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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Ought Burnside to Have Turned a Blind Eye at the Crater?

Burnside disregarded Meade's instruction to clear obstructions because it might have alerted the Confederates (who were already alerted) to the possibility of a mine.  All these Crater books I have read recently (going on four) are leading me to the conclusion that Burnside ought to have gone the whole nine yards in disobeying orders.  He ought to have disregarded Meade's (and Grant's) orders to put a white division in the lead.  My authority for this idea is no less than Grant, who conceded later that the mine attack on July 30, 1864 would have succeeded had the black division led.  But Burnside was not von Seydlitz, who disobeyed Frederick the Great and told him (after disobeying three orders in the same action), "My head is at Your Majesty's disposal after the battle, but during the battle please permit me to use it in your service."  Nor was Burnside a Nelson, putting his blind eye  to the telescope at the Battle of Copenhagen when an irresolute superior raised the signal flag to withdraw.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Summary of "The Battle of the Crater" by John Schmutz

Even worse than the poor editing, the many factual errors (another one: George Templeton Strong was not a soldier), and the murkily attributed quotations are the maps.  That they do not contain a scale is not too important, because they all cover the same ground and readers can figure out the scale.  The main problem is that the maps do not go into sufficient detail given the size of the pages on which they appear and the number of times they appear, about once a chapter and there are seventeen chapters.  I would like to have seen the cavalier trench and the fields of fire of the various Confederate batteries.

Despite all the problems with this book, it is the most detailed account of the battle of the Crater that I have yet read.  I agree with Mr. Schmutz that Meade, Burnside, Ledlie and (to a lesser extent) Grant were the principal culprits.  Mr. Schmutz makes clear that Burnside would have done well to have obeyed Meade's orders to remove obstructions, including trees--Wright's Battery, so devastating to the Federals, was shielded by the trees Burnside ought to have removed.  The failure to clear the obstructions helped channel the Federal troops into the Crater, leaving them too disorganized to advance.

I am surprised that a book this detailed failed to deal with the experience of mine warfare at Vicksburg that I pointed out more than twenty years ago in The Petersburg Campaign.  Grant knew about the propensity of soldiers to collect in the crater of an exploded mine and I have yet to see any evidence that he communicated his observations to Burnside, as Grant ought to have done.  Likewise, at least part of IX Corps fought at Vicksburg, and I have never seen any evidence that those who observed the results of mine warfare at Vicksburg communicated their observations to the miners and planners at Petersburg.

I also think Mr. Schmutz ought to have given more credit to the Confederates for defeating the Federals.  The Southerners took steps to counter a breach in Pegram's Salient with artillery deployed behind and flanking the Salient.  They dug a cavalier or gorge trench to furnish the Salient's defenders with a fall back position.  For four hours, the survivors of Elliott's Brigade fought magnificently, as did Wise's and McAfee's Brigades, to hold the Federals at bay.  Then many of these extraordinary Secessionist soldiers joined Mahone's troops to administer the coup de grace.  Burnside's troops went up against some very tough troops.

I have one more book on the Crater to read, by Dr. Earl Hess.  Given his extraordinary In the Trenches at Petersburg, my expectations are up.  That is the most memorable book on Petersburg I have read so far on this trip through the Cockade City canon.

.  

Friday, December 18, 2015

"The Battle of the Crater" by John Schmutz--on the home stretch

I have plodded into the home stretch on this book.  Errors and omissions multiply.  The origin of the 29th United States Colored Troops is omitted.  The regiment came from Illinois, where free blacks were prohibited.  Ledlie's fiasco at North Anna occurred before May 26, 1864.  The 6th Wisconsin was in V Corps, not II Corps.  There are more quotations unattributed in the text, very trying when only endnotes are used.  Even with footnotes, this is not a good practice.  There is no scale on the maps, which are too small for much detail, especially when the pages are so big.  I have never seen any contemporary refer to Mahone's Brigade as the "Old Dominion Brigade."  A soldier of the 12th Virginia, the Petersburg Regiment, which belonged to the brigade, once referred to himself and his fellows as "Kid Glove Boys."  Mahone's courier Tom Bernard was not a captain but an enlisted man.  The 14th Virginia was not in Mahone's Brigade.  Preparatory to its charge, Mahone's Brigade countermarched by battalions, not by regiments.  Captain Girardey was on the brigade's left, not its right, when he called for it to charge.  Material that is quoted in one place is again quoted a few pages later on several occasions, and on one page the same quotation is made twice--this book was badly in need of an editor.  Mr. Schmutz would have done better to refer to the Union or Confederate right or left, because his use of just "right" or "left" is confusing.  He gets George Bernard of the 12th Virginia's Company E mixed up with George's half brother Meade, who was serving with the brigade sharpshooter battalion.  The colors of the 87th Pennsylvania were not captured by the 3rd Georgia June 22, 1864, but on the following day.  One of General Sanders' middle names was Caldwell, not Colwell.  Major Haskell is mistakenly referred to as a colonel in one place.  The 12th Virginia did not have eighteen killed and twenty-four wounded or ten percent of those engaged, but twenty-three killed and twenty-three wounded, or more than thirty percent of those engaged.  Mahone's Brigade lost not 267 but 283.

Despite the annoying shortcomings of this book, it makes valuable contributions to an understanding of the unusual, though not unique, Crater battle.  I will go into them when I finish the book, which should be next week.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Petersburg Regiment, 12th Virginia Infantry

My next book, The Petersburg Regiment, 12th Virginia Infantry, will lay to rest the mystery of Anderson's Division, Army of Northern Virginia, on the second and third days at Gettysburg.  The breakdown of Anderson's attack on July 2 and the failure of Anderson's Division to support Pickett's Charge will be explained.  


March 18, Salt Creek Civil War Round Table

I will discuss my latest book at the Salt Creek Civil War Round Table at 7 p.m. on Friday March 18, 2016.  Salt Creek CWRT meets at Fairview Village now called OAK TRACE, 200 Village Drive, 
Downers Grove, IL 60516.  This location is between 63rd Street and 75th Streets on Fairview Avenue. The meeting will take place in the Village Apartments, which is a 5 story building, in the Great Hall.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I am slogging my way through the third of four books on the Battle of the Crater.  I must read or reread them to prepare to revise The Petersburg Campaign, which I wrote almost twenty-five years ago, when only one of them existed.  Right now I am reading John F. Schmutz's The Battle of the Crater, a Complete History.  I have reached the point where General Meade interferes with General Burnside's plan.

