Savas Beatie, 2015, 374 pp. + 10 pp. introduction, $32.95
Image courtesy of amazon.com
The Siege of Petersburg tends to be one of the more overlooked and overwritten aspects of the American Civil War due to the waning years of the war. John Horn’s work, The Siege of Petersburg helps to fill in some of the gaps during that lengthy campaign, mainly the battles which surrounded the Weldon Railroad. Not only is this a strong work which has stood the test of time, it is now available for purchase in a special 150th Anniversary Edition which has been revised and expanded. This edition has also, as stated in the introduction, been toned down in the realm of footnotes focusing on the direct quotes. The finished product is a book that has been well polished and is a welcome addition into the annals of history in the world of the Petersburg Campaign.
John Horn has published numerous articles in many different Civil War publications such as Civil War Times, Illustrated and America’s Civil War. He has also published other books such as The Destruction of the Weldon Railroad and the Petersburg Campaign. Along with Hampton Newsome and Dr. John G. Selby, he co-edited Civil War Talk: The Further Reminiscences of George S. Bernard and His Fellow Veterans. Aside from being an excellent historian, he also practices law and sometimes holds public office.
I had to laugh when I read the introduction to this book and coming upon Horn’s description of the Petersburg Campaign. He stated that it was the Rodney Dangerfield of Civil War campaigns: it gets no respect. Throughout the many books which I have read and reviewed concerning the Petersburg Campaign and its battles in the past year, I have to say that this book is a welcome addition to the collection of works on the event. Horn leaves no detail unturned and in all reality, goes extremely in depth into the regimental movements of the battle. This does not deviate from the compelling narrative which fuels this work which is also aided by finely drawn maps. Horn also breaks down the battles in which he is talking about throughout the chapters especially battles in a complex nature such as Second Deep Bottom. Almost the entire first half of the book centralizes around the Second Battle of Deep Bottom and it is that attention to detail which makes this work shine. One of the things which I found to be fascinating was the outlook of the commanders which many have come to revere thanks to their actions at the Battle of Gettysburg. The situation in which they participated was much different than those three days in July and for some of them it greatly showed. Certain issues with the command of people such as Francis Barlow and Winfield Scott Hancock gives the reader a different outlook on the people whom so many consider the heroes of the war just because they stood tall at Gettysburg. While I have to admit, that I do not own the original edition of this work, but the reprint is done in an excellent format and is quite informative to people who do not entirely know what happened during the fight for the Weldon Railroad.
I highly recommend this book to the student of the Petersburg Campaign. The new student to the Civil War might find this book to be a bit daunting due to the attention to detail, but it should not stop them from purchasing and reading this fine book. John Horn’s new edition of The Siege of Petersburg excels at filling in the gap of what many other histories of the last two years of the war have failed to do. This is an incredible piece of academia and is a welcome scholarship into the study.