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Friday, June 29, 2018

Dr. Richard J. Sommers Has a New Book published by Savas Beatie: "Challenges of Command in the Civil War."

All students of the Petersburg Campaign will want a copy of Dr. Richard J. Sommers' new book, Challenges of Command in the Civil War:  Generalship, Leadership, and Strategy at Gettysburg,  Petersburg and Beyond, Volume I: Generals and Generalship.  It is currently out from Savas Beatie.  I have just begun reading my signed copy and find it delightful.  Dr. Sommers is the dean of historians of the Cockade City's siege.

Volume II is expected out in January 2019.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

"A Campaign of Giants, The Battle for Petersburg: From the Crossing of the James to the Crater

A. Wilson Greene’s A Campaign of Giants, The Battle for Petersburg:  From the Crossing of the James to the Crater, the first volume of a projected three, is a must read for all students of the Petersburg Campaign.  It contains a lot of research that will prove helpful to future authors on the subject and will constitute one of the starting points for them.  Greene’s chronicle will serve as the base camp for the ascent to better and more accurate accounts of the fighting.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Love Your Proofreaders

Anybody who proofreads your work is doing you an enormous favor.  Proofreaders catch errors to which the author is blind.  I encourage my proofreaders to mark anything that strikes them as incorrect.  I then go through their assessments and apply such as I think are appropriate.  Experience has taught me not to try to explain why I disagree with a particular assessment.  That just invites argument, which is not an appropriate way of thanking proofreaders for their invaluable help.  Even explaining why I agree with a particular assessment can sometimes invite argument.  I find it best just to thank proofreaders profusely and, if they are hired, to pay them promptly.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Different Perspective on the Petersburg Campaign

A while back I wrote that the Petersburg Campaign was a Rodney Dangerfield, getting no respect.  Now I think I may have overstated the campaign's importance.  Yes, indeed, it was a war in itself with approximately 100,000 casualties.  Yes, it pitted against one another the premier general of each side. 

But it was not the war's decisive campaign.  That was the Atlanta Campaign, which decided the election of 1864 and consequently the war   The Petersburg Campaign contributed to the Atlanta Campaign as a holding action that prevented Lee and his army from intervening, directly or indirectly, in the Atlanta Campaign.

The historical parallel that comes to mind is the campaign in Italy between Fabius Maximus and Hannibal Barca after the battle of Cannae.  Fabius held Hannibal while Scipio skinned the Carthaginian empire like Grant held Lee while Sherman skinned the Confederacy.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Advance Praise for "The Petersburg Regiment in the Civil War, A History of the 12th Virginia Infantry from John Brown's Hanging to Appomattox"


"One of a score or so of outstanding unit histories."

-- Edwin C. Bearss, former Chief Historian, National Park Service, author, The Petersburg Campaign


Regimental histories are, for the most part, necessary resources for campaign histories but rarely worth reading beyond that. John Horn’s The Petersburg Regiment in the Civil War is a decided exception to this rule. Charting the course of a single regiment from 1861 to the war’s end is a daunting challenge but Horn is up to the task. His handling of the numerous campaigns is solid, and he deftly fits his regiment into the mix, almost always adding vivid anecdotes to the overall narrative (many appearing for the first time) by skillfully employing an extensive selection of first-hand accounts drawn from published and unpublished sources. As an added plus, the maps are numerous and well-drawn. John Horn’s book is a model of its kind.

-- Noah Andre Trudeau, author, The Last Citadel: Petersburg, Virginia, June 1864-April 1865 and Lincoln’s Greatest Journey


     John Horn’s splendid history of the 12th Virginia will stand among the classics of the discipline.

     Long years of research and patient crafting allowed the author to deliver an account as detailed and precise, as honest and clear, as any regimental accounting we’ll ever see.  Following the men of Petersburg and its environs from the na├»ve enthusiasm of the war’s initial months through near-disaster amid the gore at Crampton’s Gap, and on through a series of tough stands in the Chancellorsville campaign to the blunt savagery of the war’s last year, this chronicle of one hard-used, heroic regiment is a true soldier’s book—and that is a great compliment.  John Horn takes us as close as words on a page can bring us to the soldier’s experience.  From merry snowball fights between entire brigades, to the final, bitter defense of their home city, the men of the 12th Virginia leap to life.