Like Dr. Slotkin, Mr. Schmutz makes a lot of mistakes.  Both published in 2009 and were unaware of one another's work.  Mr. Schmutz misidentifies the Petersburg Riflemen--a company of the Petersburg Regiment, 12th Virginia Infantry--as the Petersburg Rifles.  W. Gordon McCabe did not belong to Johnson's Division--McCabe was an artillerist in a Virginia unit.  General Bragg was not in command in Georgia at the time of the Siege of Petersburg.  The 36th Wisconsin was not in V Corps but in II Corps.  The 1st Maryland Cavalry (dismounted) and the 24th Massachusetts did not belong to II Corps.  Mr. Schmutz's introduction is too long and too detailed.  We do not need to know every counterattack General Lee tried to lead personally during the Overland Campaign.  Mr. Schmutz also likes to quote without identifying the source in the text, only in an endnote.  I will have more to say about this book when I finish, which will be a while.  The type is very small, the pages are very big, and there are about 250 of them to go.

There are still not very many books on the Siege of Petersburg, barely twenty (and I am including two books on the Bermuda Hundred Campaign, a preliminary to the siege).  No book exists on the Second Offensive (June 21-July 1, 1864) though two books exist on parts of that offensive.  No book exists on the Sixth Offensive (December 7-10, 1864).  No book exists on the Seventh Offensive (February 5-7, 1865).  When I wrote The Petersburg Campaign, there were about nine books on the siege, including the two on Bermuda Hundred.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864

I have rarely read a book with as many errors as Dr. Richard Slotkin's No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864.  This book came from Random House, not some obscure publisher.  The author dates the Cold Harbor assault as June 7, 1864, when it was June 3.  He has IX Corps at Petersburg on June 16, 1864, under Baldy Smith when in fact it did not arrive until Meade had taken command and if if had arrived earlier Hancock would have been in command.  The last of the initial Federal assaults on Petersburg took place on June 18, not July 18.  Hill's Corps arrived at the Petersburg June 18, not June 19.  The Federals did indeed experience a "panic rout" on June 22,  The 12th Virginia Infantry had ten companies, not twelve.  In 1864, George S. Bernard (a member of the 12th Virginia Infantry and author of War Talks of Confederate Veterans and Civil War Talks: The Further Reminiscences of George S. Bernard and his Fellow Veterans) was a private, not a sergeant--he had given up his billet as a sergeant in the 12th's Company I when he transferred back to Company E in early 1863.  The author on page 127 writes June 21 when he means July 21, the last day Confederate counter-miners heard Federal mining toward Pegram's Salient.  On the next page, the author writes June 24 when he means July 24 in regard to Early's rout of Hunter.  On page 140, the author writes July 18-19 when he means June 17-18 in regards to Meade's inability to coordinate his attacks at the end of the initial assaults on Petersburg.  The author gets backwards at page 247 Private Bernard's belief that a man belongs in his proper place--Bernard did not switch positions with Private Butts to get out of his proper place but to get into it.  Weisiger's Brigade had a sharpshooter battalion, not just a company--each of the brigade's five regiments contributed a company to the battalion.  Part of Hall's Georgia Brigade participated in Mahone's first charge.  Burnside was hardly responsible for the delay in implementing a truce after the Battle of the Crater--Grant and Meade well knew from the negotiations at Cold Harbor that they would have to admit defeat before a truce would be allowed.  United States Colored Troops participated minimally in the fighting north of James River and not at all south of James River in August 1864.  United States Colored Troops did not fight at all at Fort Sedgwick, Poplar Grove Church or Hatcher's Run in the autumn of 1864.

Again and again and again quotations are unattributed in the text.  The reader wants to know who uttered the words the author thought important enough to quote.  The book should also have been properly indexed--when the source of a quotation does appear in the text, he often does not appear in the index.  An example is Private Bird of the 12th Virginia Infantry, who is quoted and mentioned in the text but not indexed.

Dr. Slotkin makes valuable observations on the command decisions in the Battle of the Crater, the command structure of the Army of the Potomac, and the importance of United States Colored Troops to the Federal war effort.  He finds at work in the Battle of the Crater the same animosities that wrecked Reconstruction.  Even here, though, he seems at a loss:  Nat Turner's rebellion took place just down the Jerusalem Plank Road from Petersburg in 1831 and it had an impact on how the Confederates--particularly the Southside Virginians in Weisiger's Brigade--reacted to the employment of United States Colored Troops in the assault of July 30, 1864.

In his next book, Dr. Slotkin must get the facts straight, name his sources in the text, and properly index them. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Dr. Earl Hess' Invaluable "In the Trenches at Petersburg"


            Dr. Earl Hess has written a book that better than any other conveys the enormous effort that went into the fortifications and mining around Petersburg and Richmond and the terrible suffering that took place in the trenches and mines.  This book belongs in the library of anyone interested in the fighting around those cities in 1864 and 1865.

            After most of the offensives or counteroffensives during the Petersburg-Richmond campaigns of 1864 and 1865 (yes, there were two campaigns, one for each year, but more on that later), the participants improved or extended their lines until the final Federal breakthrough on April 2, 1865 ended the fighting and compelled the Confederates to evacuate.

            Dr. Hess makes as good a case for the use of Ledlie’s division at the Crater as I have ever seen.  He perceives that digging precluded training, and this worked against General Grant.  In making the lines capable of being held by a minimum of men in order that offensives could be launched on the flanks, he denied the soldiers who participated in those offensives training that they badly needed.

            I disagree with Dr. Hess only on minor points.  The fighting around Petersburg and Richmond in 1864 and 1865 amounted to the longest and bloodiest of the war, but it was not the most important of the war.  That distinction belongs to the Atlanta Campaign, which decided the election of 1864 and hence the Campaign of 1864 and ultimately the war.

            I think Dr. Hess’ breakdown of the offensives mostly acceptable, though for the sake of simplicity I incline to stick with Dr. Richard Sommers’ breakdown.  Dr. Hess enters the realm of the silly when he designates the Unionist attack of April 2, 1865 an offensive of its own when it clearly proceeded from the offensive that General Grant launched on March 29, 1865.  One might as well separate the fighting of August 22-25, 1864, from the preceding fighting of August 14-21. 

