Book Review: Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864


by Hampton Newsome

Kent, Oh.: Kent State University Press, 2013. Pp. x, 448. Illus., maps, appends, notes, biblio., index. $45.00. ISBN: 160635132X

Stalemate at Petersburg

In the Spring of 1864, U.S. Grant’s Overland Campaign had driven Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia from the Rappahannock-Rapidan line to the gates of Richmond.  In June, following the bloody battles and arduous marches of the Overland Campaign, the Union and Confederate armies settled into an increasingly complex series of trenches stretching from Petersburg to Richmond.  Over the next four months efforts to break the stalemate yielded little success and heavy losses. 

Richmond Must Fall examines the last of these attacks and counter-attacks, in October.  Initiated by Lee on October 7th, in part to influence the presidential elections and in part to push back the Union lines, to which Grant responded, culminating in a series of attacks and counterattacks that culminated in some spectacular fighting on October 27-28 in the multiple Battles of Fair Oaks, the Darbytown Road, and the Boydton Plank Road.  The overall result was that, although the Confederate lines had been tightened a bit, the defenses of Richmond and Petersburg remained intact.  These actions were the last major operations on the Richmond-Petersburg front for nearly five months.

The author, independent historian Newsome does a good job of setting the strategic stage, discussing the two armies, and presenting often critical profiles of many of the principal commanders.  His battle pieces are clear and easily followed, particularly as the maps are very well done.  Newsome supplements his narrative with comments and observations by many of the participants, from common soldiers to generals. 

A volume in the Kent State University Press series “Civil War Soldiers and Strategies,” Richmond Must Fall is an excellent read, and a valuable addition to the literature of the Civil War and the Richmond-Petersburg campaign in particular.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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