Preview – Alexander, “Dawn of Victory: Breakthrough at Petersburg”

6 05 2015

51At1BPGMzL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Breakthrough at Petersburg has a special interest for me, because my great-grandfather, John B. Smeltzer, a private in the 205th PA Infantry/9th Corps, was wounded there (see here.) So when I received Dawn of Victory: Breakthrough at Petersburg, March 25 – April 2, 1865, by Edward S. Alexander, I was pretty excited to see how the action was described. This is an entry in Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War series, and exhibits those features with which we have become accustomed: Hal Jesperson maps (7 of them); 129 pages of text taking the reader from the beginning of the siege through the fall of Petersburg; plentiful period and current photographs; orders of battle; field fortifications definitions; and an appendix on Pamplin Historical Park. Nice and compact. However, this study suffers from what afflicts most studies of the Breakthrough: it stops with 6th Corps and does not continue to the right to cover 9th Corps. Is this some sort of conspiracy? Does it have anything to do with the fact that 9th Corps operations took place outside the current boundaries of Pamplin Park? I have my foil hat ready for the investigation…


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6 responses

6 05 2015
Ted

Was there a 9th Corps?

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6 05 2015
Harry Smeltzer

That hurts, Ted…

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9 05 2015
Will Hickox

I too was eager for this book and disappointed upon reading it. It’s essentially an extended advertisement for Pamplin Park. Greene’s “Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion” is much better and amply documented.

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9 05 2015
Harry Smeltzer

In fairness, ECW books are not really meant to compete with full blown campaign studies. But yes, I do wish more of the action was included. Rumor has it that the author plans on another similar work on events not covered in this one.

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9 05 2015
Theodore P. Savas

Mr. Hickox,

Thanks for buying and reading this title. We appreciate your business.

I am also the publisher of Greene’s “Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion,” and several other major Petersburg studies by Ed Bearss, John Horn, Dr. Sommers, Glenn Robertson, and others.

The purpose of the ECW series is completely different than full-blown battle studies, and intended (in many ways) for a completely different audience (although not in all cases; see below).

The Civil War reading community is aging–rapidly. And it is mostly male. Yet, hundreds of thousands of families visit the fields every year. The vast majority of these people will not purchase a 500-page book on Petersburg or any other battle–let alone read it.

But they will purchase a 168-page (and in some cases, 192-page), Emerging Civil War “lighter” book on a specific subject and wade ankle-deep into the subject. The photos and maps help a lot to invite them in.

As we have discovered, over and over now, many of these customers have contacted us, asked for other reading suggestions, have learned about the existence of Civil War Round Tables, and have joined them!

And, many experienced readers and students of the war purchase these ECW titles and love them–as intros to battles they have not yet read about, and as a refresher before or during a battlefield visit. Many purchase them for their kids, their grand kids, and other relatives and friends.

This, then, is good for all of us. It is creating readers of the war from the early teens to late in life. And it keeps independent Civil War publishing alive. Trust me, there is a reason the majority of independent history publishers in our genre are no longer in business or barely alive.

Again, we appreciate your business, and look forward to meeting your reading needs with a wide variety of titles.

–Ted Savas

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9 05 2015
Will Hickox

Mr. Savas: I get it; different strokes for different folks. But whatever the intended audience, a book shouldn’t claim to give the history of a battle while actually ignoring a major sector of the fighting (except in one picture caption). The fighting on the 9th Corps front didn’t decide the battle, but it caused some 1,500 casualties and was widely regarded as the worst fighting on April 2. To ignore it in order to highlight the ground preserved by a certain park is misleading and ahistorical.

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