             Dr. Hess thinks Baldy Smith’s 14,000 overwhelming against Beauregard’s 4,200 in fortifications.  Given that mere field works often allowed soldiers to hold off twice their numbers, I do not see why troops in fortifications supported by artillery ought not to have held off thrice their numbers or more.  Dr. Hess pays little attention to the failure of Hancock’s Corps to attack early on June 16 or Grant’s hesitation in the face of his opportunity to seize the abandoned Howlett Line opposite Bermuda Hundred on the same day.

            He is perceptive about General Hancock’s failure to improve the works at Second Reams Station, but the shooting of the battery horses there happened after Hancock decided to stay.  General Heth arranged the Confederate artillery, General Wilcox the infantry. 

            Dr. Hess mentions only in passing the Secessionist naval foray aimed at City Point January 23-24, 1865.  He appears unaware of the seemingly connected march of Mahone’s Division toward Hicksford and Weldon.

            Dr. Hess seems to think Petersburg was not besieged because the investment was incomplete, but history’s most famous siege (Troy) did not involve a complete investment.  He wonders why fortifications were not employed more often; the answer is that they tended to arise when a fixed point was threatened or had to be protected—such as Washington, Richmond, Petersburg, or Atlanta.  Where there was room for maneuver, field works tended to be left behind before they were upgraded to fortifications.

            Mistakenly, Dr. Hess thinks Grant’s advances of August and September a winning tactic.  Had there been world enough and time, such a tactic would have been winning.  But there were not world enough and time and therefore it was not a winning tactic.  Grant had only until November 8, 1864, the election, to capture Richmond.  He failed to do this and thus lost the Petersburg Campaign of 1864 and the Virginia Campaign of 1864, though on the national plane he won the Campaign of 1864 because his subordinate, General Sherman, captured Atlanta.

            General Humphreys, whom Dr. Hess disparages as a historian but whom I value very highly, cleverly named his book The Virginia Campaign of ‘64 and ’65.  By doing so, he did not have to admit that the Federals lost the Virginia Campaign of 1864.  It looks like one campaign, but the election formed a hurdle that divided it in two.

            As I said, however, these shortcomings are minor.  This unique book is invaluable.  Nobody treats the fortifications around Petersburg and Richmond so thoroughly.

  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Faded Coat of Blue

Congratulations to Ralph Peters on his achievement (under the pen name of Owen Parry) in Faded Coat of Blue.  He can't write a bad sentence.  The only atmosphere in another mystery this thick is Raymond Chandler's.  I usually skim along, guessing (not always correctly) the end of sentences I've begun.  I couldn't do that with Faded Coat of Blue, where there's usually an unusual turn of phrase in each sentence as Peters gives his narrator a unique voice.  I enjoyed it very much and found it inspiring.  Peters has a real gift for language. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

"The Battle of the Crater: The Horrid Pit"

I just finished reading William Marvel's and Mike Cavanaugh's "The Battle of the Crater:  The Horrid Pit."  It reads very well, with a lively stile that moves along briskly.  The book covers all the bases of the Crater affair, not all of them very deeply, but at least it mentions them.  I would like to have seen more about the relationship between the Vicksburg mines and the Petersburg mine.  IX Corps, which dug the Petersburg mine, had been present at Vicksburg at the time of the mines there.  How did General Burnside decide that his troops must push outward from the Crater to clear the trenches on either side before pushing forward to the crest beyond the Crater?  Was that simply reasoning or was it based on observations made of the mine attacks at Vicksburg the previous year, where the advances bogged down as soldiers crowded into the craters and dug out buried foemen?  And was there any communication at all on this subject between General Grant and Burnside?  I would also have liked to see more about First Deep Bottom and its relationship to the Crater.  The authors appear to think that Grant planned rather than merely improvised a one-two punch, advancing first north of James River, and then, after drawing a significant number of enemy troops there, pushing forward on the south side of the James.  The only factual error of any significance I found was that a map has the Georgia Brigade of Mahone's Division on the left of the Virginia Brigade at the beginning of its charge, when the text (correctly) has part of the Georgia brigade on the right of the Virginia Brigade.  I agree that Grant and General Meade bear much of the responsibility for the Crater fiasco for interfering with Burnside's arrangements.  The authors go a little easy on Burnside, though.  The use of lots to select which of Burnside's white divisions would lead the charge was an admission that Burnside did not care who was his best division commander.  That was General Potter, who had performed so well on June 17 in the initial assaults on Petersburg.  Burnside knew or ought to have known that the best division commander in IX Corps was Potter, and Potter's division ought to have led the way.  I'll be reading some more recent and expansive books on the Crater and "The Battle of the Crater:  The Horrid Pit" will furnish a standard for comparing them.  This book remains an excellent introduction to the Crater disaster.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

"Hell or Richmond"

Lately I have been reading the novels of Ralph Peters.  They include "Cain at Gettysburg," "Valley of the Shadow," and "Hell or Richmond."  Every one is difficult to set down.  The writing is riveting.  Peters brings the battles to life.  The one I have read most recently is "Hell or Richmond," which covers the Overland Campaign of 1864 in as vivid a fashion as the first two mentioned above.  Now he is about to publish another novel, "The Damned of Petersburg," which I can hardly wait to read.  I'm taking with me on vacation one of the mysteries set in the Civil War that Peters has written under the pen name of Owen Parry, "Faded Coat of Blue." 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

I had a very pleasant time at the Northern Illinois Civil War Round Table last night.  I will be speaking at the Lincoln-Davis Civil War Round Table in Alsip, Illinois, November 16, 2016, and at the South Suburban Civil War Round Table in Frankfort, Illinois, November 18, 2016. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Zack Waters and The Florida Brigade

Often, when studying a battle, I pick up a unit history to see if the author can help me understand what took place.  Zack Waters' book on the Florida Brigade of the Huger-Anderson-Mahone Division of the Army of Northern Virginia, A Small But Spartan Band, surpassed all my expectations when I bought it to see what information it could provide about the events of late June 1864.  The book draws upon original sources from not only Florida soldiers bur from other troops belonging to the division.  I intend to write more about this book, which I plan to read from cover to cover.

Chris Mackowski

Tonight I attended a meeting of the Lincoln-Davis Civil War Round Table in Alsip, Illinois.  Chris Mackowski gave an excellent presentation on his new book, The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson.  If you ever get the chance to hear Chris speak about the Civil War, by all means go and hear him. 

