Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table

Education and Preservation


No Turning Back: A Guide to the 1864 Overland Campaign, from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor, May 4 – June 13, 1864

This book is an example of the title absolutely reflecting the contents.  The core of the book is a series of directions, buttressed by maps, numerous black and white photographs (Civil War era and modern), and GPS coordinates.  The text first gives directions to a stopping point, then explains its significance to the battle or campaign in several paragraphs.  These directions allow the reader to visit not only the famous battlefields that are preserved, but also to follow the routes taken by the armies and to visit the remaining ante bellum buildings that were used as headquarters and hospitals.

After a brief overview of the strategic situation in the Eastern Theater as of early May, 1864, the narrative outlines the campaign’s opening moves, with detailed directions to Germanna Ford on the Rapidan River where Wilson’s cavalry dispersed Confederate pickets.  There are fourteen stops for the Battle of the Wilderness alone and at many of them there are footpaths leading to various points of interest.  This is nothing, however.  There are thirty-one stops covering the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House and subsequent maneuvers down to the North Anna River.  The books covers the thirty-one stops in fifty-two pages—a nice balance between explanation, illustration, and directions.  Once the North Anna is reached, another twenty-one stops cover the North Anna and Totopotomoy Creek engagements before moving on to Cold Harbor and finally the James River in another fifteen stops.  The book ends as Grant tries to outmaneuver Lee by crossing the James and moving on Petersburg.

The authors (one of whom, Donald Pfanz, is the son of the author of the famous two-volume set on the second day of Gettysburg) recommend taking two or three days just to follow the directions given.  I would say it may take even longer if you desire to walk any of the trails.

The book itself is a long-needed supplement to the very detailed War College Battlefield guides for these same battles.  Written for a layman with good general knowledge of the Civil War, the book provides an up-to-date route (current roads) guide and a more friendly description of the various actions as compared to the War College books.  I highly recommend it to those who want to take such a tour, even if only parts of the various battlefields.  The GPS coordinates even allow one to tour vicariously via Google Earth!


Reviewed by John Scales

To the Bitter End: Appomattox, Bennett Place, and the Surrenders of the Confederacy

This volume covers the surrenders of all the major Confederate military and naval forces, including the forces of Native American tribes allied with the Confederacy. The surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865 was only the first of the Confederate Army surrenders in 1865. Large Confederate organizations still remained in North Carolina and the southeastern states, in Alabama and Mississippi, and across the Mississippi River in Texas, Arkansas and the Indian Territory. With the Confederate capitol occupied by the United States Army, and with President Davis and his government on the run, the surrender of this most famous Confederate army only indirectly led to the suspension of hostilities throughout the former Confederacy.

Robert Dunkerly is a National Park Service Ranger and historian who has worked at Appomattox Court House, and who currently works at the Richmond National Battlefield Park, and is president of the Richmond, VA Civil War Round Table. He is a regular contributor to the Emerging Civil War blog and has co-authored this book as part of the Savas Beatie Emerging Civil War Series. Among his other books is No Turning Back: A Guide to the 1864 Overland Campaign.

Dunkerly has written a very interesting and informative account covering the series of Confederate surrenders that took place over an almost-three month period. He startled me by pointing out that Appomattox was an anomaly among the surrenders: The Federal and Confederate armies were in very close proximity to each other; the surrender terms were decided upon and signed at one meeting; a formal ceremony took place at which weapons, munitions and army property were surrendered; paroles were issued to all Confederates that surrendered. Nowhere else in the South was surrendering a major organization so quick and formal.

In contrast to the surrender at Appomattox Court House, the surrender of the other major Confederate organizations were sloppy affairs, requiring two or more meetings to develop acceptable surrender terms. These surrenders encompassed larger Confederate forces over very large ‘departmental’ areas, and the Federal and Confederate combatants were not in close proximity of each other. Paroles were issued to the surrendering forces at various places over a period of weeks and months; many Confederates never receiving their paroles. More weapons were simply abandoned in place than ceremoniously turned-over to the U. S. government.

There was much unrest and some disobedience among the remaining Confederate forces and many soldiers simply went home, causing some organizations to dissolve.  One Confederate department commander, General Edmund K. Smith, surrendered the Trans-Mississippi area because his Texan and Louisianan troops became mutinous and forced the decision on him and his subordinate commanders. The last Confederate organization to surrender was the First Indian Cavalry Brigade on 23 June, 1865. This unit was commanded by Brigadier General Stand Watie of the Cherokee Nation and composed of Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, and Osage soldiers.

Although the terms of the Appomattox Surrender applied only to the Army of Northern Virginia and a few attached organizations, this event was invested with symbolic importance by both sides. The surrender involved both commanding generals, Lieutenant General Grant of the U. S. Army and General Lee (Confederate commanding general since January, 1865). These men were the greatest and most respected generals of their respective sides, and the terms offered by Grant and accepted by Lee represented President Lincoln’s ‘let ‘em up easy’ philosophy. These terms were approved by Lincoln, reiterated by the U. S. War Department, and were used by the other Federal and Confederate army commanders to guide their negotiations.

With news of General Lee’s surrender, the attitudes of most soldiers on both sides changed after 9 April, 1865. Most accepted that the war was nearly over, and many Federal and Confederate leaders discouraged further combat. Federal commanders adopted a largely peace making and civil support role; Confederate commanders negotiated to define and secure the legal status their soldiers and themselves within the United States. The soldiers of both sides longed (and sometimes simply left) to get home as quickly as possible. Evidence that most Confederate commanders advised their soldiers to resume law-abiding civilian lives is represented by quotations from the farewell messages of Generals Lee and Forrest to their soldiers.

Mr. Dunkerly also writes of how the Confederate surrender has been remembered in history and literature and of how the respectful and generous terms and ceremonies of Appomattox came to represent the reconciliation between the white citizens of the North and the South.  The various and sometimes unexpected fates of the various surrender sites are explained. Finally, Dunkerly provides visitors’ information for those interested in the sites, monuments, and museums devoted to surrender ceremonies.

I recommend this book as a good read and a road-trip guide.


Reviewed by David Lady

Powered by

Up ↑