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The Seven Days: The Emergence of Robert E. Lee and the Dawn of a Legend

514 pages11 hours


In the second year of the American Civil War, near Richmond, Virginia, seven days and six battles changed the course of history.

In the early spring of 1862, the Army of the Potomac invaded Virginia in the hopes of capturing the Confederate capital of Richmond and ending the war. Led by the lauded Gen. George McClellan, the Union forces landed in March—and the Confederates led by Joseph E. Johnston slowly but surely retreated toward Richmond. Defeat seemed inevitable.

But when Johnston was wounded and taken out of action, an intelligent but little-considered officer named Robert E. Lee replaced him—and nothing would ever be the same.

Taking advantage of McClellan’s slow reactions and overconfidence, Lee went on the attack, turning the tide with a combination of feints, harassing attacks, and tactical genius that soon had the Union army falling back. Over the course of one week, during which six battles were engaged, Lee outfought and out-thought his opponent at every turn, turning the great Peninsular Campaign into a humiliating defeat for the Union, proving his brilliance as a military leader—and dooming the nation to three more years of bloody warfare.

Here, those fateful days and Lee’s astounding generalship are explored as are the actions in military and political circles that ended the Union’s hope for quick victory, and unleashed one of the most brilliant military minds of all time onto the Civil War battlefields—and into history.

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