Praise for "The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864"

Ralph Peters is the author of several excellent novels about the Civil War, including Cain at Gettysburg, Hell or Richmond, and Valley of the Shadow.  Soon he will be out with The Damned of Petersburg.  Mr. Peters has this to say about The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864:


     "In the course of writing my Civil War novels, there’s always a book that proves especially resonant for a given subject.  This time, John Horn’s The Siege of Petersburg, The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864, drew me back again and again.  It was a true labor of love for Mr. Horn to write about three battles in which the rest of us, wrongly, have shown but little interest: Second Deep Bottom, Globe Tavern and (Second) Reams Station.  His recently revised and expanded edition is, as my old drill sergeant used to say, 'Mighty fine, mighty fine…'"

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Book Signing at Petersburg National Battlefield, December 26, 2015

On December 26, 2015, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, I'll be at Petersburg National Battlefield Park to sign copies of The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864.  I'll also sign any other title I've authored, such as The Petersburg Campaign, or any other title I've helped edit, such as Civil War Talks: The Further Reminiscences of George S. Bernard and His Fellow Veterans.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

NOTICE: No Name Calling and Similar Forms of Incivility

Name calling and similar forms of incivility will not be tolerated in this blog.  Comments engaging in them will be deleted.  I reserve the right to deal with the substance of those comments.  For example, someone who fashions himself "Jubilo" recently commented after some name calling:

"Hardenburg is now thought to have captured the color of a Georgia not an Alabama regiment. This was the subject of much discussion between Bill Rambo of Confederate Memorial Park in Alabama and Greg Biggs of the Clarksville,TN C.W. R.T. Supposedly no Alabama colors were taken at that engagement althought the offical records declare otherwise. The discussion goes on for those who care !"

[This comment refers to Private Henry M. Hardenbergh, Company G, 39th Illinois Veteran Volunteer Infantry, color bearer of the 39th Illinois on August 16, 1864 in an assault on Confederate fortifications above Fussell's Mill, about ten miles southeast of Richmond.  After being wounded and having the colors taken from him by an officer, Hardenbergh pressed on and captured the flag of an Alabama regiment after killing its bearer.  Hardenbergh was awarded a Medal of Honor and a commission for his achievement.] 

My response is that I sympathize because the breakthrough took place on the front of a Georgia brigade, but the only evidence is that Hardenbergh captured the flag of an Alabama regiment in the adjacent Alabama brigade.  The evidence is in Hardenbergh's service record and Clark's history of the 39th Illinois.  There is no evidence whatsoever that Hardenbergh captured the flag of a Georgia regiment.  What people think, what they discuss, and what they suppose are not evidence.



Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ralph Peters to Write a New Novel about Petersburg

I recently read Valley of the Shadow by Ralph Peters.  Valley of the Shadow deals so vividly and perceptively with the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1864 that I could scarcely set the book down.  It appears that Mr. Peters is currently at work on a novel about combat at Petersburg.  I for one am enthusiastically looking forward to reading this new novel, reportedly entitled The Damned of Petersburg.  If Valley of the Shadow is any indication, Mr. Peters' new novel about Petersburg will be a real page turner.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

More Value for Your History

Recently I've undertaken a study of "The Petersburg Affair" of June 22, 1864, where three brigades of Mahone's division routed three divisions of the Federal II Corps.  What inspired me to begin such a narrow study?  Destroy the Junction by Greg Eanes and A Melancholy Affair on the Weldon Railroad by David Cross, two humble, narrowly focused histories, the Eanes book on the Wilson-Kautz Raid of June 22-July 1, 1864, and the Cross book on the bite taken out of the Vermont Brigade of VI Corps by Mahone's Division on June 23, 1864.  I found both these books delightful and I wanted to emulate them. 
As I studied "The Petersburg Affair," I found many though not all the histories of the units involved on the internet and at great websites such as Brett Schulte's www.beyondthecrater.com.  Dornbusch's fine bibliography of Civil War histories is online at http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/007027136.
A wonderful, thought-provoking book is Fox's Numbers and Losses in the American Civil War, also online at http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo1.ark:/13960/t9b57591b;view=1up;seq=20.  This book is a treasure trove of information.  It sets forth the Union formations with the highest numerical and percentage losses in terms of killed and wounded.  The Three Hundred Fighting Regiments of the United States Army are described in this book, the criteria for selection being either 130 killed in action or mortally wounded or more than ten percent killed or dead of wounds.  The forty-five Union infantry regiments with more than 200 killed or mortally wounded also have a chart.
I learned from Fox's book that the Richardson-Hancock-Caldwell-Barlow-Miles division endured more casualties than any other division in the Union army.  Ibid., 115-116.  Eighteen of its twenty-five regiments belonged to Fox’s Three Hundred Fighting Regiments of the United States Army.  Ibid., 122-424.  II Corps, which included that division as well as the former III Corps, had forty-eight of the U. S. Army’s 190 regiments that Fox identified with more than ten percent of their enrollments killed or dead of wounds.  Ibid., 10-14.  II Corps had seventeen of the forty-five regiments Fox identified that had lost 200 or more killed or mortally wounded.  Ibid., 3.  II Corps had nine of the twenty-three Union regiments with the highest percentage killed in action or dead of wounds.  Ibid., 8.  It had among its ninety-two regiments (some consolidated into others) seventy-two of the Three Hundred Fighting Regiments of the United States Army, and that did not include three more transferred or mustered out before the beginning of the Campaign of 1864.  Ibid., 122-424.  This extraordinary corps thus contained at one time a full quarter of the Three Hundred Fighting Regiments of the United States Army in the Civil War.
My increased respect for II Corps in turn magnified my respect for Mahone's Division, which often whipped II Corps during the 1864 and 1865 campaigns (yes, they were two campaigns, not one--but that's another blog post!)  My history of the 12th Virginia Infantry awaits publication at SavasBeatie.  Fox has helped me rate this regiment as a fighting unit.  Given that its own members styled it a "Saratoga trunk regiment" and "Kid Glove Boys" I did not expect much, and indeed its 10.4% casualties exceeded only by a little the "nearly" ten percent casualties suffered by the average Confederate unit according to Fox.  Ibid., 555.  (The average Union regiment lost five percent.  Ibid.)  But if the 12th Virginia had fought for the Union, it would have merited a place in the Three Hundred Fighting Regiments on both criteria, 159 killed or mortally wounded, and more than 10 percent killed or died of wounds.  Ibid., 122. 
The 12th Virginia, also known as the Petersburg Regiment, underwent its baptism of fire against the 5th New Hampshire at Seven Pines on June 1, 1862.  The 5th New Hampshire was the Union infantry regiment that suffered the most in killed and mortally wounded.  In their last battle together, Cumberland Church April 7, 1865, the 5th was trounced and lost its colors. 
I also follow the 39th Illinois the "Yates Phalanx"), which to my surprise also qualified as one of the Three Hundred Fighting Regiments.  (My law office is in Tinley Park, where the 39th's Company G, "The Preacher's Company," enlisted.)  I was surprised because even though the 39th participated in the March 1862 battle of Kernstown, the only battle Stonewall Jackson lost in the Shenandoah, as well as the 1863 Siege of Charleston, South Carolina, the 39th's men did not consider themselves to have been in a real battle until Second Drewry's Bluff on May 16, 1864.  Their moment of glory occurred at Second Deep Bottom, August 16, 1864, where their color bearer Pvt. Henry H. Hardenbergh (a Hoosier) earned a Medal of Honor by, after suffering a shoulder wound, capturing the banner of an Alabama regiment.
A look at Fox's book will give you a sense of the quality of troops you are writing about, as well as instant color.  The 40th New York was the "Mozart Regiment" and contained companies from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the 61st New York was the "Clinton Guard," the 52nd New York the "German Rangers," the 64th New York the "Cattaraugus Regiment," the 86th New York the "Steuben Rangers," the 124th New York the "Orange Blossoms," the 93rd New York the "Morgan Rifles," the Fourth Brigade of the Third Division, the "Escelsior Brigade," the 42nd New York or "Tammany Regiment," the Second Brigade of the Second Division the "Philadelphia Brigade" or "California Brigade," the Second Brigade of the First Division or "Irish Brigade,"  Let's give every great Union and Confederate unit its due--there were more than the Irish Brigade, Iron Brigade, Stonewall Brigade and Light Division.
So go for it!  Give your regiments their due.  Make your history more colorful.
 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Another Good Review

