Grant’s Left Hook, The Bermuda Hundred Campaign, May 5 – June 7, 1864
by Sean Michael Chick, Savas Beatie, A Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table
(July 2021) by Emil L. Posey

After being promoted by President Lincoln to Lieutenant General (at the time
only the second in our history to hold that rank) and assigned to command of all
Union armies, Grant developed and implemented a coordinated strategy to bring
the war to an end. He sent Maj. General Tecumseh Sherman with three Union
armies (of the Tennessee, of Ohio, and of the Cumberland) south from
Chattanooga into Georgia to capture Atlanta and Maj. General George Gordon
Meade’s Army of the Potomac southward from the Rapidan River in northern
Virginia towards Richmond. Grant accompanied the Army of the Potomac. One
of the supporting operations would be conducted by Maj. General Benjamin
Franklin Butler’s Army of the James. It would ascend the James River with
something over 30,000 men towards Richmond and invest the city from the
south. In doing so, it would act as a detached left wing for the Army of the
Potomac, hence the title of this book.

There are two themes in this book. One is a detailed description of the military
operations undertaken by this “left hook,” including the organization, objectives,
performance, and personalities of both sides. Mr. Chick’s analyses of objectives,
maneuvers, and results are meticulous and insightful. The other theme, which I
found even more interesting, is a character study of Butler himself. Of particular
interest is the deteriorating relationship between Grant and Butler, never good
at its best. The first sentence of Mr. Chick’s first chapter sets the tone in this
regard, “In a war noted for contentious personalities, few could compete with
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler.” To use a modern aphorism, Butler was a real piece
of work. While Butler had his moments in the field, overall, he was a mediocre
general officer moved too often by political ambition rather than battlefield
exigencies. He was also unprincipled and larcenous, character flaws to which he
continuously succumbed.

Mr. Chick provides context for events throughout, supported by a large
number of photographs, maps, and biographical profiles of key individuals. He
includes a detailed driving tour for those interested in viewing the ground firsthand,
six appendices on various topics (several of which are authored by
historians in addition to Mr. Chick, and two of which expand on Butler himself),
a detailed order of battle for both sides, and a suggested reading list for further

This is a great read on a topic that is too often treated as a sideshow in Civil
War histories. While not decisive for either side, the campaign was of great
importance to Lee’s efforts in response to Grant’s Overland Campaign. It is a
useful work for both the casual reader and more experienced students of the
Civil War.

Mr. Chick is a New Orleans native with an undergraduate degree from the
University of New Orleans and a Master of Arts from Southeastern Louisiana
University. He is currently a New Orleans tour guide who gives one of the only
guided tours of the French Quarter concentrating on the American Civil War and
slavery. He also volunteers at the Historic New Orleans Collection and writes for
NOLA Defender. His first book was The Battle of Petersburg, June 15–18, 1864.

Your reviewer is Emil L. Posey, member in good standing of the TVCWRT. His work
history spans almost 45 years of military and civilian service to our country. He retired
from NASA/George C. Marshall Space Flight Center on December 27, 2014. He has a
bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Hood College, Frederick, Maryland; is a former
president of the Huntsville chapter of the National Contract Management Association, a
life member of both the Special Forces Association and the 175th Infantry Association,
and a member in good standing of Elks Lodge 1648 (Huntsville, AL). He is a dedicated
bibliophile and a (very) armchair political and military enthusiast.