I don’t know about you, but for years, I have been anxiously awaiting the completion in Gordon Rhea’s epic study of the Overland Campaign. Knowing that the release of the final chapter was pending, I have been ridiculously excited for this book all year.
Over the weekend, my copy of the book finally arrived in the mail courtesy of Amazon: On to Petersburg: Lee and Grant, June 4-15, 1864.
I have written in the past about the important influence Gordon’s book To the North Anna River had on my early development as a historian. The book remains my single favorite microtactical battle study, although all four of the books in his Overland Campaign series have been phenomenal (and if you haven’t read his shorter Spotsylvania book, Carrying the Flag: The Story of Private Charles Whilden, the Confederacy’s Most Unlikely Hero, you should go grab that one, too—it reads like a well-paced novel).
The fourth book in Gordon’s series left off after the shattering repulses at Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864. But just as there is more to Spotsylvania than the May 12 fight at the Bloody Angle—another week, in fact, which tends to get overlooked—there was more at Cold Harbor following that infamous June 3 attack than the oft-quoted regret Grant expressed in his memoirs.
Gordon’s new book promises to fill in that gap in the larger public memory by closing out the last, largely untold phase of the Overland Campaign. It will jump the James River and take Union forces, and readers, all the way to the gates of Petersburg and the dramatic fight there on June 15 where, as the chapter title reveals, “Grant Loses a Sterling Opportunity”—setting the stage for the nine-month siege of Petersburg.
I am swamped with work right now, so I’m not even sure how I’m going to manage to read On to Petersburg at the moment—except I’m gonna figure something out. This has been a book more than twenty-three years in the making (remember, his first book in the series, The Battle of the Wilderness, came out in 1994). I have anxiously awaited this volume for a long time. If Gordon’s still on his A-game—and his books have only gotten better and better—then On to Petersburg will have been well worth the wait.
If any of you have picked up your copy already, I’ll be anxious to hear what you think!