Savas Beatie, the publisher of the upcoming Ed Bearss Civil War book The Petersburg Campaign, Vol. 1: The Eastern Front Battles, June – August 1864, has made available to me the first part of an interview with legendary Civil War historian Ed Bearss as well as a short excerpt from the book itself.
First, let me give you a little background. This book and a second upcoming volume are predominantly made up of essays Ed Bearss did for the National Park Service in the (I think?) 1960’s. Copies of these essays have been in the files of Petersburg National Battlefield for decades, laying unpublished. In 2003 I was able to obtain copies of all of the essays with the help of Petersburg Campaign author and researcher Bryce Suderow (and a hat tip to Park Ranger Jimmy Blankenship). Bryce has wanted to publish these items for a long time, and it looks like he has finally succeeded. The essays are tied together with short introductions and transitions by Bryce, and several “missing” battles were filled in by other authors. The maps are done by veteran Civil War mapmaker George Skoch. I’ve had a chance to read a few early versions of chapters and the end result will be one of the best books to ever come out on Petersburg. Anyone interested in learning more about these nearly forgotten battles will want to get this book and its sister volume. You’ve all heard of the Battle of the Crater, fought on July 30, 1864. Besides the Crater, you can also read about some of the following:
- The Battle of Old Men and Young Boys, fought on June 9, 1864, where Confederate militia, based out of Petersburg, fought for their town against Kautz’ Cavalry Division of the Army of the James.
- The Second Battle of Petersburg, June 15-18, 1864, when elements of the Army of the Potomac and Army of the James had a golden opportunity to seize Petersburg before the bulk of Lee’s Army of Virginia had ever crossed the Appomattox River.
- The Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road, June 21-24, 1864, in which both the Union Second Corps and Sixth Corps suffered disastrous repulses on consecutive June days.
- The Battle of the Weldon Railroad (Globe Tavern), August 18-21, 1864, in which Gouverneur Warren’s Fifth Corps seized and held a point on the Weldon Railroad, one of Lee’s remaining supply lines.
Savas Beatie supplied me with a book excerpt, pages 18-21 of the book, which includes a map by George Skoch and a description of the fighting between Archer’s Virginia Battalion and Kautz’ Cavalry. Click the link to see a representative section of the book.
Savas also sent along a Publisher’s Note promoting the book and an author interview with Ed Bearss:
We are very pleased to be publishing The Petersburg Campaign: The Eastern Front Battles, June – August 1864, Volume 1, by Edwin C. Bearss, with Bryce A. Suderow (http://www.savasbeatie.com/books/book_page.php?bookVAR=PETERS_CAMP1&bookType=about&authorID1=ECBearss&authorID2=BASuderow&authorID3=empty&authorID4=empty&authorID5=empty), the first in a ground-breaking two-volume compendium. This volume of Bearss’ study of these major battles includes:
• The Attack on Petersburg (June 9, 1864)
• The Attack on Petersburg (June 15, 1864)
• The Battle of the Jerusalem Plank Road (June 21 – 24, 1864)
• The Battle of the Crater (July 31, 1864)
• The Battle of the Weldon Railroad (August 18 – 21, 1864)
• The Battle of Reams’ Station (August 24, 1864)
Below, please find Part 1 of an interview with Ed Bearss discussing how the book came about.
We’re also happy to provide an exclusive look at a few unedited pages from Chapter 1, featuring a map as well as the fighting between Kautz and Archer’s Battalion. You can reserve a copy of The Petersburg Campaign, Volume 1 with a bookplate signed by Bearss and Suderow here: http://www.savasbeatie.com/reserve.htm
An Interview with Edwin C. Bearss, author of
The Petersburg Campaign, Vol. 1:
The Eastern Front Battles, June – August 1864
The Petersburg Campaign, Volume 1 is the first in a ground-breaking two-volume compendium, covering six major battles. Edwin C. Bearss recently discussed his upcoming book with publisher Savas Beatie LLC.
SB: Thanks for talking with us today, Mr. Bearss. Let me begin by asking you what inspired you to write a book about the Petersburg Campaign?
EB: Yes, well we will have to go back a few years to understand the background of how all this came about. The text was written almost 50 years ago in 1958 with the approach of the Civil War Centennial, and I was involved in the preparation for its 50th anniversary. The members of the National Park Service had enjoyed considerable development and expansion during the emergency period of 1933-1942. The emergency conservation program, in which the CCC was acquired, was terminated June 30, 1942 because of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The National Park Service changed drastically with the crisis of World War II. The Park Service had 160 areas under its control, but little attention was given to the park infrastructure. In 1955, the Park Service succeeded in getting the executive department and President Eisenhower interested in Mission 66, a ten-year program to develop the parks, road networks, visitor centers, and trail systems. The Park Service embarked on Mission 66 and a decision was made by the National Park Service and the Civil War Centennial Commission that the Park Service would be treated as a priority in order to preserve the areas established in connection with the Civil War.
SB: And Petersburg was part of that?
EB: Yes. The Petersburg National Battlefield would elevate its standing by adding a visitor center, new interpretive road systems, and historical walkers. To achieve the Park Service goal, I was assumed a position of Research Historian.
SB: So part of your responsibility was to write about this Campaign?
EB: Not initially. My mission was to provide the Park Service with the necessary information to meet their goals. After working on a number of projects associated with the Park System, especially Civil War, I was given the task of preparing two movement maps and supporting documentation for the major Petersburg operations. I prepared troop movement maps for the Petersburg Campaign, which totaled more than 60 large maps. The maps were finalized and accepted by 1964. The only copies of the troop movement maps are on file at the National Park Service—one set at Petersburg National Park and the other at the National Park Services in Denver, Colorado. To support these troop movement maps I researched and then wrote a number of documented essays. This was the days before easy duplication. One original copy of the essays is on file at the Petersburg National Battlefield Headquarters and five transcripts, which are on very thin tissue paper.
SB: And these are what editor Bryce Suderow found that inspired him to contact you and discuss publication into book form?
EB: Yes, he discovered the copies at Petersburg. Bryce is an expert researcher and he thought they were worthy of being published to a larger audience. There was zero funding for reproducing the maps and text and no one until Bryce has thought of reproducing them as a publication until he broached the idea with Ted Savas of Savas Beatie.
SB: And Bryce, who has helped countless authors with research, helped edit your work for publication . . .
EB: Yes, Bryce standardized the notes to meet the publisher’s style requirements, added introductions and conclusions to each essay so they flow together for publication purposes, and George Skoch drafted maps for each of the essays.
. . . to be continued.
You can bet I’ll be reviewing this one early on. Keep an eye out here for even more on this important new book.