Thursday, August 27, 2009

Off to Petersburg + A Review of The Last Citadel

I managed to finish Noah Andre Trudeau's The Last Citadel this week in preparation for my upcoming tour of Petersburg. To borrow from one of the jacket reviews, this is an excellent popular history of the Petersburg Campaign from the crossing of the James to the occupation of Petersburg. Oddly, Trudeau discusses Five Forks only in terms of its results, while other engagements during the siege receive detailed treatment. This is almost appropriate in relation to the drama of the narrative - he repeats a paragraph describing Horace Porter's receipt of the news of Five Forks and Grant's decision to order a "general assault along the lines" four times - once for the section on the Sixth Corps assault (the breakthrough in AP Hill's sector), followed by the Second (Sutherland Station) and Twenty-Fourth Corps (Forts Gregg and Whitworth) assaults, and finally for the Ninth Corps assault (Fort Mahone).

Last Citadel, while just the sort of overview of the campaign I needed to prepare for my trip, leaves me wanting more. Yet aside from numerous studies of the battle for The Crater, I know only of A. Wilson Greene's work on the final battles of the Petersburg Campaign as detailed tactical studies go. I have read sections of Greene's work, and highly recommend it based on that alone. He is evidently working on a three volume study of the campaign for UNC Press (I think is stumbled on this information over at Civil War Memory, a new addition to my blogroll). If so, I look forward to its publication. While I am sure to have missed something, the only other item of note is Blue and Gray Magazine's tour Guide for Five Forks and the battles around Hatcher's Run.

If you haven't already read this book, and you want to learn the story of Petersburg, start here. The maps included are servicable for an overview of this sort, but include little detail beyond roads and watercourses. Some may bristle at the lack of end notes. Trudeau does discuss the sources he used, but those who desire to track details down to primary sources will have their work cut out for them. For me, these are small issues for an otherwise enjoyable book.

Having read it, I hope to include Reams Station and Deep Bottom on the tour. Reams Station, site of Winfield Hancock's last engagement at the head of the Seconds Corps, includes a number of interpretive markers placed by CWPT. In the wake of the recent bad news about the Wilderness, I will enjoy visiting the site of one of CWPT's many victories. If all goes according to plan, I will blog about these sites in addition to The Crater, Fort Stedman, and some general observations on Petersburg on my return.

One final item. I am now on Twitter as cwbattlefields. I'm still not sure how I feel about it; it seems a bit self-important. But I thought it might be fun to tweet a few notes from the trenches, so to speak. We'll see how it goes. I won't be sending inane updates about passing milepost x on Interstate 95 or informing you that I just sat down for pizza (unless it's really really good).

1 comment:

Brett S. said...

Steven,

There are actually quite a few other tactical studies out there, but they're not necessarily easy to find. The H.E. Howard series had tactical studies of The Battle of Old Men and Young Boys, The Battle of Petersburg, First Deep Bottom and the Crater, Reams Station and Globe Tavern, and Five Forks. Richard Sommers' Richmond Redeemed is an incredibly detailed tactical study of the Fifth Offensive, including New Market Heights, Fort Harrison, and Peebles Farm. I am actually getting ready to announce the launch of my new Petersburg Campaign site Beyond the Crater very soon: http://www.beyondthecrater.com