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82CIVIL war history the high quality of synthesis, analysis, and scholarship established by Professors Millet and Maslowski. Robert H. Berlin U.S. Army Command and General StaffCollege Into the Wilderness with the Army ofthe Potomac. By Robert Garth Scott. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985. Pp. 236. $17.95.) No longer do military historians march to the incessant beat of"drums and bugles" narrative. Their broader analyses of die phenomena of war have positioned them in the historical "mainstream." However, in his study of the Wilderness Battle, May 5-6, 1864, Robert G. Scott, who seeks "to bring some ofthe limelight back into the woods," countermarches back to old-fashioned history. The publishers properly advertise his book as a "skillful narrative" that is "eminently readable and exciting," but their claim that it is "the first complete and organized account" ofthe battle is at least debatable. Morris Shaft's history ofthe Wilderness Battle appeared in 1910 and Edward Steere published a detailed study in 1960. Scott's work is more colorful and concise than Steere's but less analytical. In addition, Bruce Catton, J. F. C. Fuller, Douglas S. Freeman, Archer Jones, and Herman Hattaway, among others, have written more thoughtfully about the battle. Scott's disagreement with what he says is a "long expressed belief " that Grant planned to move through the Wilderness and fight Lee in open terrain is not revisionist. Catton and Steere pointed out that the Union general-in-chiefwas attempting to fix Lee's army and fight it anywhere the latter chose. Indeed, Grant wrote that he had hoped to inflict a "heavy blow" on Lee in die Wilderness. Scott introduces Meade's Army ofthe Potomac as it crossed the Rapidan River on May 4-5 with its infantry and cavalry corps and its great trains that stretched seventy-five miles in length. Thumbnail sketches of botii the senior Union commanders, including Grant, and the Confederate leaders enlivens die reader's interest in the ensuing batde in die "dense, secondgrowth timber that reeked of death." Scott demonstrates that Lee, while waiting for more intelligence on Union movements and for Longstreet's corps to arrive, ordered his outnumbered forces to make spoiling attacks on die enemy's main axis of advance along die Orange Turnpike and the Plank Road. He describes how the corps of Hancock and Warren encountered Lee's converging columns at critical points in die dense woods and how when Meade halted deployment and ordered an attack it made a furious struggle inevitable. It was, Scott feels, mainly because of the competency and courage of the Union corps, division, and brigade commanders that the Army of the Potomac took the initiative and seized key terrain in the early stages. Like Catton, Scott believes that Getty's timely arrival at die Brock-Plank Road intersection kept die Union forces BOOK REVIEWS83 from being cut in two. He describes the vicious fighting at close range, the untimely deaths of inspirational officers, the Confederate exploitation of gaps in Union lines, and the confusion at various headquarters that resulted in a stalemate by nightfall. Scott focuses his lively account of the May 6 fighting on die early morning Union assault that was designed to envelop the right of the Confederate line, and on Longstreet's arrival and subsequent attack against the Union left flank that smashed it. The author traces Hancock's retreat to prepared positions on the Brock Road. While Lee's desperate thrust against these field fortifications was repulsed, Scott feels that Burnside's weak counterattack and Gordon's almost successful attempt to turn Sedgwick's right flank that evening ended any hope for a decisive Union victory. His conclusion that Grant nevertheless won a "moral victory" when he ordered die Army of the Potomac to resume its movement south on May 7 is similar to those previously reached by Catton and Steere. Scott's judgments are usually narrative statements and not qualitative conclusions. Missing from his assessment is the question of Meade's late start on May 4 and an evaluation of how this dictated die halt and initial fighting in the Wilderness. He does not consider why Gibbon failed to execute Hancock's attack order...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 82-83
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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