Clark H. Lewis, President Art & Carol Bergeron, Editors
P. O. Box 1122 3901 Paces Ferry Road
Richmond, VA 23218 Chester, VA 23831-1239
September 2002 PROGRAM
Gordon C. Rhea
"The Battle of Cold Harbor"
8:00 p.m., Tuesday, September 10, 2002, at the
Boulevard United Methodist Church, 321 N. Boulevard,
Richmond, VA (corner of Boulevard and Stuart Ave.)
Gordon C. Rhea lives in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina but
is a native of Arlington, Virginia. He holds a bachelor's
degree in history from Indiana University, a master's degree
in history from Harvard University, and a J. D. degree
from Stanford University Law School. Rhea is a partner in
the law firm of Alkon and Rhea, where he has worked since
1982. He was Special Assistant to the Chief Counsel, Senate
Select Committee on Intelligence Activities, in Washington,
D. C., 1975-1976; Assistant United States Attorney,
Washington D. C., 1976-1981; and Assistant United States
Attorney, U. S. Virgin Islands, 1981-1982. He is married
and has two children.
Rhea is the author of a number of books, including The
Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-6, 1864 (1994); The Battles
for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern:
May 7-12, 1864 (1997); To the North Anna River: Grant and
Lee, May 13-25, 1864 (2000). He has contributed essays to
such publications as Gary W. Gallagher (comp.), The
Wilderness Campaign (1997); Gary W. Gallagher (comp.), The
Spotsylvania Campaign (1998); and The Oxford Companion to
American Military History (1999). His most recent
publication is Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26-June 3,
1864, which was recently released by LSU Press.
Rhea will give a surprising new interpretation of the famous
battle that left seven thousand Union casualties and only
fifteen hundred Confederate dead or wounded. Here, Ulysses
S. Grant was not a callous butcher, and Robert E. Lee did
not wage a perfect fight. He will touch upon the
strategies, mistakes, gambles, and problems with
subordinates that preoccupied these two exquisitely matched
minds. Rhea's research revealed new facts from the records
of a phase oddly ignored or mythologized by historians. The
Cold Harbor of his new book differs sharply from the Cold
Harbor of popular lore. Rhea's presentations are always
lively, and this one promises to separate fact from fiction
in a charged, evocative manner.
Review of the August Program
Scott Bowden presented a talk on the Battle of Gettysburg
and focused on Robert E. Lee's tactics in that battle,
especially the en echelon attack of July 2, 1863. He stated
that most modern histories are "outcome based," that is they
look back based upon how something ended. Bowden's recent
book, Last Chance for Victory: Robert E. Lee and the
Gettysburg Campaign, looks at Gettysburg in the context of
the times-what people there knew at the time. His
presentation was based upon this book.
The campaign originated on May 9, 1863, when Lee outlined to
his officers what he hoped to accomplish in his next
movement against the enemy. Soon he went to Richmond for a
conference with Jefferson Davis. General Joseph E.
Johnston's famous telegram announcing his evacuation of
Jackson, Mississippi, arrived during the meeting. This turn
of events meant that it was useless to send men from the
Army of Northern Virginia to the Western Theater. Lee also
learned that, if his army remained in Virginia, it would
face a forage shortage. With Davis' approval, he decided to
again take the war into the North.
Lee hoped for a series of battles in Pennsylvania where he
could hit the various Federal corps and defeat them in
detail. When General Jeb Stuart rode off with his brigades
and became separated from the army, Lee assumed that the
Union army had not moved out of Virginia. He decided to do
something to force them to move toward him. His corps would
concentrate at Gettysburg or Cashtown. Lieutenant General
Ambrose P. Hill decided to take his corps to the former, so
Lieutenant General Richard Ewell marched his corps there to
meet Hill. The result was the first day's fighting outside
Gettysburg. After the Confederate victory, Lee issued
orders to pursue the retreating Federals. He used what
Bowden called "gentlemanly" terms-if practicable or if
possible-but intended a vigorous pursuit.
The failure of his subordinates to follow these orders
resulted in Lee having to fight a set-piece battle. He had
several choices-(1) turn around and retreat to South
Mountain, (2) move toward Harrisburg, (3) threaten
Baltimore, (4) sit on the defensive, or (5) resume the
tactical offensive. The latter was his only real option.
