Hell or Richmond

Ralph Peters

Forge Books

Winner of the American Library Association's 2014 Boyd Award for Literary Excellence in Military Fiction.

Between May 5 and June 3, 1864, the Union and Confederate armies suffered 88,000 casualties.  Twenty-nine thousand were killed, wounded or captured in the first two days of combat. The savagery shocked a young, divided nation. 

Against this backdrop of the birth of modern warfare and the painful rebirth of the United States, New York Times bestselling novelist Ralph Peters has created a breathtaking narrative that surpasses the drama and intensity of his recent critically acclaimed novel, Cain at Gettysburg.

In Hell or Richmond, thirty days of ceaseless carnage are seen through the eyes of a compelling cast, from the Union’s Harvard-valedictorian “boy general,” Francis Channing Barlow, to the brawling “dirty boots” Rebel colonel, William C. Oates.  From Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee to a simple laborer destined to win the Medal of Honor, Peters brings to life an enthralling array of leaders and simple soldiers from both North and South, fleshing out history with stunning, knowledgeable realism.

From the horrific collision of armies in the Wilderness, where neither side wanted to fight, to the shocking slaughter of the grand charge at Cold Harbor, this epic novel delivers a compelling, authentic, and suspenseful portrait of Civil War combat.

Commemorating the approaching 150th anniversary of this grim encounter between valiant Americans, Ralph Peters brings to bear the lessons of his own military career, his lifelong study of this war and the men who fought it, and his skills as a bestselling, prize-winning novelist to portray horrific battles and sublime heroism as no other author has done.



Read an Excerpt


April 29, 1864
Warrenton, Virginia
“Lord in Heaven, Old Abe’s a desperate man,” Bill Wildermuth said. “Lifting Brownie up to be a sergeant. This army ain’t scraping the bottom of the barrel, no, sir. We’re reaching down under that barrel.” He leaned over and gave Brown, his old workmate, a blow where a corporal’s stripes still graced a sleeve. “Ain’t that right, boys?”
Scattered on stumps and scavenged chairs set out in the wonderful sun, the old comrades drew their pipes from their mouths to offer up


Praise for Hell or Richmond

“Firmly grounded in the historical record, Hell or Richmond recounts the horrific bloodbaths of The Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor with the skill of an accomplished novelist...gripping you-are-there urgency...enthralling historical fiction of the highest order.”

—Gordon C. Rhea, author of The Battle of the Wilderness and Cold Harbor


“A towering work of historical fiction, majestic in its ferocity, strangely beautiful in its expression, cold-eyed honest in the truths it tells about men at war.”

—William Martin, New York Times bestselling author of The Lincoln Letter


“Authenticity has always been Ralph Peters' trademark.  In this superb novel, he blends phenomenal research and historical imagination to achieve it in capital letters.”

—Thomas Fleming, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Trial of Robert E. Lee


“A profound reflection on the relationship of men and violence.  Ralph Peters continues to be the most reliable, insightful and readable historian of our times...and he never loses sight of the human beings, great and small, caught up in war's vortex.  An outstanding read.”—Gen. Sid Shachnow, U.S. Army Special Forces (Ret.)

“One of the great Civil War novels of our time...superbly researched and brought to life...[be] prepared to risk not being able to put it down.”—Booklist, starred review

“[A] landmark of historical fiction...the finest Civil War novelist writing today.”—The New York Journal of Books

Hell or Richmond is an America epic, a prose Iliad of the Civil War.  It is stunningly well researched and beautifully, poetically written.”—Guy MacLean Rogers, author of Alexander: The Ambiguity of Greatness

“Harrowing...swift-moving...[Peters] writes with a fine balance of historical accuracy and drama”—Kirkus Reviews


Reviews from Goodreads



  • Ralph Peters

  • RALPH PETERS, New York Times bestselling author of Cain at Gettysburg, is a retired U.S. Army officer, a controversial strategist and veteran of the intelligence world, a journalist who appears frequently in the broadcast media, and a lifelong traveler with experience in over seventy countries on six continents.

    In addition to works under his own name, he is also the author, under the pen name Owen Parry, of a series of award-winning Civil War mysteries.

    Peters has studied the Civil War since childhood.  Combining painstaking research, years of walking those fields of battle, with insight gleaned from his own military career, Ralph Peters tells this great American tale in a masterful style.

  • Ralph Peters


Available Formats and Book Details

Hell or Richmond

Ralph Peters

W.Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction


Forge Books