ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y., April 23, 2014 — Dr. Chris Mackowski, professor of journalism and mass communication at St. Bonaventure University, has edited a pair of new Civil War books related to the war’s most prolonged campaign of fighting and maneuvering, which took place 150 years ago this spring.
The 1864 Overland Campaign pitted Federal commander Ulysses S. Grant against Confederate commander Robert E. Lee in a series of major battles that included some of the most notorious names of the war: the Wilderness, the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania Court House, and Cold Harbor. The campaign opened May 3, 1864, and lasted until June 16. During that time, the Northern and Southern armies engaged in an unrelenting series of fighting, maneuvering, and marching across more than 70 miles of central Virginia.
The two books are part of the Emerging Civil War Series published by Savas Beatie. Mackowski serves as managing editor of the series.
The first book in the pair, “No Turning Back: A Guide to the 1864 Overland Campaign,” is by Robert M. Dunkerly, Donald C. Pfanz, and David R. Ruth. Dunkerly is a historian/ranger with Richmond National Battlefield Park; Pfanz is a retired historian/ranger with Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park; Ruth is the superintendent of Richmond National Battlefield Park.
“The two parks encompass most of the areas where the campaign’s severest fighting took place, so the three historians know the ground intimately,” said Mackowski. “They’ve worked those battlefields for years, so few people can offer a better explanation of the stories that unfolded there.”
“No Turning Back” provides an overview of the entire Overland Campaign. “Grant had vowed that there would be ‘no turning back’ once he had set upon his course, which proved to be a significant change compared to previous Federal commanders,” Mackowski said. “Most of the time, the armies would fight and then disengage, and they’d spend a couple months recovering, resupplying, and reinforcing. Grant changed that routine. He knew this was a war of attrition, so he didn’t want to give Confederates the chance to catch their breath. He wanted to wear them down – so he kept up unrelenting pressure for weeks.”
“No Turning Back” is formatted like a driving tour that follows a course set up by the Virginia Civil War Trails system. Pictures offer a view of the action for readers who follow along from the comfort of their living rooms.
The second book of the pair, “Hurricane from the Heavens: The Battle of Cold Harbor,” is by Daniel T. Davis and Phillip S. Greenwalt. Davis and Greenwalt are co-authors of “Bloody Autumn: The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864,” which Mackowski also edited as part of the Emerging Civil War Series. Davis is a historian for the U.S. Army and Greenwalt is a historian for the National Park Service; both have worked at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, where the Overland Campaign opened.
“Hurricane from the Heavens” focuses specifically on the actions of the campaign’s culminating engagements, including an infamous assault by Federals on June 3, 1864, in which Ulysses S. Grant lost 7,000 men in less than half an hour. “I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made,” Grant wrote in his memoirs years later.
Along with his work as editor, Mackowski contributed a pair of appendices to the book: “Cold Harbor in Memory” and “On to Richmond.”
“People who know anything about Cold Harbor typically know about Grant’s ill-fated assault, which contributed to his reputation as ‘Grant the Butcher,’” Mackowski said. “Ironically, Lee lost as many men in the same amount of time during Pickett’s Charge, but he’s typically remembered as a tragic hero for it, not as a butcher.” The appendix goes on to explore that dichotomy.
“On to Richmond” offers a quick glimpse at some of the Civil War-related sites in the former Confederate capital.
“The Emerging Civil War Series is intended to offer reader-friendly overviews of some of the war’s most compelling stories,” Mackowski said. “These are books people can pick up if they want something quick and well-written, so we really try to hook them and keep them engaged. Hopefully we provoke their interest enough that they’ll continue to explore these stories on their own.”
Mackowski has been with the university since the fall of 2000. He is a recipient of the university’s Faculty Award for Professional Excellence in Research and Publication. Aside from his work as managing editor of the Emerging Civil War Series, he is also co-founder of the blog Emerging Civil War. He is the author of several books on the Civil War, and his articles have appeared in numerous magazines.
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