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Saturday, March 14, 2015


                Richard Sommers set the standard for research in the field of Civil War battle and campaign histories in Richmond Redeemed:  The Siege at Petersburg.  When he wrote Richmond Redeemed, he is said to have visited in person an extraordinary number of repositories of letters, diaries and memoirs of soldiers of both sides who participated in Grant’s Fifth Offensive at Petersburg.  Writing The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864, I knew I could not meet that standard.  The law is a jealous mistress and she does not allow me to spend that much time away from her.  I had to find other ways to add value to my book.  I found several.  One way was to let my fingers do the walking and research as much as I could online.  Many books and manuscripts are now online.  Another way was to add more human interest and give the reader more details about the men who fought in the Fourth Offensive.  Researching online facilitated this.  Yet another way was to add more maps, particularly of the first day of Second Deep Bottom, the most critical day of the whole Fourth Offensive.  I now have a much clearer idea of troop movements on that day than when I wrote the first edition of my book (The Destruction of the Weldon Railroad: Deep Bottom, Globe Tavern and Reams Station, August 14-25, 1864) more than twenty years ago.  Still another way was to put the Fourth Offensive in its place in the history of warfare.  This drew upon what I had read about other conflicts since boyhood.  Finally, I tried to add value to my book by crunching numbers and doing a statistical analysis of the fighting.  This also drew on my previous readings in military history over the years.  I think I succeeded in adding value to the current edition of my book, and in the coming weeks I will explore the particulars of each of the avenues I pursued to add that value.