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Monday, February 8, 2016

The Confederate Alamo: Bloodbath at Petersburg’s Fort Gregg on April 2, 1865

I enjoyed very much reading John J. Fox’s The Confederate Alamo and recommend it to any student of the Siege of Petersburg.  The book tells vividly the story of the Federal assault on Fort Gregg, just southwest of Petersburg, on April 2, 1865.  The prose is vigorous, the book hard to put down.  It is unusually well illustrated and the maps are very helpful.  It ought to have taken a couple of paragraphs to describe the Confederate attack on Fort Stedman of March 25, 1865, together with the same day’s Unionist counterattack on the Secessionist picket line between Petersburg and Hatcher’s Run.  The capture of the Rebel picket line there made possible the successful assault of the Northern VI Corps on the Confederate lines southwest of Petersburg just prior to the storming of Fort Gregg by the Federal XXIV Corps.   Early on there is an arithmetical mistake where 300 to 4500 is said to be 13 to 1, but later in the text it is clear that what was meant was 330 to 4500, which is about 13 to 1.  A few minor factual errors occur.  Brig. Gen. Robert S. Foster had not spent the previous summer in the Shenandoah but around Deep Bottom on James River.  Battery 45 of the Dimmock Line, the main belt of Rebel fortifications around Petersburg, was not Fort Mahone; battery 29 was Fort Mahone, known to the Unionists as Fort Damnation.  There was not one Georgia Brigade in Hood’s Old Division at this point; there were two, Benning’s and G. T. Anderson’s.  The question of why not bypass Fort Gregg merited a lengthier discussion.  There is a slight redundancy in twice introducing Maj. George H. Stowitz, an officer who played a role in the assault on Fort Gregg and the author of a good history of the 100th New York.  Despite these minor problems, The Confederate Alamo  is a great read and most helpful understanding the bitter fighting that took place at Fort Gregg on April 2, 1865.  Should there be a second edition, I have a copy of a pension application indicating there may have been a second Southern soldier to have escaped death or captivity at Fort Gregg.  This edition is welcome on my shelf for books about the Siege of Petersburg.