Recent historians need to fashion patches for their accounts of the fighting on the North Anna River May 24, 1864. As I followed the Petersburg Regiment of Weisiger's Virginia Brigade of Mahone's division down to the North Anna, I could see a conflict between sources in the regiment and general histories of the campaign. Sources from the Petersburg Regiment reported fighting Crawford's division of V Corps as Ledlie's brigade of IX Corps dashed itself to pieces against the Mississippi Brigade of Mahone's division to the right of the Virginia Brigade. I considered deferring to the judgment of the general historians but decided to take a look. The men from the 12th Virginia, the Petersburg Regiment, were right. Sources on Bates' (Coulter's until Coulter was wounded) brigade of Crawford's division (11th Pennsylvania, 12th Pennsylvania, 12th Massachusetts, 97th New York, all available online) show that this brigade struggled with the sharpshooters of Weisiger's Virginia Brigade and Sanders' Alabama Brigade as Ledlie's brigade assaulted the Mississippians.
My last post, on Pickett's Charge, may seem odd for a blog entitled The Petersburg Campaign. I'm a student of the 12th Virginia Infantry, however, which was also known as The Petersburg Regiment because it had, in its final form, six of ten companies from the Cockade City. This regiment belonged to Mahone's Brigade, which at Gettysburg formed part of Anderson's Division. I'm putting the finishing touches on a history of the 12th Virginia with nine diagrams and thirty-two maps by Hampton Newsome, Esq., author of Richmond Must Fall (on the October battles around the Cockade City) and co-editor (with Dr. John Selby and me) of Civil War Talks: Further Reminiscences of George S. Bernard and His Fellow Veterans. Civil War Talks is the sequel to War Talks of Confederate Veterans, published by Bernard in 1892. Civil War Talks was ready for publication in 1896 but disappeared until it showed up in a flea marked in 2004. Purchased at a flea market for $50 by some lucky fellow, it was sold to the History Museum of Western Virginia for $15,000!
Mathematical modeling based on Lanchester equations developed during the First World War to determine the numbers necessary for successful assaults shows that with the commitment of one to three more infantry brigades to the nine brigades in the initial force, Pickett’s Charge would probably have taken the Union position and altered the battle’s outcome, but the Confederates would likely have been unable to exploit such a success without the commitment of still more troops. Michael J. Armstrong and Steven E. Soderbergh, “Refighting Pickett’s Charge: mathematical modeling of the Civil War battlefield,” Social Science Quarterly 96, No. 4 (May 14, 2015), 1153-1168. The authors do not include Wilcox’s and Lang’s brigades in the initial force. Ibid., 161. Timelier commitment of Anderson’s entire division with the initial force would have supplied five additional brigades and from 4,950 more men, making the attack force fourteen brigades and almost 18,000 men. Ibid., 161, 164. According to the modeling, this number would have practically guaranteed a lodgment at the Angle and refuted Longstreet’s assertion that “thirty thousand men was the minimum of force necessary.” Longstreet, From Manassas to Appomattox, 386.
Everybody interested in the Civil War ought to try writing a regimental history. It gives you a yardstick for measuring the accuracy of more general works.
I don't recommend duplicating a previous regimental history. Sometimes that can be embarrassing. A few years ago a book came out on the 57th Massachusetts, Mother May You Never See the Sights I Have Seen. Unfortunately, the regimental history it was intended to replace (by John C. Anderson), remains a better book.
Plenty of good regimental histories exist, particularly for Federal regiments, In the brigade I'm going to mention, Foster's brigade of Terry's division, X Corps (and later XXIV Corps), Army of the James, fine histories exist on the 11th Maine, 24th Massachusetts and 100th New York. On the other hand, by "regimental history," I don't mean the historical sketches that accompany the rosters in John C. Rigdon's books or the H. E. Howard regimental history series--they shouldn't stop anybody from writing a true regimental history if enough documents can be found.
The existence of documents is extremely important. There will be sufficient docoments for regimentals on many Federal regiments. Confederate regiments are another matter. When I picked a regiment to write about, I considered the 12th Virginia, the 12th Mississippi and the 29th United States Colored Troops. I had relatives in the 12th Virginia and 12th Mississippi. The 29th United States Colored Troops were recruited in my state, the Sucker State, Illinois. (The name comes from a bottom-feeding fish, not the electorate foolish enough to elect and reelect politicians who are bankrupting the state.) There were individuals in the 12th Virginia who left more writings that the 12th Mississippi and 29th United States Colored Troops put together, so the decision to write about the 12th Virginia was easy. The existence of an historical sketch with the H. E. Howard roster did not deter me because the sketch made practically no use of what I estimate as eight to ten volumes of writings.
The unit that strikes me as ripe for a regimental history is the 10th Connecticut, which Fox included among the 300 Fighting Regiments of the United States Army. The Connecticut Historical Society has documents from practically every company. The chaplain left a memoir of his own and a biography of one of the regiment's field officers. The U. S. Army Heritage and Education Center has a few letters. The 10th participated in the seizure of the North Carolina sounds in 1862, the Siege of Charleston in 1863 and the Siege of Petersburg in 1864-65.
Somebody connected with the 10th Connecticut should get to work on its history.