Today another good review of The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864 appeared, this time in "Beyond the Crater," a terrific Petersburg blog run by Brett Schulte.  To see the review, click here

Friday, August 7, 2015


Review: Back Door to Richmond and The Bermuda Hundred Campaign

            Two good books came out on the Bermuda Hundred Campaign in 1987 and 1988, respectively Dr. William G. Robertson’s Back Door to Richmond and Dr. Herbert Schiller’s The Bermuda Hundred Campaign. 

            Dr. Robertson provides us with a better summary of the political and military considerations that led to the campaign.  (Grant actually wanted to proceed by sea toward the Confederate communications south of Richmond, but Lincoln and Halleck persuaded Grant that it was politically impossible to leave Washington open to attack.)  Neither provides us with perspective on the recklessness that allowed an amateur to command an army (Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler) at the very time when another amateur (Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks) was nearly losing an army on Arkansas’ Red River   One can only marvel, with Bismarck, that there is a special providence that looks out for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.

            Dr. Robertson gives us wonderful maps, maybe the best I have ever seen.  Dr. Schiller’s maps are curious, leaving out troops we know are present to focus on the troops performing the actions under consideration. 

            On the other hand, Dr. Robertson remains on a mainly abstract plain while Dr. Schiller gives us an abundance, perhaps an excess, of detail.  The 39th Illinois (this is why one should know about at least one regiment—the 39th came from my neighborhood) is an example.  In Dr. Robertson’s book, the 39th (the Yates Phalanx, a fighting 300 regiment) pops up unexplained and detached from its brigage—The Western Brigade of Terry’s division—on the left of Butler’s army on May 16, 1864, and the Confederate maul the regiment.  Dr. Schiller explains mainly in a footnote how the 39th (part of the Western Brigade of Terry’s division) got to the Federal left when the rest of its brigade remained in the Bermuda Hundred earthworks.  I think Dr. Schiller ought to have put this into the text, but nonetheless we know how the 39th got to the Federal left on May 16 and Dr. Schiller has provided a better explanation than Dr. Robertson. 

            Dr. Robertson’s text has very few errors.  There is one misspelling, one use of the wrong number in a verb, one excessively Latinate text, and one redundant text.  I think he should have used smaller words.  Dr. Schiller has practically no errors except for a disconcerting habit of writing in one sentence ‘X’s brigade’ and then in the next referring to the brigade as ‘They.’ 

            Substantially, Dr. Roberson believes that there were an outer, intermediate, and inner line of fortifications around Drewry’s Bluff.  Dr. Schiller, who stood on Dr. Robertson’s shoulders, indicates there were only an outer and inner line.  I suspect Dr. Schiller has the better of the argument here.  More importantly, Dr. Roberson takes the wrong position that Butler was not in a bottle tightly corked because he could have exited the Bermuda Hundred position by multiple alternative routes.  .Dr. Schiller explains correctly that for the purposes intended by Grant at the beginning of the campaign—investing Richmond from the south—Butler was indeed in a bottle tightly corked. 

            Another difference: Dr. Robertson explains much better the end of the Bermuda Campaign than does Dr. Schiller, who cuts it too short.  Butler’s raid on Petersburg June 9, 1864, fatally hindered the attack on the Cockade City June 15, 1864.

            The bottom line: we have two fine books about the Bermuda Hundred campaign, and any student of the campaign of 1864 must read both.

John Horn

Author, The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864

_____, The Petersburg Campaign, May 1864-April 1865

Co.ed, Civil War Talks: The Further Reminiscences of George S. Bernard and His Fellow Veterans

           

Thursday, July 30, 2015

There is a good review of The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864 that can be viewed by clicking on the following link:  Civil War News Review

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Book Signing October 1, 2015

I'll be signing copies of The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864 at the Abraham Lincoln Bookstore, 357 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60654 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 1, 2015. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book-signing

I'll be signing copies of The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864 at the table of the Salt Creek Civil War Round Table from about noon to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 25, 2015, at Four Seasons Park, 16th & Main Street, Lombard, Illinois. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Review: The Battle of Petersburg, June 15-18, 1864

           Sean Michael Chick has stood upon Thomas J. Howe’s shoulders and written a new history of the initial Union assaults on Petersburg.  In The Battle of Petersburg; June 15-18, 1864, Chick has written more of a page-turner than Howe’s Wasted Valor.  Chick delights in his subject and the Cockade City.

