A well-researched, sprawling account of the hard-fought southern advance of Grant's Army against Lee's defenders in the decisive May 5-June 15, 1864, Virginia Campaign. Grant, hero of the West and newly appointed head of the Army of the Potomac, was pitted against the legendary, almost unbeatable Lee, who until 1864 had thwarted every other northern general's advance on the South and its capital. Through descriptions of unimaginably costly, desperate battles--The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor--Trudeau reveals why Grant was the most formidable of all northern commanders. Determined to wear down his wily, brilliant foe, Grant, in this merciless fighting, was willing to take more than two times the casualties of Lee (45,917 to 21,979 killed or wounded in 40 days) as the price for pressing Lee back nearer the strategic railroad supply center of Petersburg. Vitally necessary to Confederates, Petersburg would eventually fall to the North, thus opening the way to the conquest of Richmond and Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox. Key to this ultimate victory was the May-June 1864 fighting, which Trudeau terms ""the most terrible journey of the Civil War"" and the one whereby the armies of the gray and the blue were ""leaving behind them the last vestiges of a romantic conflict and entering the scarred landscape of total war."" Quoting from diaries, letters, memoirs and regimental histories, Trudeau, in his day-by-day-account, re-creates the participants' experience of these battles and, in so doing, fashions a worthy synthesis--despite sometimes losing perspective in the smoky, bloody details.