Judgment at Appomattox

Written by Ralph Peters
Review by Jeanne Greene

The fifth installment of Peters’ Battle Hymn Cycle series focuses on the last combat between regular forces of the United States and the Confederate States in March and April 1865. Lee had turned out his weary veterans at Petersburg, and escaped Grant’s attempt to surround him, only to see the fall of Richmond. Grant and Lee were in communication by then, and although each knew what was coming, as late as April 9, there were still matters to settle. Peters imagines Grant’s ruminations aloud: “I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes at us one more time…if [he] does attack again, we’ll be ready…” But Lee was finished. Later the same day, he met Grant at Appomattox.

Peters creates dialogue to give the characters personality and bring set pieces to life but, as his fans know, his historical framework is reliable. He follows the action from battlefield to battlefield, from one day to the next, and provides a meticulous account of the hours in between, with a command of details—the officers, weaponry, order of battle—based on years of study. Readers will not find Judgment at Appomattox a quick read. Peters’ books are known for their length, comprehensiveness, and complexity. Recommended for anyone who enjoys novels based on Civil War history.