The Damned of Petersburg

Written by Ralph Peters
Review by Barry Webb

The action in this novel centers on the town of Petersburg, Virginia, located just south of Richmond. In the summer and fall of 1864 the Confederacy was hanging by a thread. Only the capture of the Confederacy’s capital, Richmond, stood in the way of bringing the war to its final close. However, before the Union forces could move on Richmond, they had to take Petersburg. The fighting around Petersburg was some of the bloodiest of the war, with neither side being able to deliver that decisive blow to the other. The Rebs hoped to hurt the Yanks enough to cause Lincoln to lose the 1864 elections, thinking that the Democrats would quit the war and let the South go. The Union forces needed not only to win enough battles to further Lincoln’s election chances, but also hopefully to clear the Confederate forces out of the way so they could take Richmond and end the rebellion.

This is the fourth in a series on the Civil War by Col. Peters, and as in his previous novels, the writing is very engaging and the use of period and regional slang is superb (Faulkner, eat your heart out.) The descriptions are also very graphic, showing in detail how brutal that war was – with body parts flying every which way on the page. The major complaint I had was that there were so many people on both sides serving as point-of-view characters that it was very difficult, until halfway through the book, to recognize who was on which side. However, for any Civil War buff or military historian, this book belongs in your library.