Remembering the Confederates’ last stand at Petersburg: The Confederate Alamo: Bloodbath at Petersburg’s Fort Gregg on April 2, 1865
by John J. Fox III
Angle Valley Press, 2010, $34.95
Although it typically doesn’t attract the attention it merits, April 2, 1865, was one of the most important days of the Civil War. That day, Federal forces finally managed to break through the Confederate lines defending Petersburg, Va., and seize possession of the South Side Railroad, effectively bringing the grueling nine-month campaign around the Cockade City to a triumphant end. In his new book The Confederate Alamo, John Fox provides a useful account of one of the more dramatic and important actions of that seminal day: the bitter struggle for Fort Gregg.
During that battle, elements of John Gibbon’s XXIV Corps overcame the stiff resistance of a gallant but grossly outnumbered band of Rebels defending both Gregg and nearby Fort Whitworth. After taking the forts, the weary Federals made no attempt to move on to the Rebels’ final defensive line west of Petersburg. Thus, time was bought for reinforcements to reach that line to allow a relatively orderly evacuation of the city during the night.
Students of the Petersburg Campaign and the final days of the Confederacy will find Fox’s well-researched book valuable. While recounting the events surrounding the fight for Fort Gregg in exquisite detail, he also clearly explains and analyzes the decisions of the commanders who shaped the engagement and vividly recounts the experiences of the soldiers who fought there. Fox is balanced and persuasive in his arguments, although the degree of tactical detail he provides will not appeal to all readers.
The Confederate Alamo probably won’t elevate the events of April 2, 1865-and the Petersburg Campaign as a whole-to the stature of Antietam, Chicka_mauga, Gettysburg or Shiloh, but it is a fine addition to “drums and trumpets” Civil War scholarship.