- Spring 1865: The Closing Campaigns of the Civil War by Perry D. Jamieson
Part of the Great Campaigns of the Civil War series, Perry D. Jamieson’s Spring 1865: The Closing Campaigns of the Civil War relates the final campaigns of the Civil War in a concise narrative that will enable the work to be a steadfast source for anyone interested in the final months of the war. The details of the ending battles and surrenders in both the eastern and western theaters of the war will allow the average reader to easily follow the history; yet Jamieson includes enough details and valuable information that Civil War scholars will find the book useful as well.
Attempting to provide a succinct history of early 1865 while also contrasting the events occurring in the two theaters of war, Jamieson acknowledges that he focuses on “planning and operations at the strategic and operational levels of warfare” rather than “tactics or more human-interest stories” (xi). His study of the operations involved from February to May 1865 displays the decisions leading generals on both sides faced and how those choices affected the overall outcome of the war. Tactics and human-interest stories are not neglected completely though, and interested readers can use Jamieson’s rich bibliography to find works that focus on these aspects.
Jamieson sets the stage for the spring campaigns in chapter 1 with a summary of the winter of ‘64–’65. The siege at Petersburg along with Sherman’s march through Georgia had strongly defeated Confederate morale. Grant’s plan to combine Union forces would be the ultimate blow to Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The next two chapters narrate the Union capture of Fort Fisher and Wilmington and the beginning stages of late warfare in the Carolinas. Jamieson does an accurate job showing the “incompetency” of Braxton Bragg as well as the events leading up to Lee’s decision to replace P. G. T. Beauregard with Joseph Johnston as commander of [End Page 334] the Army of Tennessee (29, 44). Many people believe that the Confederacy lost the war because of defeated morale and low numbers, but by discussing the struggles of the Confederate leadership, Jamieson acknowledges a factor sometimes forgotten. Chapter 4 focuses on Confederate issues at Bentonville before Jamieson switches to the eastern theater, the siege at Petersburg, and Lee’s first idea of combining forces with Joseph Johnston (93).
The remaining chapters narrate the final battles of the Army of Northern Virginia and Robert E. Lee’s movement away from Petersburg to the west, ending at Appomattox Court House. With a daily decreasing number of troops under Lee’s command, Jamieson shows that Ulysses S. Grant’s pursuit would ultimately lead to a surrender. The final two chapters discuss the other Confederate surrenders, including the largest one, at Durham Station when Johnston surrendered to William Sherman (199). Ending with the smaller surrenders further west, Jamieson does a good job of wrapping up the final events of the American Civil War.
Writing about such a large geographic area and several months of the war might prove daunting for some, but Jamieson manages to recount the events in an easy-to-follow account. Historians looking for extensive tactical details and intensive battle descriptions may not find the book extremely helpful, but it could be a great source to help them review the overall details of the campaigns. Other readers not interested in maneuvers and battle plans will still find the work useful as a way to more fully understand “how an unimaginably painful, and extremely crucial, American war came to an end” (xii).
One of the main ideas Jamieson conveys throughout his work is how the choices generals, both Union and Confederate, made greatly affected the outcome of the war. The mistakes made at Fort Fisher, Confederate errors at Bentonville and the lack of communication between Beauregard and Jefferson Davis enabled Sherman to capture places such as Columbia and Fayetteville.
Another important aspect the author focuses...