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Saturday, March 16, 2019

12th Virginia Infantry, Small World Department

Charles David "Charley" Blanks was born in Petersburg, Virginia in September 1842.   No official record ties him to the 12th Virginia Infantry, C.S.A., also known as "the Petersburg Regiment."  He did not join the regiment while the official records that have survived were being generated.  The only information that ties him to the 12th is that Private Blanks and First Lt. Allen Washington Magee laid down their arms at Appomattox with the regiment's Company C, the Petersburg New or B Grays, after returning from furloughs, and that they did not receive paroles.  Our source for this information is an undated letter by Magee that is reprinted on pages 322-324 of the Appendix of George S. Bernard's War Talks of Confederate Veterans (Petersburg, Va.:  Fenn & Owen, 1892).

Charley was the son of Henry A. Blanks, who died in Petersburg June 10, 1864, of wounds sustained the previous day in the previous day's Battle of Old Men and Young Boys.  Charley's mother was Ann Eliza Fisher Banks, 1816-1888.  Charley's elder brother was Pvt. Henry A. Blanks, Jr., a carpenter born in 1840 who enlisted in the Petersburg City Guard April 19, 1861, and was killed in action at Malvern Hill July 1, 1862.  Charley's first wife was Louisa J. Blanks, born in Nottoway County in 1841 and married in Petersburg December 7, 1865.  She died in Petersburg March 29, 1875, after the birth of Charley's son Charles B. Blanks on March 12, 1875, who died in Petersburg June 27, 1875.  Henry, Ann, Henry, Jr., Louisa and Charles B. all lie in Petersburg's Blandford Cemetery.

In the following year, Charley married Sarah J. Rowan Blanks, born in Richmond in 1856.  By 1912, he lived in Chicago.  His wife died in Chicago on June 25 of that year and was buried in Chicago's Rosehill Cemetery and Mausoleum in Chicago.  

By 1916, Charley was living in Oak Forest, Illinois.  He died there June 14, 1916.  He lies in Tinley Park, Illinois' Tinley Park Memorial Cemetery.

Charley is special for me because I live in Oak Forest, my law office is in Tinley Park, and I am one of the historians of his regiment.

It's a small world.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Galleys Have Arrived for "The Petersburg Regiment"

            The galleys have arrived for The Petersburg Regiment in the Civil War: A History of the 12th Virginia Infantry from John Brown’s Hanging to Appomattox, 1859-1865.  It won’t be much longer before this book is available from Savas Beatie.

            John Wilkes Booth stood in the ranks of one of this remarkable regiment’s future companies at John Brown’s hanging.  Known as the Petersburg Regiment because most of its companies came from the Cockade City, the 12th Virginia declined to have Stonewall Jackson appointed its first colonel.  Its men first saw combat in naval battles, including Hampton Roads and First Drewry’s Bluff.  At Seven Pines, their first fight on land, they embarrassed themselves.  They excelled during the Seven Days and at Second Manassas/Bull Run.  Almost annihilated at Crampton’s Gap, the regiment fielded only twenty-five soldiers at Sharpsburg/Antietam.  The 12th distinguished itself again at Chancellorsville, but its role at Gettysburg remains controversial.  In the Wilderness, it played a prominent role in Longstreet’s flank attack as well as in his near-fatal wounding.  Spotsylvania saw its men giving the bayonet to Burnside’s Corps and capturing their first enemy flag.  At Jerusalem Plank Road, they helped put to flight Hancock’s Corps, the pride of the Federal army.  They fought in defense of Petersburg at the battle of the Crater.  At Globe Tavern they narrowly escaped destruction.  At Second Reams Station they contributed to a miraculous Confederate victory.  They captured three enemy flags at Burgess Mill, which thwarted Grant’s last thrust toward Richmond before Lincoln’s re-election.  They helped stop the Federals at Hatcher’s Run in February 1865.  Two days before the surrender at Appomattox, they participated in Lee’s last victory—the rearguard action at Cumberland Church.  By this time, they numbered among the Army of Northern Virginia’s most renowned shock troops.

