by Wayne Vansant
On Wednesday, May 4, 1864 the Army of the Potomac, crossed the Rapidan River in north-central Virginia. It was the last year of the war and the beginning of its end. Newly installed General-in-Chief of the Union Army, Ulysses S. Grant determined the only way to win the war was to make it a war of attrition, to outlast and outwit his Confederate opponent commanding the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee. No longer would the Army of the Potomac retreat after a defeat, it would now only move southward. The war’s final eleven months would prove to be its bloodiest and most destructive.
Wayne Vansant’s graphic novel, “Grant vs. Lee: The Graphic History of the Civil War’s Greatest Rivals During the Last Year of the War,” is an excellent tutorial on the war’s final year. It follows Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign and covers the battles of The Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, and Cold Harbor, to the trenches around Petersburg, Virginia. The Petersburg Campaign is neatly folded in, and includes the Battle of the Crater, The Beefsteak Raid, and the Confederate breakout attempt at Fort Steadman. After the fall of Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia the book concludes with the Appomattox Campaign and the Battle of Five Forks, and the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House.
“Grant vs. Lee” is told from both the Northern and Southern perspectives, and is just as much about the slow and steady retreat of the Army of Northern Virginia and how General Robert E. Lee tried to blunt Grant’s advances, as it is about the southward trek of the Army of the Potomac.
At 104 pages, it does not by any means encompass all of the events and personalities portrayed between its covers, but rather serves as a small sampler of each of its topics. It can be easily read in an afternoon, and because of its graphic novel format it is a perfect starting place for younger readers interested in the war as well as older readers who are unschooled on the war.
ISBN 978-0760345313, Zenith Graphic Histories, © 2013, Paperback, Illustrated, 104 pages, $19.99. To purchase this book please click HERE.