Leaders series. This was Grant's First Offnsive on Petersburg. Thomas Howe does a fine job relating the thought process of the key Generals on both sides, Lee and Beauregard for the South; Hancock, Smith, Meade, and Grant for the North. The Union had more than one unbelievable chance to take Petersburg and avert the Siege to come, but timidity, command blunders, and darkness prevented them from taking advantage of the situation on all four days. Pierre Beauregard was at his best during this period, holding off the North while being massively outnumbered, and recognizing what Lee did not: that Grant had crossed to the south side of the James River with his entire force. Howe points out the fallacy in assuming "Cold Harbor Syndrome", the Union forces' supposed fear of assaulting breastworks, had anything to do with the Union failures in the four-day battle. The maps are good and numerous, although the regimental level detail I enjoy does not appear here. This is the only monograph on the battle, and is a must-have. For most books in the series, I would recommend getting them from C. Clayton Thompson. He offers great prices and usually has these available. 192 pp., 13 maps

The Battle of The Crater "The Horrid Pit": June 25-August 6, 1864

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Michael A. Cavanaugh and William Marvel

New 8/01/03 This is a book in the Virginia Civil War Battles and Leaders series. The title of this book is a bit of a misnomer, since the First Battle of Deep Bottom is also covered, in effect chronicling Grant's entire Third Offensive against Petersburg. Grant sent Hancock's II Corps north of the James, and his attack drew many Confederates from the Petersburg trenches. After this, the Pennsylvania miners exploded the mine they had dug under the Confederate trenches east of Petersburg and a tragedy unfolded. While two Union IX Corps Generals, Ledlie and Ferrero, got drunk in a bombproof, their men jammed into the new Crater created by the explosion and milled about instead of pressing the attack. The initially bewildered Rebels quickly recovered and attacked to the edge of the Crater. Thousand were killed, wounded and captured, for absolutely no gain. Burnside lost his command as a result of the debacle and the Confederates quickly redug trenches where the Crater was located. This is a very good book on the Crater. The maps were good and showed the terrain very well, but they almost never went down to regimental level. This book is a must-have for fans of this campaign. For most books in the series, I would recommend getting them from C. Clayton Thompson. He offers great prices and usually has these available. 183 pp., 9 maps

The Crater
John Cannan

Updated 11/14/04 The following is a review of The Crater: Burnside's Assault On The Confederate Trenches June 30, 1864 (Da Capo Press, 2002) by John Cannan. Notice the typo on the front cover of the book. The Battle of the Crater was fought on JULY 30, not June 30 as the cover states. Interestingly, this applies only to the cover. The title page has the correct date of July 30 instead. Cannan's book is a decent volume, but has some flaws that preclude me from recommending it to interested readers. He has 164 pages of text and three pages of index. There are no notes, and his bibliography is a bit thin. As this book is part of the "Battleground America Guides" series, Cannan probably isn't to blame for the format and he probably was not given much leeway in terms of voicing any controversial opinions on the battle. The closest he comes in that regard is voicing his belief that the Confederates may not have given quarter to a large number of African-American troops. The maps are okay, but they do not have much topographical detail and they go down to Brigade level only. I also did not think there were enough maps for my taste, with only 6 of these appearing. I would probably look to one of several other books on the Crater currently available, with the book co-authored by William Marvel and Michael Cavanaugh as the best at this point. All in all I thought Cannan’s book was a decent one, though I do have some complaints. First, the maps were all Brigade level, and no indication was ever given as to which Brigades belonged to which Divisions and Corps. This wouldn’t be so bad if Cannan had included a standard Order of Battle, but none exists in this book. While I have read many books on the Petersburg Campaign, I am a fan of sorts, and I didn’t have too much trouble with this, newcomers to the battle will be confused I’m sure. This does not bode well for a book that is obviously aimed at a newcomer to the battle. Also, as this book is in a standard series, it did not seem like Cannan was given much leeway as far as coming up with new ideas and interpretations of the battle, which is always a shame in my opinion. The book contained 167 pages, and aside from a three-page index, everything else was text. There were no footnotes. This is a definite flaw, and reduces the value of a book tremendously. I do not hold Cannan responsible for most of this, as again, he may have been straightjacketed into a certain format. Instead of this book, I would recommend The Battle of the Crater “The Horrid Pit”: June 25-August 6, 1864 by William Marvel and Michael Cavanaugh. That book has the added bonus of including the Federal II Corps actions at First Deep Bottom in some detail. I noted with dismay that in his Suggested Reading section, Cannan called the book “THAT Horrid Pit” instead of “THE Horrid Pit”. This is sloppy editing, but it also does not reflect well on the author or publisher. If you simply must have all things related to this battle or to the Petersburg Campaign as a whole, by all means buy this book. It will not disappoint too badly. Otherwise, I would steer clear and look for Marvel’s volume. A lengthy summary can be found HERE. 167 pp., 6 maps

