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10 thoughts on “The Battles For Spotsylvania Court House And The Road To Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864

  1. says:

    In The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7 12, 1864, Gordon C Rhea charts the maneuvers and battles from May 7, 1864, when Union General Ulysses S Grant broke convention and flanked Confederate General Robert E Lee s Army of Northern Virginia after the Battle of the Wilderness, through May 12, when his attempt to break Lee s entrenched army by frontal assault reached a chilling climax at what is now called the Bloody Angle.Drawing on previously untapped materials, Rhea challenges conventional wisdom to construct a detailed and thorough account of Grant and Lee at Spotsylvania, including the rise of Union cavalry commander Philip Sheridan and death of the legendary J.E.B Stuart This is the second of a five volume series on General Ulysses S Grant s Overland Campaign during the American Civil War.In the aftermath of the Wilderness, General Grant learned from his mistakes, but familiar problems still shadowed his army At Spotsylvania, Ambrose Burnside continued to conduct the IX Corps at a glacial pace His failings were so flagrant that the army talked about them openly While Sheridan s ride south in pursuit of J.E.B Stewart earned him fame and resulted in Stewart s death, it also deprived Grant of the eyes and ears of his army at a critical time The result was eight days of brutal combat, with little to show for it Once again, Grant s divided command was a hindrance.The Battle of Spotsylvania showed Grant s stubborn determination and persistence, but Rhea puts the blame squarely on Grant for his failure to decisively defeat Lee Grant s impulsiveness and impatience undermined what was otherwise a sound strategy He imposed unrealistic timetables and gave little time for preparation, so plans that looked good on paper failed miserably in execution As the battle progressed, Grant took an increasingly active role and sidelined Maj Gen Meade Meade was unable or unwilling to temper Grant s aggressive tendencies.Rhea did not let General Lee off the hook, generally praising his conduct but arguing he made two critical mistakes First, he failed to recognize the importance of Spotsylvania Courthouse It was only quick thinking by Maj Gen Richard H Anderson that saved his army from disaster.Second, he ordered the withdrawal of artillery from a salient in his lines known as the Muleshoe , leaving it essentially indefensible Confederate artillery chief Porter Alexander believed they could have used artillery to devastating effect against the Northern assault, perhaps stopping it altogether Lee himself admitted this was a fatal mistake.Gordon C Rhea born March 10, 1945 is a military historian specializing in the Overland Campaign in Virginia during the American Civil War He is a graduate of Indiana University, Stanford Law School, and Harvard University and is a practicing attorney in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina His other books include To the North Anna River 2000 , The Battle of the Wilderness 1994 , and Cold Harbor 2002.

  2. says:

    Out of the frying pan, and into the fire Out of the butchery of The Wilderness, and into the horrific carnage of The Muleshoe and Bloody Angle of Spotsylvania this is the second entry in Gordon Rhea s masterful series describing the Overland Campaign of Ulysses S Grant and the Union Army of the Potomac against Robert E Lee s Army of Northern Virgina in the spring and summer of 1864 Following the inconclusive horror of two days of bloody fighting in the tangled forests of The Wilderness, Grant has sidled the Union Army to the southeast, hoping to turn Lee s right flank and interpose his army between the Confederates and their capital in Richmond, Virginia Unfortunately, for the federals and Grant, Lee s army beats him by a step to the tiny hamlet of Spotsylvania Courthouse, and there behind superbly constructed defensive works repels numerous assaults made by the large U.S Army of the Potomac over the next week.It was with riveting horror that I read of each of the attacks made against the rebel fortifications in what became known as The Muleshoe a large salient that jutted out from the center of Lee s lines The Muleshoe was nearly a half mile in length and nearly as wide and was ably defended by Lee s Second Army Corps, commanded by Lt General Dick Ewell By the end of May 12th, at the conclusion of major fighting on this section of the battlefield, nearly 18,000 men had been killed, wounded, or captured 8,000 rebel, and almost 10,000 federal It was carnage on a scale not seen before in the Civil War, and that the bulk of the fighting took place in the defensive earthworks ringing and within The Muleshoe, it portended the gruesome butchery that was to come in the trenches of the First World War just fifty years later.Rhea is an excellent story teller, and tells of these horrifying days and events through the use of the personal accounts e.g., letters and diaries of the officers and men that participated in the fighting It is my understanding that perhaps William D Matter s If It Takes All Summer The Battle of Spotsylvania is an even better account of the Spotsylvania Campaign that may be so, as I ve yet to read it but Rhea s is a gripping you are there account that is a page turner from the very first to the last The thirty maps that are included within the text are incredibly detailed, from both a strategic and tactical perspective, and perfectly complement Rhea s masterful prose and battle descriptions.By the time one has finished this excellent book, one cannot help but completely agree with the conclusion reached in Rhea s epilogue The Confederates were technically correct in considering May 10 and 12 as victories After all, they had foiled Grant s assaults on each occasion But a few such victories would leave Lee s army in shambles Eight days of fighting Grant had gutted the Army of Northern Virginia s capacity to go on the offensive For the future, Lee had little choice but to continue his defensive tactics, hoping to thwart Grant s thrusts and to buy time for a political solution to the war If anything, I enjoyed this second volume in Rhea s four volume series about the Overland Campaign even than the first, and now it is on to the third book, To the North Anna River Grant and Lee, May 13 25, 1864.

