The Army of the Potomac in the Overland and Petersburg Campaigns: Soldiers and Trench Warfare, 1864–1865

The Army of the Potomac in the Overland and Petersburg Campaigns: Soldiers and Trench Warfare,... Book Reviews 1023 The Army of the Potomac in the Overland and of military and political successes beyond their Petersburg Campaigns:  Soldiers and Trench immediate arena of war. Deteriorating Con - Warfare, 1864–1865. By Steven E. Sodergren. federate morale, indicated by the increased (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University numbers of Confederate deserters who crossed Press, 2017. xvi, 315 pp. $47.95.) into Union lines, also helped raise spirits. By the spring of 1865, men who had once been Steven E. Sodergren’s study of the Army of the near despair expected to bring the war to a Potomac’s last year of combat is not a tactical successful conclusion. Trench life, instead of or technical exploration of the 1864 Overland undermining morale, actually “proved r -egen Campaign and the trenches at Petersburg, erative to the men who had survived May and Virginia. Rather, it is an excellent addition to June” (p. 144). Thus, Sodergren concludes, the growing body of work dealing with the “the exhaustion and demoralization of Union lives of Civil War soldiers. Providing more soldiers in the middle of June soon gave way details about camp life and battlefield e - xpe to hope and even enthusiasm for the future” riences, however, does not make this work a (ibid.). Sodergren’s work should remind histo - valuable study. Rather, the book’s importance rians that changing circumstances could heal is the context in which Sodergren places those the emotional damage done by Civil War -com details, arguing that paying attention to time bat. Acknowledging the place of resiliency in and place along with the unique conditions the soldiers’ experiences, as Sodergren does, is shaped by both is essential for understanding as important as understanding battle trauma the significance of those experiences. So - der for coming to terms with the full range of Civil gren concludes that the brutal, intense, and War soldiers’ combat experiences. mobile fighting of the Overland Campaign Paul A. Cimbala during May and June 1864 and the su-bse Fordham University quent static combat of the almost yearlong Bronx, New York siege of Petersburg placed the men in tw -o dif ferent “combat environments,” with unique doi: 10.1093/jahist/jax469 effects (p. 8). The constant marching and fighting The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners through Virginia strained the morale of the and the Collapse of the Confederacy. By Lorien men, Sodergren explains, bringing the army to Foote. (Chapel Hill: University of Nort- h Car its emotional and physical nadir while leading olina Press, 2016. xviii, 232 pp. $34.95.) the soldiers to question “their ability and desire to go on” (p. 56). The author’s examination of Lorien Foote’The Y s ankee Plague is a prime the resulting poor military discipline and its example of the very best of current Civil War many manifestations makes this point. U - s history. The focus of The Yankee Plague —a ing courts-martial records, Sodergren recounts series of otherwise understudied escapes by stories of men who generally became derelict thousands of Union prisoners in 1864 and in their duties. Even veterans became skulkers 1865—lends itself to a remarkable tale. B - y ap who avoided combat via self-inflicted wounds plying the analytical power of social history and desertion. and razor-sharp military and political a - naly Once behind their Petersburg fortifications, sis, Foote constructs a new paradigm fo - r un the soldiers found some respite in what be - derstanding the war in which the most potent came the static, low-intensity combat of trench invading armies run away from the enemy, warfare. The men were far from safe, but their slaves hold the key to freedom, and women trenches provided some shelter from the - dan are the most domineering commanders. gers of artillery and sharpshooters. Men began to assume that they might actually survive the Foote’s research is well structured and thor - ough. She incorporates sources derived from war. Supplies were more plentiful, mail came a range of perspectives: military recor The ds— at regular intervals, and commanders rotated units out of the trenches. Consequently - , sol War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Of- diers’ morale rose, further encouraged by news ficial Records of the Union and Confederate Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/jah/article-abstract/104/4/1023/4932646 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of American History Oxford University Press

