Robert Bluford Jr.
The History Press, 2014, 188 pp., $19.99
Image courtesy of amazon.com
When the topic of the Battle of Totopotomoy Creek comes up in conversation, most are not too savvy about the event. However, during the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, there has been attention brought to many of the obscure battles and this is one of them. In this work, there is not only an explanation of the battle, but an explanation of the history of the area including the important Polegreen Church. By not only using commander’s memoirs and official records, Bluford uses regimental histories and soldier’s diaries and strays away from a heavy use of secondary sources. This method of using mainly primary sources strengthens the work on a lesser known battle of the Civil War.
Robert Bluford Jr. is a Richmond native and is a veteran of the Air Force. He went to serve in the Air Force in the middle of his studies to become a minister at the Hampden-Sydney College. He served in the Eighth Air Force during World War II and was a squadron leader. When the war was over, he returned to his studies and graduated in 1947. He also graduated from Union Theological Seminary in 1950 and has a number of other graduate degrees. Since 1989, he has spent a great amount of his time researching the history of the Polegreen Church Foundation. His efforts were noticed and he received the 2004 First Freedom Award by the Council for America’s First Freedom and in 2011 was named the Virginian of the Year.
In the opening of this work, Bluford gives great descriptions of the Polegreen church and also gives us a look into the history of the meetinghouse. Many may be unaware of the historic importance of the church but here, Bluford shows that not only was this building important during the battle of the Civil War, but shows its importance even in the colonial period. Bluford also uses the beginning of this work to set up the stage for the events at the Battle of Totopotomoy Creek. One chapter is even devoted to the year of 1862 and 1864. This properly sets up the book for what happens during the battle by giving us short biographies of those involved and events which morphed the upcoming battle. As the battle is described, the narrative is quite easy to read and, as stated before, depends more on primary sources instead of secondary sources. There is a great strength in writing a work with just primary sources and since the battle is not as known as other engagements, this is the strength of the whole work. The narrative is also aided by some photographs and a few maps.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the more obscure battles of the American Civil War. The narrative is flowing and easy to follow and does not need to be inundated by maps and photographs. As part of the History Press’ Civil War Sesquicentennial Series, this is a welcome addition into the world of Civil War academia.