     Horn’s reliance on first-hand accounts reminds us of how casual death became—as well as how hungry those men in gray became as early as the winter of 1863, when at least a few acquaintances of the regiment found rat meat a tasty supplement to their rations.

    Simple pleasures and harsh punishments, battlefield confusion and clashes of character…informal truces on the picket line and the shock of finding your powder wet as the enemy approaches…so often, it’s the telling detail, the tidbit ignored by the proponents of grand history, that really bring those Civil War soldiers to life again.  And Horn is the master of such details.

--Ralph Peters, author, Cain at Gettysburg and The Damned of Petersburg


The culmination of years of study and research, John Horn’s definitive history of the Petersburg Regiment narrates the wartime adventures of the 12th Virginia Regiment with the skill of a master story-teller.  We meet the regiment’s members and experience with them the horrors of battle, the exhaustion of the march, and the tedium of camp life.  Grounded in primary source materials, told with engaging verve, and accompanied by an ample array of maps, this is Civil War history at its best. The Petersburg Regiment sets a new standard for regimental histories.

--Gordon C. Rhea, author, On to Petersburg:  Grant and Lee, June 4-15, 1864


John Horn has written important books on the entire Siege of Petersburg and on some of its most crucial battles.  His latest book focuses on the “Petersburg Regiment,” the 12th Virginia Infantry.  This hard-fighting unit of Robert E. Lee’s army was heavily engaged from early 1862 to the Civil War’s final days.  Its significant service is compellingly narrated throughout these pages.  Complementing this narration are keen analyses of the 12th’s strengths – and shortcomings.  This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the humanity of the military experience.

--Dr. Richard J. Sommers, author, Challenges of Command in the Civil War and Richmond Redeemed


The 12th Virginia had not consistently distinguished itself early in the war, John Horn writes, but in his stirring regimental history, the Petersburg Regiment finally gets its (over)due.  Horn writes with humanity of a band of brothers who push through the hard work of war across Virginia only to spend the last unhappy months fighting on their own doorsteps to protect their home town.  Horn’s book is a model for the way regimental histories should be written: compelling, empathetic, and highly readable.

--Chris Mackowski, editor, The Emerging Civil War Series, author, Hell Itself:  The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-7, 1864


A comprehensive biography of a fighting regiment in the Army of Northern Virginia, especially useful in delineating the hometown support system that sustained the regiment throughout the war.

--Dr. William Glenn Roberson, author, The First Battle of Petersburg




Monday, June 4, 2018

Strength of the 12th Virginia Infantry

Space limitations required cutting the following table because all of the figures are already in the text and footnoted there.


Table:  STRENGTH (Officers/Men)

                                                                                                                                                            Present &

Date                Battle              Effective                     For Duty                     Present                        Absent

6/16/61                                                                                                            863 (47/816)

5/18/62                                                                                                                                                1100

6/23/62                                                                                                            691                                936

7/1/62              200

8/30/62            220

9/17/62              26 (3/23)

2/1/63                                                                          318                              425

5/1/63              400

6/14/63                                                                                                            434 (31/403)

6/21/63                                                                                                            396 (31/365)

7/4/63                                      224 (22/202)

7/30/64            150 (10/140)

8/15/64                                    237 (12/225)                246 (14/232)                297 (16/283)                  636 (38/598)

8/19/64              94

9/28/64                                    242 (13/229)                262 (15/247)                308 (17/291)                  645 (34/611)

10/31/64                                  238 (13/225)                287 (16/271)                311 (19/292)                  693 (32/661)

11/28/64                                  298 (23/275)                298 (22/276)                321 (23/298)                  691 (35/656)

12/28/64                                  259 (18/241)                275 (19/256)                313 (22/293)                  677 (33/635)

2/28/65                                    222 (15/207)                236 (15/221)                279 (17/262)                  654 (30/624

4/2/65                                                                                                              295 (18/277)

4/9/65                                                                                                              197 (17/180)