The roll-out continues for the Emerging Civil War Series’s upcoming book titles. So far, we focused on the end of the war in 1865. But another title we’re looking forward to fills in a gap in our library: Strike Them a Blow: Battle Along the North Anna River, May 21-25, 1864 by Chris Mackowski.
Strike Them a Blow picks up where A Season of Slaughter: The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House leaves off, and it serves as the perfect lead-in to Hurricane from the Heavens: The Battle of Cold Harbor. Season, co-authored by Mackowski and Kristopher, and Hurricane, co-authored by Dan Davis and Phill Greenwalt, have been two of the most popular titles in the Emerging Civil War Series.
“North Anna usually gets overlooked because the fighting the precedes it and the fighting that follows it are so notoriously awful,” Chris says. “But it’s such a fascinating phase of the Overland Campaign because the armies and the army commanders themselves have been worn bone-thin by the nonstop fighting and maneuvering. It’s the true phase of lost opportunity for both sides.”
Writing the book, Chris says, was a “bucket-lister” for him. “I’ve always hoped to have the chance to write about North Anna because I love this phase of the campaign so much,” he says. “With the Civil War Trust’s recent campaign to acquire property at Jericho Mills, and with renewed attention on the Overland Campaign because of the sesquicentennial, we thought it was the perfect time to really put North Anna front and center with its own book.”
From the back cover:
For sixteen days the armies had grappled—a grueling horror-show of nonstop battle, march, and maneuver that stretched through May of 1864. Federal commander Ulysses S. Grant had resolved to destroy his Confederate adversaries through attrition if by no other means. He would just keep at them until he used them up.
Meanwhile, Grant’s Confederate counterpart, Robert E. Lee, looked for an opportunity to regain the offensive initiative. “We must strike them a blow,” he told his lieutenants.
The toll on both armies was staggering.
But Grant’s war of attrition began to take its toll in a more insidious way, as well. Both army commanders—operating on the dark edge of exhaustion, fighting off illness, pressure-cooked by stress—began to feel the effects of that continuous, merciless grind in very personal ways. Punch-drunk tired, they began to second-guess themselves, began missing opportunities, began making mistakes.
As a result, along the banks of the North Anna River, commanders on both sides brought their armies to the brink of destruction without even knowing it.
Picking up the story he began in his Emerging Civil War Series book A Season of Slaughter: The Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, historian Chris Mackowski follows the road south to the North Anna River. Strike Them a Blow: Battle Along the North Anna offers a concise, engaging account of the mistakes and missed opportunities of the third—and least understood—phase of the Overland Campaign.
Chris Mackowski, Ph.D., is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Emerging Civil War. He has authored or co-authored a dozen books on the Civil War, and his work has appeared in Civil War Times, America’s Civil War, Hallowed Ground, and Blue & Gray. Chris is a professor of journalism and mass communication at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, NY, and historian-in-residence at Stevenson Ridge, a historic property on the Spotsylvania battlefield. He also works Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.