            After a lengthy introduction insightful into the characters of Grant and Lee, Chick recounts Grant’s crossing of the James and initial offensive against Petersburg more vividly than Howe.  Like Howe, Chick mentions in passing the Federal errors that permitted the outmaneuvered, heavily outnumbered Confederates to work a minor miracle and defend the Cockade City successfully.  Given that Chick mentions Albert D. Castel (Decision in the West) at the beginning of the book, I was surprised that Chick did not make explicit the possibility of an altogether different approach to Petersburg—a flanking approach a la Sherman rather than a head-butting approach a la Meade (yes, Meade, not Grant).  Chick leaves this flanking idea implicit in his passing criticisms of Smith for shortening his line on the evening of June 15, of Meade for failing to employ Kautz’s cavalry division for reconnaissance after June 15, and of Meade and Warren for failing to support Burnside on June 17.

            Unlike Howe, Chick analyzes only in passing the causes of the Unionist defeat.  Howe, at least, spent a few pages at the end of his book demolishing the theory of the Cold Harbor Syndrome—the idea that the Federal soldiers could not face the prospect of attacking fortifications after the horrific losses of the Overland Campaign.  Instead, Chick spends sixty pages on a comparatively uninspired history of the Civil War after the failure of Grant’s First Offensive at Petersburg.  Only then does Chick get back on track, and it is to explain why this dramatic battle has drawn so little attention over the years—Grant and Lee were at their “absolute worst” and the battle did not provide grist for the mills of any of the partisans of the postwar mythologies of the Lost Cause or the Just Cause.

            Chick must find a friend who will read his next manuscript carefully.  Misspelled words, misused words, and redundancies appeared too frequently.  For example, “hurtled” is used when “hurled” is meant, and “artillery guns” is redundant.  His friend should have editorial talent as well, because this book rambled on at least twenty percent too long.  There should also be footnotes for every quotation and all statistics. 

            At the heart of this tome, though, remains a riveting story, compellingly told and brimming with new insights.  It also has enough maps to help the reader understand the actions described.  I look forward to reading Chick’s next book.  All students of the siege of Petersburg ought to read this volume.  It certainly added to my knowledge of the subject.

John Horn
Author, The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August
_____, The Petersburg Campaign
petersburgcampaign@blogspot.com

Friday, July 3, 2015

Book Review: "The Petersburg Campaign: Wasted Valor, June 15-18, 1864"

[As I prepare to rewrite The Petersburg Campaign, I will review the books I must read or re-read to do the job right.]

              
Thomas J. Howe’s Petersburg Campaign: Wasted Valor, June 15-18, 1864 invites comparison with its subject, Grant’s crossing of James River and his initial assaults on Petersburg.  Comparison favors the book.


                Howe succinctly deals with the Overland Campaign of 1864, its climax at Cold Harbor and the crossing of James River. This lays the foundation for what comes next, a detailed description of the initial assaults on Petersburg by Grant’s army group.  Howe gives us a helping of the facts complete enough for us to draw our own conclusions about why the Cockade City eluded Grant’s grasp.  In passing, Howe touches upon many of the reasons for the failure of Grant’s initial assaults—Baldy Smith’s delays in attacking the nearly undefended city, the failure to feed Winfield Scott Hancock’s corps or inform Hancock in a timely way of his role, the failure of most of Hancock’s corps to advance early on June 16, Butler’s failure to exploit the abandonment of the Howlett Line on Bermuda Hundred, the failure of IX and XVIII to provide substantial support for Hancock’s evening assault, a staff officer’s success in persuading Grant to bring in V Corps on the line of the Norfolk & Petersburg Railroad rather than on the Jerusalem Plank Road as Grant initially intended, the dispersal of VI Corps and failure to employ its troops except to support Butler, the failure to use Kautz’s cavalry division to reconnoiter, and the piecemeal attacks of IX Corps and the failure of V Corps to support the successes of IX Corps on June 17.  Howe also gives credit to Beauregard for his brilliant defense of the city, particularly the decision to abandon the Howlett Line and focus on the defense of Petersburg.  By June 18, as the Army of Northern Virginia began to arrive, all realistic hope of success had vanished but the Federals kept up their assaults until near evening some members of Hancock’s corps refused to advance.
                The concluding chapter would have done well to discuss in detail the aforesaid problems, but it focuses almost entirely on debunking the “Cold Harbor Syndrome,” which held that the Federals failed at Petersburg because of the distaste for attacking fortifications acquired at Cold Harbor.  In doing so, the book compares favorably with Grant’s initial movement toward the Cockade City, because that movement did not focus at all for several days after the crossing of James River.  The principle reason for the failure of the Federals to capture Petersburg lay in that the crossing of James River exhausted Grant and his staff.  They devoted almost no planning at all to what would happen after the crossing.  They seemed to have expected Baldy Smith and his corps just to walk into Petersburg.  Everything else represented one improvisation or another.  The orders sending Hancock to the Cockade City appear an afterthought, for example, as do Grant’s orders putting Meade in charge of the assaults on the city on the afternoon of June 16, after the best chance for success had passed.  The book devotes little attention to the Federal failure to outflank the heavily outnumbered Confederates instead of launching an almost interminable series of frontal assaults. 
                Thirteen maps help the reader understand the action.  The book contains numerous illustrations.  Despite the limits of Howe’s concluding chapter, he does effectively demolish the “Cold Harbor Syndrome” and gives the valor of the attacking, as well as defending, troops their due.  Likewise, it gives the reader the facts necessary to form his own conclusions.  The book forms part of the Cockade City Canon.  Howe furnishes solid shoulders for others to stand upon.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Review: A Melancholy Affair at the Weldon Railroad: The Vermont Brigade, June 23, 1864