            This history follows the Petersburg Regiment from the hanging of John Brown to Appomattox.  These pages set forth the reasons the men of the 12th Virginia gave for fighting, leaving the ranks, and returning from “bomb-proof” (safe from combat) detached duty.  The book’s tables compare the prowess of these soldiers with that of friend and foe.  The book resolves the controversy over the fate of the regiment’s last battle flag—was it captured on April 6, 1865, or torn up at Appomattox?

            With thirty-two original maps, eight original diagrams, three illustrative tables, many photos, and numerous explanatory footnotes, this book will put readers in the shoes of the Petersburg Regiment’s soldiers from the Civil War’s beginning to its end.

Advance Praise for The Petersburg Regiment

One of a score or so of outstanding unit histories.

-- Edwin C. Bearss, former Chief Historian, National Park Service, author, The Petersburg Campaign

Regimental histories are, for the most part, necessary resources for campaign histories but rarely worth reading beyond that. John Horn’s The Petersburg Regiment in the Civil War is a decided exception to this rule. Charting the course of a single regiment from 1861 to the war’s end is a daunting challenge but Horn is up to the task. His handling of the numerous campaigns is solid, and he deftly fits his regiment into the mix, almost always adding vivid anecdotes to the overall narrative (many appearing for the first time) by skillfully employing an extensive selection of first-hand accounts drawn from published and unpublished sources. As an added plus, the maps are numerous and well-drawn. John Horn’s book is a model of its kind.

-- Noah Andre Trudeau, author, The Last Citadel: Petersburg, Virginia, June 1864-April 1865 and Lincoln’s Greatest Journey

     John Horn’s splendid history of the 12th Virginia will stand among the classics of the discipline.

     Long years of research and patient crafting allowed the author to deliver an account as detailed and precise, as honest and clear, as any regimental accounting we’ll ever see.  Following the men of Petersburg and its environs from the na├»ve enthusiasm of the war’s initial months through near-disaster amid the gore at Crampton’s Gap, and on through a series of tough stands in the Chancellorsville campaign to the blunt savagery of the war’s last year, this chronicle of one hard-used, heroic regiment is a true soldier’s book—and that is a great compliment.  John Horn takes us as close as words on a page can bring us to the soldier’s experience.  From merry snowball fights between entire brigades, to the final, bitter defense of their home city, the men of the 12th Virginia leap to life.

     Horn’s reliance on first-hand accounts reminds us of how casual death became—as well as how hungry those men in gray became as early as the winter of 1863, when at least a few acquaintances of the regiment found rat meat a tasty supplement to their rations.

    Simple pleasures and harsh punishments, battlefield confusion and clashes of character…informal truces on the picket line and the shock of finding your powder wet as the enemy approaches…so often, it’s the telling detail, the tidbit ignored by the proponents of grand history, that really bring those Civil War soldiers to life again.  And Horn is the master of such details.

--Ralph Peters, author, Cain at Gettysburg and The Damned of Petersburg

The culmination of years of study and research, John Horn’s definitive history of the Petersburg Regiment narrates the wartime adventures of the 12th Virginia Regiment with the skill of a master story-teller.  We meet the regiment’s members and experience with them the horrors of battle, the exhaustion of the march, and the tedium of camp life.  Grounded in primary source materials, told with engaging verve, and accompanied by an ample array of maps, this is Civil War history at its best. The Petersburg Regiment sets a new standard for regimental histories.

--Gordon C. Rhea, author, On to Petersburg:  Grant and Lee, June 4-15, 1864

John Horn has written important books on the entire Siege of Petersburg and on some of its most crucial battles.  His latest book focuses on the “Petersburg Regiment,” the 12th Virginia Infantry.  This hard-fighting unit of Robert E. Lee’s army was heavily engaged from early 1862 to the Civil War’s final days.  Its significant service is compellingly narrated throughout these pages.  Complementing this narration are keen analyses of the 12th’s strengths – and shortcomings.  This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the humanity of the military experience.

