06 April 2022
On April 9, 1865, Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General Robert E. Lee met in the village of Appomattox Court House to negotiate the surrender of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The fateful meeting in Wilmer McLean’s living room was the beginning of the end of the American Civil War.
A new hardcover book co-edited by St. Bonaventure University journalism and mass communication professor Chris Mackowski examines the 11-month struggle between the two generals that ended in the McLean living room.
“Grant vs. Lee: Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War”, published by Savas Beatie, LLC, picks up with the first battle between the two generals, which took place May 5-7, 1864, in a region of Virginia known as the Wilderness. It then follows them through battles at the Spotsylvania Courthouse, the North Anna River, and Colder Harbor – a series of six-week engagements known collectively as the Overland Campaign.
“The stakes were incredibly high because Lincoln was re-elected in 1864, and if Grant didn’t shake things up, Lincoln faced almost certain defeat at the polls because the war in Virginia was at an impasse,” said Mackowski said.
Grant supported Lee to the gates of Richmond but could not break through, so in mid-June Grant’s army jumped the James River and attacked Petersburg, south of the Confederate capital. Lee checked on Grant again, and the fighting turned into a nine-month siege. In the end, the Confederates were too weak to resist a spring thrust from Grant’s army, which finally broke Lee’s line and drove the Southern Army into retreat. Grant finally cornered Lee at the Appomattox courthouse days later.
“Grant vs. Lee was the defining match of the Civil War — not just the two most successful commanders produced by either side, but the two biggest and most legendary armies of the war,” Mackowski said.
For the book, he and co-editor Dan Welch drew on the work of 22 historians to tell the story of the last 11 months of the war in Virginia.
“Many of the articles were originally published as blog posts on emergecivilwar.com, but have since been updated, expanded, and footnoted,” said Mackowski, who co-founded Emerging Civil. War (ECW). “We also have several original pieces written for the book, as well as new maps.”
The book is part of the Emerging Civil War 10th Anniversary series, which brings together the “best of” ECW from the organization’s first 10 years. “ECW provides a platform for ’emerging’ voices in the field to be released for the first time, so we have a lot of fresh young talent,” Mackowski said. “We really try to do a lot to nurture that talent. It is a central element of our mission.
“Grant vs. Lee” is the third book in the series. The first two volumes, “Summer of ’63: Gettysburg” and “Summer of ’63: Vicksburg and Tullahoma,” came out last summer. Several other volumes are also in preparation.
Mackowski has been teaching at the Jandoli School of Communication in Saint-Bonaventure since the fall of 2000. He is also associate dean of undergraduate programs at the Jandoli School.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, Université Saint-Bonaventure is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring them with a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. St. Bonaventure was named the 5th regional college value in the North in the 2022 edition of US News and World Report’s College Rankings.