  3. says:

    This is the second book in a series describing the 1864 campaign in Virginia after Grant took over as the chief general of the union forces Just like the first, it tells the story clearly and with enough detail that the reader understands the how s and why s of this severely fought battle While it has plenty of detail, the author is very careful not to get lost in the details so much that it is difficult to follow what is happening in the fighting After the reading this book, I have a very clear idea of how the battle was initiated and how it developed I look forward to reading the next book in this series I highly recommend this book.

  4. says:

    I like the addition of the yellow Tavern battle to this account of the overland campaign.

  5. says:

    6 12 2018

  6. says:

    Great book by a modern Civil War scholar Enjoyed the first two volumes in this history of the Overland Campaign, looking forward to the next three

  7. says:

    The 2nd in a series about Grant s 1864 overland campaign return return In the Confederate trenches , dead men lay on the ground and floated in pools of water, crimsoned with blood The wounded sprawled in every attitude of pain A soldier in the 1st South Carolina recollected that in stooping or squatting to load, the mud, blood, and brains mingled, would reach up to my waist, and my head and face were spotted with the horrid paint return return The Union fared no better return return In many places, the corpses had been chopped into hash by the bullets, and appear ed like piles of jelly than the distinguishable forms of life. return return This description was of the fighting on the Confederate side of the salient known in popular histories of the Civil War as the Mule Shoe It was a bulge in Lee s lines that was the weakest point in his very formidable entrenchments When Hancock s 2nd Corps charged the salient on May 12, the last and most terrible day of 5 days of butchery, the salient was the scene of some of the most terrible fighting of the war One particular angle of the salient was so lethal for both sides that it was named Bloody Angle The fighting there was 20 continuous hours of Hell Gettysburg , wrote a soldier from the Iron Brigade, is a skirmish compared to this fight return return That was Bloody Angle But it was preceded by 5 days of carnage return return Much has been made about the omniscience of Lee, how he always knew what his enemy was going to do, his faultless performance in battles Lee the God The fact was that Lee the aristocrat made mistakes, plenty of them, and at times was outfoxed by the store clerk from Galena, IL, the quiet, ungod like Grant This was one such occasion After the battle of the Wilderness, Lee was confident that Grant would attack again, while Grant made preparations to slip the entire Union Army between the Confederates and Richmond, forcing Lee out from the Wilderness into the open where the Union Army s superior in numbers and artillery would make a difference Even when Lee was informed that the Union Army was on the move, he believed, until the two armies actually met, that Grant was retreating towards Fredericksburg By sheer accident, a part of the Confederate 1st Corps, led by General Anderson Longstreet had been severely wounded in the Wilderness by his own men arrive at a crossroads near the hamlet of Spotsylvania Court House literally minutes before the advance elements of Warren s Union 5th Corps return return In one of his most serious mistakes, Grant agreed to Sheridan s request to take the entire Union cavalry off to fight Stuart, leaving Grant without his intelligence force, which was to cost thousands in Union casualties Stuart did indeed meet Sheridan, at Yellow Tavern and was killed That, however, was not a knock out blow for the Confederate cavalry, since there were two nearly as capable commanders ready to take over Wade Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee, a nephew of the Confederate commander in chief It was a diversion, and cost far than it accomplished in terms of Union lives return return Rhea tells a gripping, sickening story of mistakes, of suicidal charges on both sides, of the incredible bravery of the ordinary soldier, and most particularly, of what war is really like In this book, Rhea s prose does improve over his previous one, although the verbs to gloat , to boast , to concede , to tumble back are vastly overworked The maps are superb, allowing the reader to follow the action at the brigade level and sometimes at the regimental level quite easily There are times when the Order of Battle, given in the Appendix, comes in handy because of the large numbers of names of commanders, especially on the Union side, it s sometimes difficult to remember which unit belonged to what division or even corps The battle was not complex too often it was merely Grant insisting on hurling troops piecemeal against impregnable defenses but Rhea tells the story in a straightforward way, using as in his previous book excerpts from letters, diaries, Official Records, and other sources to illuminate his points return return This is an excellent military history of a terrible battle Highly recommended.

