The Petersburg Campaign: Volume 1: The Eastern Front Battles June-August 1864. By Edwin C. Bearss with Bryce A. Suderow. Photos, maps, notes, bibliography, index, 456 pp., 2012, Savas Beatie, www.savasbeatie.com, $34.95.
As the title suggests this book covers the early fighting around Petersburg. Specifically the battles covered are the first two assaults on Petersburg in min-June, the battle of the Jerusalem Plank Road near the end of June, then The Crater a month later, followed in mid-August by the battle of Weldon Railroad and the second battle of Ream’s Station. As is pointed out in the text although it is commonly referred to as the siege of Petersburg the city was never isolated like a typical siege does, so calling it the Petersburg Campaign is more accurate.
As explained in the introduction the bulk of the book was completed by Edwin Bearss when he worked on troop movement maps for Petersburg in the 1960s. With few exceptions these stayed in-park manuscripts seen by mainly park personnel and researchers. Decades later Bryce Suderow came across the unpublished manuscripts in the park’s archives and contacted Bearss about having them published. Suderow then updated and edited Bearss’ manuscripts and in the process created a two volume set on the Petersburg campaign. It is unclear how much Suderow edited but he begins each chapter with a short introduction.
As anyone who has had any experience with Bearss, through his tours, appearances on historical television shows or his many books, knows the man is a font of knowledge. It is not surprising then that this volume offers a ton of information and will be heavily referenced by Petersburg historians. In fact serious Petersburg historians have already been referencing this information in its original unpublished manuscript form, now a much wider audience of scholars with an interest on Petersburg have access to this wonderful collection.
My only complaint is that since the book had its genesis in troop movement maps made for the park service in the 1960s it would have been nice to have some of those maps printed here, or provide the collection on a CD-ROM. There are some very nice maps in the book so that tempers that disappointment significantly, however it still would have been nice to have those original troop movements maps to refer to as well.
I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in the Petersburg campaign.