[As I prepare to rewrite The Petersburg Campaign, I will review the books I must read or re-read to do the job right.]
               Recently, in a series of entries in my blog, petersburgcampaign.blogspot.com, I suggested a number of strategies for we amateur historians to employ to add value to our work.  One strategy I suggested was narrowing the focus of a book to the point where its author could more easily research his topic as exhaustively as the standard setter for research, Dr. Richard Sommers, researched his masterwork, Richmond Redeemed An example of this strategy I gave was A Melancholy Affair at the Weldon Railroad:  The Vermont Brigade, June 23, 1864, by David Faris Cross. 
                When Dr. Cross’s book was published in 2003, the dust jacket contained a blurb from me:  “…the definitive account of the Vermont Brigade’s disaster on June 23, 1864…will provide a solid foundation for more general historians.  The story of the vicissitudes of the Vermonters in Confederate captivity is particularly enlightening.” 
                I can still say the same.  Dr. Cross’s book recounts the disaster that befell the Vermont Brigade of the Army of the Potomac’s VI Corps on June 23, 1864, at the hands of Maj. Gen. William Mahone’s division of the Army of Northern Virginia.  The book contains helpful maps of the action involved, some sketches by participants, and a frontispiece based on a U.S. Geological survey map of the contested ground.  There are numerous pictures of individual soldiers, as one would expect in a history focused on a portion of a single brigade. 
Dr. Cross methodically depicts the malaise that afflicted the Union command structure that day, one day after the Army of the Potomac’s II Corps had met with a catastrophe several times bigger at Mahone’s hands.  The book moves from strength to strength.  After recounting the fiasco, Dr. Cross follows Mahone’s victims as they made their way to Andersonville, where an unusually high proportion perished.  A physician, Dr. Cross examines the mixture of medical incompetence, official indifference and public hostility that led to the deaths of so many prisoners.  He analyzes the humbug put forth by the official historian of Vermont’s soldiers to make it possible for one of the officers most responsible for the disaster to be elected governor of Vermont many years after the war.  Then Dr. Cross goes on to allocate blame. 
                I do not agree with all of Dr. Cross’s conclusions.  He thinks the Federals ought to have defeated the heavily outnumbered Mahone on June 23, 1864.  I think that conclusion excessively optimistic.  In the first place, the commander of VI Corps did not know that he faced a single division rather than an entire corps.  Secondly, a Confederate flanking maneuver had routed II Corps the day before.  This made the VI Corps commander very uneasy about his flanks.  Expecting VI Corps to have defeated Mahone that day strikes me as similar to expecting a swimmer to defeat a shark.  Mahone, a former railroad engineer, knew the ground around Petersburg as well as any man alive.  The Federals scarcely knew that ground at all.  This is not to say that Mahone could not have been defeated.  He was not invincible.  He met with defeat at Globe Tavern on August 21, 1864, as the result of inadequate reconnaissance.  Hie was roughly handled at Burgess Mill on October 27, 1864, when he charged into themidst of II Corps, which was well positioned to counterattack, and did so very effectively.  About the most that could be expected on June 23, 1864, would have been for VI Corps to support its pickets and possibly inflict a minor defeat on Mahone as he attempted to encircle them.
                Dr. Cross also thinks that Mahone did not perform well that day in comparison with the Federals, given the higher percentage of his casualties compared with theirs.  I think that Dr. Cross has not looked at this from the proper perspective.  When about 6,000 soldiers with the disadvantage of fighting on the offensive inflict 588 casualties on around 12,000 opponents (counting only the two divisions of VI Corps involved—Dr. Cross uses all three divisions of VI Corps and about 18,000 opponents which only makes the matter worse) at a cost of 152 to themselves, they have achieved a very troubling superiority in combat efficiency of about eight to one (twelve to one if there were 18,000 opponents) without even adjusting by a factor of 1.4 for the hasty defensive advantage of their opponents.  The adjustment gives a combat efficiency of about eleven to one (seventeen to one if there were 18,000 opponents).  This is a differential in combat efficiency that the statistical work of T. N. Dupuy in A Genius for War finds only on World War I’s Eastern Front.  Confederates hardly ever attained such an advantage over their foes.  Its significance here is that Grant’s army, at this point, was completely used up.  Almost four weeks passed before he launched his next offensive of the campaign.
                Disagreeing with a couple of Dr. Cross’s conclusions, however, does not mean that he has produced any less of a definitive account of the Vermont Brigade’s horrific experience.  He has done an excellent job of laying the facts out for the reader to draw his own conclusions.  This book is not just a good book.  It is an exemplary book.  It belongs on the shelf of every student of the Petersburg Campaign.

 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Book Review: 'Destroy The Junction' by Captain Greg Eanes, USAFR


[As I prepare to rewrite The Petersburg Campaign, I will review the books I must read or re-read to do the job right.]
                One of Grant’s great strengths lay in that whenever he found himself flat on his face, he picked himself up and got back in the race.  He made about ten thrusts at Vicksburg before he captured that city.  It took him nine offensives at Petersburg to pry the Cockade City out of Lee’s hands.  Grant launched his second offensive at Petersburg a few days after the failure of his first, the initial assaults on the Cockade City.  The Federal general-in-chief planned to invest Petersburg from the Appomattox River below the Cockade City to the Appomattox River above, using two corps of infantry.  He also sent two divisions of cavalry to destroy Burkeville, where the only railroad that would still link Richmond with the Deep South crossed a railroad that ran from eastern Tennessee to Petersburg.  The exploits of Grant’s cavalry during his second offensive became known as the Wilson-Kautz Raid after the leader of the raid, Brig. Gen. James H. Wilson, and his second-in-command, Brig. Gen. August Kautz.

                Captain Greg Eanes, USAFR, has written a history of the Wilson-Kautz Raid:  ‘Destroy The Junction’—The Wilson-Kautz Raid & The Battle for the Staunton River Bridge, June 21, 1864 to July 1, 1864.  He has used an eyewitness format with relatively little exposition linking and explaining matters.  His four maps help the reader visualize the raid and three of its four principal fights—Nottoway Court House, Staunton River Bridge, and First Reams Station.  The book contains an impressive amount of original research, and makes a significant contribution to scholarship on the raid.  Captain Eanes delves into the corporate reports of the railroads involved to demonstrate that it took the Confederates only about three weeks to put the railroads back in action, not the nine weeks Wilson claimed was reported to him after the war.  Captain Eanes puts his analysis of the raid in an appendix.  He brings an intelligence officer’s perspective to the raid.
                The eyewitness method employed has its drawbacks though.  The witnesses repeat themselves considerably as they view the same actions from their different perspectives.  In any new edition of the book, Captain Eanes may want to eliminate less vivid accounts.  He will also certainly take a page or two to put the raid in context at the beginning of the book, because his failure to do so leaves all but Petersburg aficionados in the dark about the raid’s place in the second offensive.   He may also want to include the map of the vicinity of Sappony Church from Official Reports, Part 1, page 632. 

                I disagree with Eanes about the purpose of the raid.  He thinks Grant launched it to damage the railroads to the point of forcing Lee to abandon Petersburg and Richmond.  I think the raid reflects Grant’s preoccupation with Chickamauga.  Just the previous autumn the Confederates had shifted troops from Virginia to Georgia to inflict a major defeat on Union forces there.  Grant must have considered that the Secessionists might shift men from Georgia to Virginia if he extended his investment of the Cockade City from the lower to the upper Appomattox, cutting the Weldon and South Side Railroads in the process.  Such Southern reinforcements would have threatened the flank and rear of Grant’s forces investing Petersburg Destroying the junction at Burkeville would slow the arrival of any reinforcements from Georgia. 

