Contrasts in Command
The Battle of Fair Oaks, May 31 - June 1, 1862
Imprint: Savas Beatie
288 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 21 images, 15 maps
- November 2023
- In Stock
The bloody two-day battle was fought on the doorstep of the Confederate capital. It was the first major combat in the Eastern Theater since Bull Run/Manassas almost a year earlier, left more than 11,000 casualties in its wake, and cost the primary Southern field army its commander. The possession of Richmond hung in its balance. Yet, almost nothing has been written about Seven Pines/Fair Oaks. Victor Vignola’s Contrasts in Command: The Battle of Fair Oaks, May 31–June 1, 1862, which focuses primarily on the Fair Oaks portion of the battle, is a major contribution to the historiography of the war.
Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan marched his Army of the Potomac up the Virginia Peninsula during the early spring of 1862 and placed his inexperienced IV Corps at the tip of the spear south of the flood-prone Chickahominy River. McClellan’s opponent Joe Johnston took the opportunity to strike and crafted an overly complex attack plan for his Virginia army to crush the exposed corps. A series of bungled marches, piecemeal attacks, and a lack of assertive leadership doomed the Southern plan. One of the wounded late in the day on May 31 was Johnston, whose injury led to the appointment of Robert E. Lee to take his place—a decision that changed the course of the entire Civil War.
Vignola’s use of primary and archival sources, many of which have never been used, helped craft a wholly original tactical and leadership study that directly challenges conventional accounts.
His stunning reassessment has led to renewed interest in Fair Oaks and the acquisition of a significant parcel of land by the American Battlefield Trust. Contrasts in Command: The Battle of Fair Oaks, May 31–June 1, 1862, will be hailed as one of the most important tactical studies ever published.
“The Battle of Seven Pines/Fair Oaks set up the seismic clash outside Richmond between the armies of George B. McClellan and Robert E. Lee in the late spring of 1862. This welcome study provides by far the most detailed treatment to date of the two-day battle, with a focus on leadership and the tactical ebb and flow at the Fair Oaks sector of the field. Students of the Eastern Theater, and of the military history of the Civil War more generally, will turn to this study with profit.” ~Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Enduring Civil War
“Victor Vignola’s Contrasts in Command: The Battle of Fair Oaks is an engaging and thoroughly researched examination of a critical Civil War engagement that until recently received scant attention. Accompanied by an impressive array of battlefield maps, Vignola’s vivid narrative is a highly readable volume bristling with insights. I highly recommend it.” ~Gordon C. Rhea, author of The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7–12, 1864 and To The North Anna River: Grant and Lee, May 13–25, 1864
“The fighting on May 31 and June 1, 1862, in front of Richmond often is mentioned only in the context of Joe Johnston’s wounding. In reality, it was a dramatic story on both sides, with ramifications lasting well after the battle’s end. Contrasts in Command brings those important stories out of the shadows and illuminates a neglected part of the war in Virginia.” ~Christopher L. Kolakowski, author of The Virginia Campaigns, March–August 1862
“The author’s new and important study concentrates on the Fair Oaks part of the battle. His research is thorough, he has walked the ground, and his narrative brings the battle to life.” ~Doug Crenshaw, co-author of To Hell or Richmond and author of Richmond Shall Not Be Given Up