by Daniel T. Davis
Phill Greenwalt and I were riding the wave of Bloody Autumn when we embarked on Hurricane from the Heavens, a narrative encompassing the Battle of Cold Harbor. It was great to work with Phill again and especially so soon. He is a great author and historian but, above all, a great friend and member of my extended family.
I’ve always been fascinated by the Overland Campaign—the fighting between U.S. Grant and Robert E. Lee in the spring of 1864. I’ve spent countless hours tramping across the hallowed ground where the fighting took place and reading about the fighting. Cold Harbor is the culmination of that campaign. As Phill and I set out to put together the draft, we quickly recognized that Cold Harbor encapsulated the themes of the campaign: the devastating loss in the armies’ officer corps, offensive tactical innovations, and the emergence of trench warfare. We decided to focus the book on those themes. I don’t like to speak for others, but I hope we were able to properly communicate them to our audience.
Cold Harbor still stands out in memory for the relative futility of the Union assaults that took place there on June 1 and June 3. “It remains in memory the Golgotha of American history,” an officer in the VI Corps from the Army of the Potomac wrote after the war.
With that quote in mind—we used it on the two-page spread at the beginning of the book—there was no question as to what cover image we wanted use. The image of the USCT burial party interring the remains of the dead in 1865 captures the mood that still hangs like a pall over that battlefield. Even walking the fields today, one can still get sense of foreboding and doom.
There was also another aspect of the project that did not require a lot of forethought.
I was very close to my paternal grandmother—“Grandmom,” as she is affectionately called. Growing up in close proximity to her, I visited every weekend as a child. She was always one of my biggest fans and supporters. Many years ago, when I was a seasonal historian with the National Park Service, she would attend my walking tours. Unfortunately, she passed away in December 2013 right before we began work on Hurricane from the Heavens. In my mind, there was no question who my dedication would be to. Today, Grandmom’s copy sits on one of my bookshelves.
Hurricane from the Heavens: The Battle of Cold Harbor, May 26-June 5, 1864
by Daniel T. Davis and Phillip S. Greenwalt
Savas Beatie, 2014
Click here for more about the book, including a book description, reviews, and author bios.