Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New: Battles of Fair Oaks and Glendale Books Reviewed by Wilson Greene of Pamplin Historical Park, Notes Problems

The Battle of Fair Oaks: Turning Point of McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, Robert P. Broadwater, McFarland Publishing, 2011, 219 pp.,$35.00 (paper).

Reviewed by Wilson Greene (Pamplin Historical Park) Published on H-CivWar July, 2011

The Battle of Fair Oaks, or Seven Pines as it is more commonly known, was the largest engagement in the eastern theater of the Civil War at the time it occurred. Fought over a two-day period, May 31 to June 1, 1862, the battle generated more than 11,000 total casualties, although it did little to change the operational situation of the two armies contending for control of Richmond, the Confederate capital.

With the exception of a competent if little-known monograph by Steven H. Newton The Battle of Seven Pines, May 31-June 1, 1862_, 1993, this sizable clash between the forces of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston (who fell wounded near the close of the first day's combat) and Union commander George B. McClellan, has received little attention from historians except as a chapter in larger studies of the entire Peninsula Campaign. The battlefield itself is rarely visited, as twentieth-century development has blanketed the historic landscape, save for an evocative little National Cemetery at the contest's key road intersection.

Thus, a new study detailing the context, conduct, and consequences of the Battle of Fair Oaks/Seven Pines would be a welcome addition to the literature on the war. Unfortunately, Robert Broadwater's book will be a disappointment to readers hoping for such a fresh examination of a little-studied but large-scale Civil War battle.

Greene's Review of the Battle of Fair Oaks is continued at H-CivWar Reviews

The Battle of Glendale: The Day the South Nearly Won the Civil War, Jim Stempel, Jefferson McFarland Publishing, 2011, 214 pp., $35.00 (paper),

Reviewed by Wilson Greene (Pamplin Historical Park) Published on H-CivWar (July, 2011). The review is entitled: The Battle of Glendale: The Day the South Did Not Nearly Win the War

When one thinks of the pivotal battles of the American Civil War, engagements such as Antietam, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Cedar Creek, or Atlanta most often come to mind. In Jim Stempel's new book, _The Battle of Glendale: The Day the South Nearly Won the Civil War_, readers are asked to believe that the stakes on the sixth day of the Seven Days battles east of Richmond in the summer of 1862 exceeded those of every other clash of arms between 1861 and 1865. "Once ... and only once" Stempel writes in his concluding paragraph, would the South come "within a hair of victory so compelling that it would have catapulted the Confederacy to its independence," and that moment came on June 30, 1862 at Glendale (p. 194).

General Robert E. Lee, in command of the Army of Northern Virginia for less than a month in the early summer of 1862, began an offensive on June 26 designed to drive the forces of Major General George B. McClellan from the outskirts of Richmond, the Confederate capital. Lee's bold initiative quickly launched McClellan's Army of the Potomac on a desperate and difficult march southeast toward the James River and the protection of the Union navy. Lee devised a complicated plan to trap McClellan near the rural intersection of the Long Bridge, Charles City, and Willis Church roads east of Richmond. He divided his divisions into four distinct components, three of which were to descend on the vital crossroads that funneled the Federals toward their safe haven along the James. Three of those four wings failed to execute their portion of the plan, leaving only the divisions of James Longstreet and Ambrose Powell Hill to assault the bluecoats at a bloody but tactically inconclusive battle that became known as Glendale or Frayser's Farm. McClellan's battered men slipped away after dark, leading to the Confederate offensive disaster the next day at Malvern Hill and ultimately to the successful escape of the Union army. Lee had saved Richmond but failed to inflict a crippling blow on his enemy.

Greene's Review of The Battle of Glendale is continued at H-CivWar Reviews.

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