I’m often reminded when reading Harry Smeltzer’s Bull Runnings that I don’t share enough of my plans here with readers, especially those of you diligently following along using RSS feed readers or getting daily email digests of posts. Harry does a great job of explaining his methods, and has been known to ask readers for some help on how to best display things from time to time.
My first goal when starting this site was to add every single official report from the three Siege of Petersburg volumes in the Official Records, 40 (June 15 to July 31, 1864), 42 (August 1 to December 31, 1864), and 46 (January 1, 1865 to April 9, 1865) . In January 2013, 3 1/2 years later and averaging nearly one report a day save for a three month hiatus before my October 2010 wedding, I’ll be done. There are odds and ends to be sure, including some items from Volume 36 (The Overland Campaign, but scattered Petersburg reports) and Volume 52 (Supplement volume containing items for all three of volumes 40, 42, and 46), but the majority of the work will be done.
Why is this important? It’s important because the Official Records are the base upon which any good researcher builds. Start in the ORs and build your case from there. And while there are known to be some mistakes in the Official Records, by and large they are as accurate as possible for a late 19th Century publication. In any event, I needed the Official Records on this site as a foundation upon which to build my research pyramid.
So, once the Official Records reports are up, what next? I had several choices to pick from, including:
- Start working on the 6(!) volumes of correspondence for the campaign, with two volumes for correspondence in each of Volumes 40, 42, and 46.
- Get serious about adding a unit page for every single regiment, battalion, and battery which saw any time at the Siege of Petersburg. This is a large
- Continue working hard on adding first person accounts from sources such as Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, The Southern Historical Society Papers, the National Tribune, and others.
So which item did I move forward with? I chose number 2, getting serious about adding a “home page” for every unit which participated in the Siege of Petersburg. Here’s why. Any time a unit appears in a post, my goal is to tag that post with the unit’s name. Let’s take the recently posted 19th Massachusetts page as an example. This page serves as the base for all items pertaining to the 19th Massachusetts on this web site. At the bottom of the page you’ll notice “Tagged as: 19th massachusetts, nineteenth massachusetts“. Scroll up a bit and you’ll see:
Siege of Petersburg Documents Which Mention This Unit:
- 19th MA: History of the Nineteenth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry
- 19th MA: Reminiscences of the Nineteenth Massachusetts Regiment
- 19th MA: The Civil War Diary of Lieut. J.E. Hodgkins: 19th Massachusetts Volunteers from August 11, 1862 to June 3, 1865
- 19th Massachusetts Infantry
- Number 52. Reports of Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Rice, Nineteenth Massachusetts Infantry, of operations August 12-25
- Number 53. Report of Captain Isaac H. Boyd, Nineteenth Massachusetts Infantry, of operations October 24-28
- Number 55. Siege of Petersburg Report of Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Rice, Nineteenth Massachusetts Infantry, of operations February 5-7
The linked items in this list were not manually added by me. Instead, they all have one thing in common: these posts and pages are tagged “19th massachusetts”. Anyone interested in the 19th Massachusetts and its time at the Siege of Petersburg will find everything they need on the subject on my site. It’s also a great place to look to see if I’ve added anything new on a given unit.
Here’s the current problem. A LOT of the newspaper articles, diary entries, letters, and other first person accounts I’m transcribing and posting refer to units which do not yet have home pages on this site. My goal after completing the official records reports is to change this as soon as possible, adding one new unit per day for literally the next few years. My goal is to have a unit page up for every unit in time for the beginning of the June 2012 sesquicentennial events focusing on the Siege of Petersburg. Daily reports posts will be replaced by daily unit pages, many of which you might have noticed are going up daily on the Siege of Petersburg Online.
I was going about this much more slowly, making sure as much of the data was filled in as possible before moving on to the next unit. This has to change in order for me to make the sesquicentennial. Unit pages will go up featuring the muster in and muster out dates, the unit’s place in the order of battle for the first two offensives, and the battles the unit fought in, copied directly from Dyer’s Compendium (Union) or Sifakis’ Compendium (Confederate) along with the Official Records without further research.
Once every single unit is up, then and only then will I start filling in those pages more completely. Some, like the 19th Massachusetts page featured above, have had a lot of work done on them. Others, like the 104th New York page which debuted today, are as described in the paragraph above. The “Siege of Petersburg Documents Which Mention this Unit” sections will continue filling up as I go through my sources and add information.
So why am I telling you this? It’s because I want to assure you that although you are going to see what are essentially “shells” of unit home pages going up daily, I will continue to add first person accounts in addition, as well as book reviews, and hopefully very soon some original articles written by me. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to continue building a strong foundation before this site becomes what I truly want it to be. I hope you’ll stay with me through this process, and tell your friends who are interested in the Civil War to come along for the ride! I thank all of you who have taken an interest in this little project. I plan to be here for a long time and I look forward to sharing as much information as possible on the overlooked and under appreciated Siege of Petersburg.