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Publisher's Summary

Americans have long been fascinated by the Civil War, marveling at the size of the battles, the leadership of the generals, and the courage of the soldiers. Since the war's start over 150 years ago, the battles have been subjected to endless debate among historians and the generals themselves. The Civil War was the deadliest conflict in American history, and had the two sides realized it would take four years and inflict over a million casualties, it might not have been fought. Since it was, however, historians and history buffs alike have been studying and analyzing the biggest battles ever since.

With Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia continuing to frustrate the Union Army of the Potomac's attempts to take Richmond in 1862 and 1863, President Lincoln shook things up by turning command of all the armies of the United States to Ulysses S. Grant in March 1864. Lee had won stunning victories at battles like Chancellorsville and Second Bull Run by going on the offensive and taking the strategic initiative, but Grant and Lincoln had no intention of letting him do so anymore. Attaching himself to the Army of the Potomac, Grant ordered Army of the Potomac commander George Meade, "Lee's army is your objective point. Wherever Lee goes, there you will go also."

At the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-7, 1864), Grant and Lee fought to a standstill in their first encounter, failing to dislodge each other despite incurring nearly 30,000 casualties between the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. However, after the fierce fighting, Grant continued to push his battered but resilient army south.

Civil War fans and historians are familiar with the ensuing major battles that took place at Spotsylvania, the North Anna, Cold Harbor, and then the subsequent siege of Petersburg, but as the armies were moving towards Spotsylvania, Grant detached some forces in an effort to destroy railroads in western Virginia that the Confederates used to ship men and material to the Western theater. With William Tecumseh Sherman’s command attempting to take Atlanta from Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee, it was crucial to hamper the Confederacy’s ability to reinforce itself one way or the other.

Eventually, Union and Confederate forces met each other at the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain, one of the most savage battles of the war. There were over 1,000 combined casualties at the battle, resulting in the Union losing 10% of its total men in the battle and the Confederates losing an astounding 20%. The battle, a short but intense engagement, ended with a Union victory that allowed them to sever the last railroad lines connecting Virginia and Tennessee, which meant to a large degree that the Eastern theater and Western theater were divided for the Confederacy.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

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