                Chickamauga also provides the key to understanding something that puzzles Captain Eanes—why the Federal cavalry raiders focused on destroying the track between Burkeville and Staunton River rather than heading straight for High Bridge on the South Side Railroad and Staunton River bridge on the Richmond & Danville.  High Bridge did not matter—Secessionist reinforcements from Georgia would not take that route to Virginia.  Destruction of Staunton River bridge, which would have taken longer than track to repair, would not have slowed the arrival of reinforcements as much as the destruction of track—ferries could transport reinforcements quickly past the broken bridge to resume their journey by rail on the other side of the river if the raiders had destroyed the bridge and not the track, but reinforcements would have had to march rather than ride over the miles where the raiders had wrecked the track.   
               Despite its minor, easily remedied flaws, though, ‘Destroy The Junction’ makes important contributions to the understanding of the Petersburg Campaign and helps fill a gap in its history.  This book belongs on the shelf of anyone who aspires to a fuller comprehension of the Siege of Petersburg.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My Answers to an Author Library Questionnaire


Q: Roughly how many books do you have in your collection?

A: Our library contains a couple thousand books.  It includes volumes on the warfare of all eras.  I have fewer than a hundred books on the Civil War.

Q: When did you start your collection?

A:  I began to contribute to my family’s collection while I was in grammar school.  My father had begun his collection, judging from the inscriptions in his books, in the Fifties after he married my mother.  I inherited his collection in the Nineties.

Q: What does your wife think of your library?

A:  Part of my family’s collection belongs to my wife, who is also my law partner.  She comes from Richmond, Virginia.  She is connected with how I began to write about the Civil War.  Her grandmother asked me to trace their family back as far as I could.  In doing so, I found soldiers from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War.  I became interested in Colonial Virginia first and collected books on that.  I also acquired volumes on Petersburg, Dinwiddie County, and Brunswick  County, where her ancestors had settled, and she approved of those.  Only when I began writing books about the Civil War in the late Eighties did I begin to collect books about it.

Q: How many times have you had to move with the library?

A:  My family moved as I entered eighth grade and again while I was away at law school in New York.  Some volumes disappeared in these moves, including Three Lights from a Match, an unforgettable group of stories about World War I by Leonard H. Nason.  The first move was in 1984, to cart my collection about five miles across town from my parents’ house to the house my wife and I had bought.  Shortly afterward, my wife and I moved her collection about twenty-five miles from downtown Chicago to our house.  The biggest move was in 1995 to transport my father’s collection across town to my house after he and my mother had died.  The moves across town were easy.  Moving my wife out from Chicago was difficult.  We moved her out on the coldest night in Chicago history, twenty-six below.  The moving van broke down on the Dan Ryan Expressway.  The movers got drunk.  The van had to be towed out to our house.  Her plants died and it seemed to take weeks for the house to warm up, but her books survived.

Q: What's your most prized book?

A: Richmond Redeemed: The Siege at Petersburg.  It contains the following inscription by Dr. Sommers, whom I regard as the standard setter for research in the field:

To John Horn

The road to New Market Heights runs from Deep Bottom; the road to Peebles Farm runs from Globe Tavern; before Richmond could be redeemed, the Weldon Railroad had to be destroyed.

Richard J. Sommers

June 3, 1995

(The title of the first edition (1991) of The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864 was The Destruction of the Weldon Railroad.)

Dr. Sommers and the Harrisburg Civil War Round Table were kind enough to have me out to talk with them in the Nineties to talk about the August 1864 fighting around Petersburg and then help lead a tour of the August 1864 battlefields I had written about in the first edition of The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864.

Q: Are your books in one room or spread out through the house?

A: Our collection is scattered throughout our house and law office.

Q: How are the titles organized?

A: A bookcase in our living room contains our books on Colonial Virginia as well as the books I’ve written.  Volumes on mountaineering occupy a table in what used to be our elder daughter’s room—she’s now a lawyer in Atlanta.  I am putting my books on the Siege of Petersburg on a shelf in my law office to prepare for a revision of The Petersburg Campaign which will have footnotes, an index and more maps.  Our travel books, mostly Michelin guides, some from my wife’s first trips to France in the Seventies, are collected in our dining room and in a bookcase on our upstairs landing.  Otherwise there is chaos.

Q: What's next on the "To Buy" list?

A: Next on my “To Buy” list is Dawn of Victory, by Edward Alexander, a new book about the closing battles of the Petersburg Campaign.

Q: Do you spend a lot of time in your library?

9) Since almost every room in our house and law office contains books, I’m very often in my library.

Q: Do you have any final thoughts?

10) A book has to be mighty tough for me to put it down.  I’d read a train schedule.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Bryce A. Suderow, Outstanding Civil War Scholar

               Bryce A. Suderow stands high among students of the Petersburg Campaign.  Few know more about his intricacies than he.  Probably nobody knows more about First and Second Deep Bottom.  He has studied those battles for well over a quarter century.  Bryce shares his knowledge of the campaign generously.  He shared his research with me when I wrote the first edition of my book, and he shared his updated research as well as his manuscript on the subject when I wrote the second edition.  He also put me in touch with others knowledgeable about Second Deep Bottom.  Without his help I doubt that I could have understood Second Deep Bottom to the extent I did in the first edition, and to the greater extent that I did in the second.  It is a very difficult battle to grasp, primarily because the accounts of Union corps commander David Bell Birney, Union division commanders Alfred H. Terry and William Birney, and Confederate brigadiers George T. Anderson and John C. C. Sanders either never existed or remain unavailable.  These soldiers occupied decisive points on the critical days of the battle. 

                Bryce did not stop there, though.  Once you get to know him, he drops research on you on topics he knows interest you—without your even having to ask him.  He occupies a central position in scholarship on the Petersburg Campaign.
               Over the years I have employed Bryce as a researcher on other projects, with happy results.  No one was more pleased than I to see him receive the Douglas Southall Freeman  History Award last year.  Few share his passion for Civil War history.  I could not have written a history of the August 1864 fighting around Petersburg without him.  His phone number is 202-556-8483, and his email is streetstories@juno.com.