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Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War

The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864

Earl J. Hess

Publication Year: 2013

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Series: Civil War America

Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7

Contents, Illustrations, Maps

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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xix

The first shot of the Civil War was fired in an argument over an unfinished coastal fort at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. During the next three years, both sides developed a keen realization that it was better to live behind a parapet, enduring the...

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1. Engineering War

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pp. 1-27

Responsibility for fortifications in the pre–Civil War army rested with the Corps of Engineers, the elite of the military establishment. Created initially by the Second Continental Congress in 1779 and renewed in different form by the Congress of the new government in 1794,...

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2. On to Richmond

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pp. 28-46

Although fighting with improvised armies, the field commanders of the Civil War often recognized the value of fortifications. At Big Bethel, First Manassas, and Ball’s Bluff, field fortifications were used in peripheral ways that often had little impact on the outcome of the battles,...

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3. Western Virginia and Eastern North Carolina

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pp. 47-66

While military operations unfolded in the corridor between Washington, D.C., and Manassas, Union forces also launched successful efforts deep in the western counties of Virginia and along the coastline of North Carolina. Field fortifications were used by both sides as...

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4. The Peninsula

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pp. 67-95

The Federals began their long-awaited second drive toward Richmond nearly one year after the fall of Fort Sumter. It would be a massive undertaking, involving more troops than had ever been assembled in a single field army in the country’s history, and would bring a...

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5. From Seven Pines to the Seven Days

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pp. 96-129

When Johnston evacuated the Peninsula, he also abandoned a large number of Confederate forts, water batteries, and defensive lines. The Rebels had expended a great deal of labor for many months perfecting several kinds of earthworks on the Peninsula and along the...

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6. Second Manassas, Antietam, and the Maryland Campaign

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pp. 130-153

The Seven Days battles saved the Confederate capital for the time being, but McClellan’s large army was still entrenched only twenty miles from the city. Lee refused to accept that his own army had to remain inert in the outskirts of Richmond to guard against another Union...

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7. Fredericksburg

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pp. 154-173

Lee went on the defensive after Antietam, and Lincoln replaced McClellan with Ambrose Burnside. The new commander devised a plan that might well have worked. The army was concentrated at Warrenton and would dash for Fredericksburg thirty miles southeast,...

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8. Chancellorsville

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pp. 174-199

Burnside committed a tragic error of judgment in attacking Lee’s strong position at Fredericksburg. It was compounded by a failed attempt to march around Lee’s left and cross the Rappahannock in January, a good move spoiled by unexpected weather that turned the flanking...

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9. Goldsborough, New Bern, Washington, and Suffolk

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pp. 200-214

Lee won at Chancellorsville despite having sent away Longstreet and two of his divisions. They were supporting operations in eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia that were designed to gather food in this rich agricultural region and put pressure on the...

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10. Gettysburg and Lee’s Pennsylvania Campaign

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pp. 215-240

The ending of the Suffolk campaign allowed Lee to concentrate his army once again. With the addition of Longstreet’s two divisions, he could resume offensive movements given up in the wake of the Maryland campaign. This time Pennsylvania was the goal. Lee hoped...

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11. Charleston

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pp. 241-258

One week after the battle of Gettysburg, Federal troops began a campaign against Charleston, South Carolina, that would be the largest land attack on the defenses of that important city. Not only was it a highly visible symbol, the place where the first shots were fired in the...

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12. The Reduction of Battery Wagner

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pp. 259-288

After the repulse of July 18, Gillmore decided to reduce Wagner by siege approaches and to begin bombarding Sumter at the same time. His position was close enough to the latter work to allow Parrotts to strike the masonry walls. It was believed that the siege approaches...

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13. From Bristoe Station to the Fall of Plymouth

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pp. 289-307

By the time Battery Wagner fell, the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia were resting quietly from the exertions of the Pennsylvania campaign. Lee settled his men around Culpeper Court House in the Piedmont, between the Rappahannock...

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pp. 308-314

By the time Plymouth fell, the armies in the East were on the eve of the Overland campaign and its intensive use of field fortifications. The preceding campaigns from Big Bethel to Plymouth were in one sense a preparation for the habitual use of fieldworks in 1864–65. Commanders on many levels relied on breastworks, earthworks, or preexisting...

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Appendix 1: The Design and Construction of Field Fortifications at Yorktown

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pp. 315-330

The works at Yorktown were the most significant field fortifications of the eastern campaigns before the battle of Chancellorsville. Complex and strong, they call into question the previously held idea that reliance on fieldworks started in 1864. Large portions of them are well preserved, although the Confederate remnants are more...

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Appendix 2: Preserving the Field Fortifications at Gettysburg

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pp. 331-332

The fieldworks at Gettysburg are probably the most famous of any campaign in the East from 1861 through early 1864. The Twelfth Corps fortifications on Culp’s Hill garner the lion’s share of the attention. This is a curious circumstance, considering that Chancellorsville saw much greater use of fieldworks and all the fortifications at...


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pp. 333-339


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pp. 341-391


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pp. 393-415


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pp. 417-428

E-ISBN-13: 9781469611778
Print-ISBN-13: 9781469609935

Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Civil War America
The Civil War America series interprets the field broadly to include biography, military and nonmilitary history, works that explore the immediate background of the conflict, and studies of postbellum topics related to the war. A few diaries, sets of letters, and memoirs that make exceptional contributions to our understanding of the era also will appear as volumes in the series.