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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.