--Dr. Richard J. Sommers, author, Challenges of Command in the Civil War and Richmond Redeemed

The 12th Virginia had not consistently distinguished itself early in the war, John Horn writes, but in his stirring regimental history, the Petersburg Regiment finally gets its (over)due.  Horn writes with humanity of a band of brothers who push through the hard work of war across Virginia only to spend the last unhappy months fighting on their own doorsteps to protect their home town.  Horn’s book is a model for the way regimental histories should be written: compelling, empathetic, and highly readable.

--Chris Mackowski, editor, The Emerging Civil War Series, author, Hell Itself:  The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-7, 1864

A comprehensive biography of a fighting regiment in the Army of Northern Virginia, especially useful in delineating the hometown support system that sustained the regiment throughout the war.

--Dr. William Glenn Roberson, author, The First Battle of Petersburg

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Archibald B. Goodwyn to Dr. Crawford, December 18, 1861

Digitalization of this letter will exhaust my little collection.  It comes from First Lt. Archibald B. Goodwyn of the Hargrave Blues, the first Company H of the 12th Virginia Infantry.  He wrote it while on garrison duty in Norfolk. 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Letter, Theophilas Daniel to “my Dear wife,” April 3, 1862, Private Collection of John Horn

If I won the lottery, I would donate to one or more major repositories to digitalize as much of their collections as possible.  As it is, an enormous amount of material is available online, but much--particularly diaries, letters and memoirs--remains to be published.  I haven't won the lottery, but I'm doing my bit.  Here is a letter from Theophilas Daniel of the 12th Virginia Infantry's Company F to his wife, April 3, 1862, from my very modest private collection. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Change of Plans: My Talk to San Diego CWRT Will Now Be on April 17

The Marine Corps extended my son's deployment.  The San Diego Civil War Round Table and it's April speaker were kind enough to accommodate me.  I'll be talking there April 17 instead of March 20.  Thanks, San Diego CWRT!  Thanks Renee at Savas Beatie for arranging this!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Resiliency, or Lack Thereof, of Confederate Railroads

As I searched for something else in "Sixth Corporal," James Eldred Phillips' history of Company G, 12th Virginia Infantry, I came across something that I found very interesting.  In late December 1864, he took the cars of the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac from Richmond to Guinea Station, near Spotsylvania.  The Federals had probably damaged that railroad significantly during the Overland Campaign.

The Richmond & Danville was up and running by mid-July after the Wilson-Kautz Raid, which saw that railroad torn up from June 23 through June 25.

Wilson and Kautz also tore up the South Side Railroad from June 22 through June 24 and that railroad was running again no later than early September.

Though Federal infantry and cavalry ripped up the Weldon Railroad in late June, it was running again by the time V Corps cut it for good in August.

Richmond had so many railroads that it was difficult to take even without their restoration.  To the southwest ran the Richmond & Danville.  West ran the Virginia Central.  North went the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac, northeastward ran the York River Railroad, and south went the Richmond & Petersburg, which connected with the City Point Railroad, the Norfolk & Petersburg, the Weldon Railroad, and the South Side Railroad.

Atlanta, where I spent this Christmas, had but three railroads running into it, and one of the was the Federal supply line, the Western & Atlantic.  That left two for the Confederates, the Macon & Western and the Georgia Railroad.  The siege began with the Federals wrecking the Georgia Railroad, which ran east.  The Unionists compelled the evacuation of Atlanta by cutting the Macon & Western.  The Confederates lacked the time to repair the Georgia Railroad when Sherman swept around to the west to cut the Macon & Western.

Atlanta needed more railroads, particularly one running southeastward.  She also could have used another river.  The Appomattox added to the difficulties the James caused the Northerners.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Please Pray for Dick Sommers

Please pray for Dick Sommers, author of the classic Richmond Redeemed.  He will be undergoing surgery tomorrow.