St. Bonaventure writing Professor Chris Mackowski co-edits book on marquee Civil War match-up
ST. BONAVENTURE — 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 the front parlor of Wilmer McLean was the beginning of the end of the American Civil War.
A new hardcover book co-edited by Chris Mackowski, professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at St. Bonaventure University, examines the 11-month struggle between the two generals that ended in the McLean parlor.
“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 an area of Virginia known as the Wilderness. It then follows them through battles at Spotsylvania Court House, the North Anna River, and Colder Harbor – a six-week series of engagements collectively known as the Overland Campaign.
“The stakes were incredibly high because Lincoln faced re-election in 1864, and if Grant didn’t shake things up, Lincoln faced near-certain defeat at the polls because the war in Virginia had settled into a stalemate,” said Mackowski.
Grant backed Lee up to the gates of Richmond but could not break through, so in mid-June, Grant’s army jumped the James River and assaulted Petersburg, south of the Confederate capital. Lee checked Grant again, and the fighting settled into a nine-month siege. By the end, Confederates were too weak to resist a spring surge by Grant’s army, which finally broke Lee’s line and drove the Southern army into retreat. Grant finally cornered Lee at Appomattox Courthouse a few days later.
“Grant versus Lee was the marquee match-up of the Civil War – not just the two most successful commanders produced by either side but the two largest and most fabled 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 pieces were originally published as blog posts at emergingcivilwar.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 collects the “best of” ECW from the organization’s first 10 years. “ECW provides a platform for ‘emerging’ voices in the field to get published for the first time, so we have a lot of fresh, young talent,” said Mackowski. “We really try to do a lot to nurture that talent. It’s a central part of our mission.”
“Grant vs. Lee” is the third book in the series. The first two volumes, “The Summer of ’63: Gettysburg” and “The Summer of ’63: Vicksburg and Tullahoma,” came out last summer. Several other volumes are also in the works.
Mackowski has taught in St. Bonaventure’s Jandoli School of Communication since the fall of 2000. He also serves as the Jandoli School’s associate dean of undergraduate programs.