Mark Grimsley,
And Keep Moving On:
The Virginia Campaign,
May-June 1864

(University of Nebraska, 2002; 2005)

"And keep moving on" is a quote from General U.S. Grant and was his philosophy of how to conduct the war against the South. He would not stop or retreat like his predecessors had. He met defeats, but repositioned his army. He stayed on the offensive to prevent General Lee from going on the offensive himself, and the strategy brought him several successes. This campaign is known as the Virginia Campaign, or the Overland Campaign, and included several major battles: Wilderness, Spotsylvania, New Market, Bermuda Hundred, North Anna, Cold Harbor and more.

Mark Grimsley is a history professor at Ohio State University. He has written several Civil War books, such as The Collapse of the Confederacy (2002), Civilians in the Path of War (2002), The Union Must Stand (2000) and Gettysburg: A Battlefield Guide (1999). This particular book is very interesting, featuring long chapters with lots of quotes from primary sources, several photos from the Civil War period and several clear maps. Grimsley also supplies an annotated bibliography.

Grimsley provides a look into this campaign from both Grant's and Lee's perspectives. This campaign is considered a duel between them. Grant wanted to draw Lee into the open and crush his army. This did not happen. Lee eventually entrenched his army around Richmond and Petersburg and the war lasted 10 more months until Grant was able to break through Lee's defenses and drive him out.

During this campaign General J.E.B. Stuart, Lee's cavalry commander, was killed. General Longstreet, one of Lee's better commanders, was seriously wounded. Teenage cadets from the Virginia Military Institute were involved in the Battle of New Market, where some were killed. Over 50,000 Union soldiers were killed, wounded or captured, but Grant was able to replace them; Lee lost many, too, but Confederate replacements were scarce. Grant knew this and took advantage of this Northern advantage, but he became known as the "butcher" because of this.

This campaign was difficult and bloody, but Grant decided and Lincoln agreed it was the only way to crush the South. This eventually worked, although Grant did not want to besiege Richmond. He wanted to defeat Lee on an open field. Lee knew this and avoided this as much as possible. Many of the Southern military leaders realized as the campaign progressed that it was just a matter of time before they were defeated and the war lost.

Grimsley's book, part of the University of Nebraska Press series, Great Campaigns of the Civil War, is a good addition to any Civil War collection. It is well documented and well written.

by Benet Exton
24 September 2005

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