Lee's plan for July 2 called for coordinating two corps on
one side of the town with one on the other side. He had to
find a way to get at the Federals early that day. Without
Stuart, Lee had to rely upon staff officers to reconnoiter
the Union positions. He planned an attack by Lieutenant
General James Longstreet's First Corps against the enemy's
flank similar to the one conducted by Stonewall Jackson at
When the alignment of the Army of the Potomac changed, Lee's
original plan would not work. He modified it to have his
units attack en echelon against Cemetery Ridge. This tactic
was used when facing an enemy rather than attacking a flank.
Lee felt that he could rattle Major General George G. Meade,
new Union army commander. By attacking en echelon, the
Confederates would draw more and more Federal units toward
the Union left and weaken the Union center, where the main
attack was to occur. Unfortunately for Lee and his army,
the attacks began to break down. Generals Hill and Richard
Anderson failed to coordinate the movements of the brigades.
Brigadier General William Mahone refused to send his brigade
into the fight. Soon the entire attack fell apart.
Lee had come close to achieving his objective. There were
six Federal brigades on Cemetery Ridge as the attack ended.
They were the worst brigades in the Union army and would
have been hit by an equal number of Lee's best brigades.
Bowden believes the Federal center would have been split and
that the Confederates could have won the battle that day.
On October 5, our fall tour will take us to Brandy Station.
Clark B. "Bud" Hall, who was one of the driving forces
behind the preservation efforts at that battlefield, will
serve as tour guide. The cost is very reasonable-just $20
per person. We will depart from the Wal-Mart parking lot at
Brooke and Parham at 8 a. m. and return about 5:30 p. m.
Everyone should bring a lunch and their own drinks. We will
provide pastries and fruit as breakfast, as well as cookies
for an afternoon snack. This promises to be one of the best
trips the Round Table has been on because we will have
access to some areas not normally open to the public. Please
bring your check and give it to Art Bergeron at the next
meeting or mail it to him at the address shown on the
newsletter so that your place on the bus will be reserved.
University of Richmond Class
The University of Richmond School of Continuing Studies
announces a class titled "Civil War: The Peninsula
Campaign." The Civil War came close to ending in the summer
of 1862. Throughout the months of April and May, General
George McClellan's Army of the Potomac had pushed up the
Peninsula of Virginia from Fortress Monroe to the outskirts
of Richmond. By June, many Union soldiers reported that
they could hear church bells ringing in the city. But the
South was not yet defeated, and this threat to Richmond was
turned back by General Robert E. Lee in a set of
hard-fought battles. This non-credit course will look at
the soldiers who fought the Peninsula Campaign of 1862 and
will examine developments in Richmond. The class will use a
variety of materials furnished by the instructor in support
of the four class sessions. A Saturday field trip from Ft.
Monroe to the scene of the Seven Days Battles will be led by
the instructor. The class will run for four weeks in
October, meeting each Monday night from 7:00-9:00 p.m. The
bus trip will be held on Saturday, November 2nd. Jack
Mountcastle is the course instructor. The fee is $107. For
more info, call the School of Continuing Studies at
804-289-8133, or check their website at www.urich.edu, then
click on Continuing Studies for info from their fall term
"Think Again" catalog.
Museum of the Confederacy Program
On Thursday, September 19, at 7:30 p.m., the Museum of the
Confederacy will hold it annual Elizabeth Roller Bottimore
Lecture in the Perkinson Recital Hall at the University of
Richmond. It is free to the public. In 2000, National Park
Civil War sites were required to include in their
programming the role slavery played as a cause of the Civil
War. This raised questions as well as disagreements among
historians and battlefield visitors over the manner in which
the Civil War should be studied. This year's program will
consist of a panel discussion featuring Dr. Edward L.
Ayers, professor of history at UVA; Mr. Robert K. Krick,
Civil War historian; Dr. Dwight T. Pitcaithley, chief
historian of the National Park Service; and Mr. Jerry L.
Russell, national chairman of Civil War Round Table
Associates. The panelists will look at the amendment's
implications and far-reaching effects on historical study by
specifically examining the measures and changes at federal
Civil War battlefields.
RCWRT Monthly Speakers for 2002
To facilitate the printing and timely distribution of the
monthly newsletter, information for it should be submitted
to the editors no later than the following dates:
September 20 for October
October 18 for November
November 22 for December
Richmond Civil War Round Table Newsletter
Art & Carol Bergeron, Editors
3901 Paces Ferry Road
Chester, VA 23831-1239