  8. says:

    This is the second book in the author s Overland Campaign series, picking up after the second day of major fighting in the Wilderness has ended and running through the end of the day of fighting over the Bloody Angle aka Mule Shoe The book also covers the first part of Sheridan s first raid that climaxed at Yellow Tavern with Jeb Stuart s defeat and death.Ending the book at the end of May 12th is an interesting decision while it marks the climax of the fighting at Spotsylvania, lesser fighting would continue there for than a week until the two armies Grant Meade and Lee moved toward the North Anna River.The style of the Wilderness book is pretty much continued here, except the footnotes have been replaced by endnotes There are 327 pages of main text and good maps, plus an order of battle in addition to the citations.A reoccurring theme I am noticing is serious problems in the Union army hierarchy the muddled division of responsibility between Grant and Meade, Burnside s ineptness and that of his chief subordinates , Warren s cautiousness to both a strength and a fault , poor communication in the Army of the Potomac chain of command, and an inability of Grant Meade to adequately control the Army of the Potomac to be adequately aware of the situation and match intent to execution On the Confederate side, Lee seems to struggle between his natural aggressiveness and his near desperation at stopping critical Union breakthroughs There seems to be similarities in Hancock s attacks on May 6 and May 12 both smashing successes undone soon after by determined Confederate counterattacks Lee also suffers a noticeable attrition in top officers which I think comes into play at North Anna.I ll be continuing the series as it continues to live up to its reputation.

  9. says:

    The author s approach to the conflict is identical to that of his first in this series focus is centered upon the military decisions and outcomes of the numerous attacks from the perspectives of both sides however with detail regarding the Union Army since, it would appear, documented evidence survives from the Union side There are thorough discussions about the missed opportunities and tactical errors of the commanders but Rhea provides perspective that seems to soften the responsibilty imposed on some of the less successful and forceful generals in earlier critiques of their performance particulary those that were written immediately following the battle and the civil war A balanced portrayal of these specific days in the civil war Specific mention must be made of the way this author reveals the horror of the Bloody Angle and how the commanders on both sides kept feeding troops into it Rhea highlights the carnage while providing the motivation of both sides for pursuing advantage at this point on the battlefield, making, what might look like insanity to us almost 150 years later, rational in the context that existed at that moment in history A fluid, well written book and a fast read for this type of history Highly recommended.

  10. says:

    Normally I read during commercials and timeouts..this one was different I missed a lot of plots and plays due to the fact that I could not put this one down If you look at my shelves you will know i love to read about war,politics,and history Some I have read have been tedious civil war of 1812 for example but not this one It had my attention from beginning to end and didn t seem to pull any punches when it came to calling a spade a spade Although, I am glad the union was preserved, my childhood heroes were Confederates It was especially saddening to read how J.E.B Stuart died and rather surprising to read how pettiness was so prevalent in the command ranks, especially the Union Army Anyways, it was a fantastic read and I would reccomend it to anyone who does not consider themselves a civil war expert.

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The Battles For Spotsylvania Court House And The Road To Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864 download The Battles For Spotsylvania Court House And The Road To Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864, read online The Battles For Spotsylvania Court House And The Road To Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864, kindle ebook The Battles For Spotsylvania Court House And The Road To Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864, The Battles For Spotsylvania Court House And The Road To Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864 a032042613ce The Second Volume In Gordon C Rhea S Peerless Five Book Series On The Civil War S Overland Campaign Abounds With Rhea S Signature Detail, Innovative Analysis, And Riveting Prose Here Rhea Examines The Maneuvers And Battles From May When Grant Left The Wilderness, Through May , When His Attempt To Break Lee S Line By Frontal Assault Reached A Chilling Climax At What Is Now Called The Bloody Angle Drawing Exhaustively Upon Previously Untapped Materials, Rhea Challenges Conventional Wisdom About This Violent Clash Of Titans To Construct The Ultimate Account Of Grant And Lee At Spotsylvania