Thursday, December 12, 2019

Booknotes: The Petersburg Regiment in the Civil War

New Arrival:
The Petersburg Regiment in the Civil War: A History of the 12th Virginia Infantry from John Brown’s Hanging to Appomattox, 1859-1865 by John Horn (Savas Beatie, 2019).

I believe John Horn's The Petersburg Regiment in the Civil War is the first serious regimental study of the 12th Virginia to appear since the early 1980s publication of William Henderson's contribution to the H.E. Howard series of roster-histories. While Horn's book does not contain an updated roster, it does provide a comprehensive narrative history of the 12th's Civil War service that's nearly 400 pages in length and far richer than anything the Howard Virginia regimental series produced.

"Its men first saw combat in naval battles, including Hampton Roads and First Drewry’s Bluff, before embarrassing themselves at Seven Pines—their first land battle—just outside Richmond." After that mixed early war record, the regiment forged a solid reputation in "hard-fighting from the Seven Days’ Battles all the way to Appomattox."

More from the description: "The Virginians of the 12th found themselves in some of the most pivotal battles of the war under Generals William Mahone and later, David Weisiger. After distinguishing themselves at Second Manassas, they were hit hard at Crampton’s Gap in the South Mountain fighting and were only able to field 25 men three days later at Sharpsburg. Good service at Chancellorsville followed. Its Gettysburg performance, however, tied to General Mahone’s mysterious behavior there, remains controversial. The Virginians played a key role in Longstreet’s flank attack at the Wilderness as well as in his near-fatal wounding, launched a bayonet charge at Spotsylvania, and captured their first enemy flag. The regiment truly came into its own during the nine-month siege of Petersburg, where it fought in a host of bloody battles including the Crater, Jerusalem Plank Road, Globe Tavern, Second Reams Station, Burgess Mill, and Hatcher’s Run. Two days before the surrender at Appomattox the regiment fought in the rear guard action at Cumberland Church—General Lee’s final victory of the war."

Detailed chapter-length accounts of the 12th Virginia's participation in all of the above-mentioned battles are provided in the book. Based on extensive research that includes "scores of previously unused accounts," the book "not only describes the unit’s marches and battles, but includes personal glimpses into the lives of the Virginians who made up the 12th regiment." In support are 8 diagrams and 32 maps. The diagrams depict the company arrangement on the regimental battle line during select actions. The maps, all originals, routinely point out the position of the regiment on its many battlefields (an essential aid to the reader that many modern unit histories still fail to provide). Of course, numerous images are sprinkled about the book as well. Certainly, anyone who wishes to deeply explore the ANV career of the 12th will want to pick up a copy of Horn's book.


  1. Savas Beatie intends to offer a roster online that will include about 40 men missing from the Howard book. John Horn

  2. Thanks Drew.

    The author has also completed a complete roster, which we will be making available in the near future.


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