The Army of the Potomac in the Overland and Petersburg Campaigns: Soldiers and Trench Warfare, 1864–1865

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.
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0021-8723
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1945-2314
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10.1093/jahist/jax469
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Abstract

Book Reviews 1023 The Army of the Potomac in the Overland and of military and political successes beyond their Petersburg Campaigns:  Soldiers and Trench immediate arena of war. Deteriorating Con - Warfare, 1864–1865. By Steven E. Sodergren. federate morale, indicated by the increased (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University numbers of Confederate deserters who crossed Press, 2017. xvi, 315 pp. $47.95.) into Union lines, also helped raise spirits. By the spring of 1865, men who had once been Steven E. Sodergren’s study of the Army of the near despair expected to bring the war to a Potomac’s last year of combat is not a tactical successful conclusion. Trench life, instead of or technical exploration of the 1864 Overland undermining morale, actually “proved r -egen Campaign and the trenches at Petersburg, erative to the men who had survived May and Virginia. Rather, it is an excellent addition to June” (p. 144). Thus, Sodergren concludes, the growing body of work dealing with the “the exhaustion and demoralization of Union lives of Civil War soldiers. Providing more soldiers in the middle of June soon gave way details about camp life and battlefield e - xpe to hope and even enthusiasm for the future” riences, however, does not make this work a (ibid.). Sodergren’s work should remind histo - valuable study. Rather, the book’s importance rians that changing circumstances could heal is the context in which Sodergren places those the emotional damage done by Civil War -com details, arguing that paying attention to time bat. Acknowledging the place of resiliency in and place along with the unique conditions the soldiers’ experiences, as Sodergren does, is shaped by both is essential for understanding as important as understanding battle trauma the significance of those experiences. So - der for coming to terms with the full range of Civil gren concludes that the brutal, intense, and War soldiers’ combat experiences. mobile fighting of the Overland Campaign Paul A. Cimbala during May and June 1864 and the su-bse Fordham University quent static combat of the almost yearlong Bronx, New York siege of Petersburg placed the men in tw -o dif ferent “combat environments,” with unique doi: 10.1093/jahist/jax469 effects (p. 8). The constant marching and fighting The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners through Virginia strained the morale of the and the Collapse of the Confederacy. By Lorien men, Sodergren explains, bringing the army to Foote. (Chapel Hill: University of Nort- h Car its emotional and physical nadir while leading olina Press, 2016. xviii, 232 pp. $34.95.) the soldiers to question “their ability and desire to go on” (p. 56). The author’s examination of Lorien Foote’The Y s ankee Plague is a prime the resulting poor military discipline and its example of the very best of current Civil War many manifestations makes this point. U - s history. The focus of The Yankee Plague —a ing courts-martial records, Sodergren recounts series of otherwise understudied escapes by stories of men who generally became derelict thousands of Union prisoners in 1864 and in their duties. Even veterans became skulkers 1865—lends itself to a remarkable tale. B - y ap who avoided combat via self-inflicted wounds plying the analytical power of social history and desertion. and razor-sharp military and political a - naly Once behind their Petersburg fortifications, sis, Foote constructs a new paradigm fo - r un the soldiers found some respite in what be - derstanding the war in which the most potent came the static, low-intensity combat of trench invading armies run away from the enemy, warfare. The men were far from safe, but their slaves hold the key to freedom, and women trenches provided some shelter from the - dan are the most domineering commanders. gers of artillery and sharpshooters. Men began to assume that they might actually survive the Foote’s research is well structured and thor - ough. She incorporates sources derived from war. Supplies were more plentiful, mail came a range of perspectives: military recor The ds— at regular intervals, and commanders rotated units out of the trenches. Consequently - , sol War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Of- diers’ morale rose, further encouraged by news ficial Records of the Union and Confederate Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/jah/article-abstract/104/4/1023/4932646 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018

Journal

The Journal of American HistoryOxford University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2018

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