The Petersburg Campaign: The Destruction of the Weldon Railroad: Deep Bottom, Globe Tavern, and Reams Station: August 14-25, 1864

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John Horn

New 8/01/03 This is a book in the Virginia Civil War Battles and Leaders series. This author also produced the monograph on the Campaign higheer on this page. Here he takes on the Battles of Grant's Fourth Offensive, which ended with the Unon having made some important gains south and west of Petersburg. Grant was perfecting a "left-right" punching combination, again sending Hancock's II Corps (and the X Corps) against Deep Bottom north of the James. After Hancock had drawn sufficient attention, Grant sent Warren's V Corps, supported by elements of the IX Corps, toward Globe Tavern on the Weldon Railroad. After several days of fierce Confederate counterattacks, the Union secured their hold on Globe Tavern and dug in. This was to become an important jumping off point for their Fifth offensive in late September. A few days later, Hancock's Second Corps was sent sout down the Weldon Railroad, with orders to rip up as much track as possible. A.P. Hill fiercely counterattacked and the II Corps was routed off of the railroad. A mortified Hancock wished to die on the field of battle. The maps in the book are numerous and excellent, with some regimental level detail, which is always a plus. The reasoning behind the fighting and the tactical action itself is very well described. This book is again the only one covering these actions, so in my opinion it is also a needed addition to an ACW collection. For most books in the series, I would recommend getting them from C. Clayton Thompson. He offers great prices and usually has these available. 270 pp., 13 maps

Richmond Redeemed: The Siege at Petersburg
Richard J. Sommers

New 8/01/03 A few people I know and more than one review have characterized this book as "dry" and "tough to read". I couldn't disagree more. I loved this book, which actually only covers Grant's Fifth Offensive, and which includes the Battles of Poplar Spring Church (Peebles' Farm), Chaffin's Bluff (Fort Harrison), and the Darbytown Road, not the entire campaign as the title might indicate. Sommers goes into great tactical and strategic detail, and I could not stop reading this book. The maps are unbelievable, being some of the best I've seen and by far the best for a late war set of battles. If you buy only one book on the Campaign, even though it only covers one portion and a middle portion at that, this is the book to get. It was published in 1980, however, and may be very difficult to get. I bought mine used. If you are interested, you might want to try to find this title. 670 pp., 22 maps

The Battle of Five Forks

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Ed Bearss and Chris Calkins
New 6/14/03 This is a book in the Virginia Civil War Battles and Leaders series. Chris Calkins and Ed Bearss are both very good authors, and I respect them both. However, this volume seemed to be worse than the others in H.E. Howard's series for some reason. There was only one map per battle, and none of them were very detailed. The Five Forks map was especially disappointing. Unfortunately, this is all there is on Five Forks, so it still fills a void. To be fair, this is a second edition, so some things may have been left out that I've missed. For most books in the series, I would recommend getting them from C. Clayton Thompson. He offers great prices and usually has these available. 131 pp, 5 maps

Petersburg: Out of the Trenches

James W. Wensyel
New 02/29/04 I just recently bought this book. It depicts human interest stories, in the Soldiers' own words, from the Siege of Petersburg. A review will follow after I read the book. 169 pp., 3 maps

The Last Citadel: Petersburg, Virginia June 1864-April 1865

Noah Andre Trudeau
New 05/19/04 I liked this book by Trudeau much more than his earlier work on the Overland Campaign. This book has plenty of maps, and while they rarely go below Division Level, they do adequatley convey what was happening in the numerous small battles of the campaign. Trudeau's book is more of a campaign study rather than a tactical study of any of the individual battles. As such, it gives an excellent overview of the campaign in a highly readable format. I recommend you read this study and then wade into some of the tactical level books listed on this page. 514 pp., 21 maps

Blue & Gray's History and Tour Guide of Five Forks, Hatcher's Run, and Namozine Church

Chris Calkins

Although I'm a big fan of Blue & Gray magazine, I had not had the chance to read any of their book-length tour guides until now. I generally enjoyed this book, though a map showing the road network from Lewis' Farm near Hatcher's Run extending westward to Five Forks and Dinwiddie Court House as it appeared in 1864 (a modern map does appear later in the book in the tour guide section) would have been helpful. With that said, the narrative was clear and concise. I am familiar with the battles discussed because I have read the Virginia Battles & Leaders volume on Five Forks penned by Chris Calkins (the author of this book) and Ed Bearss. Readers new to these battles may wish to refer to a map of the road network in the surrounding area before reading the book. The maps were okay, going down to brigade level in all places, and occasionally to regimental level. There were no indicators for elevation change, and in most cases no depiction of forested versus cleared land. The tours at the back of the book were of the usual excellent Blue & Gray quality. All in all, this book is a good one to own for fans of the war in the east, and fans of the Petersburg Campaign specifically will definitely want to get this one. I'm not positive it is still in print, but I was able to pick the book up pretty cheaply on the secondary market.

184 pp., 17 maps, photographs