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Thursday, September 28, 2017

"The Battle of First Deep Bottom," by James S. Price

Recently I finished reading "The Battle of First Deep Bottom," by James S. Price.  It gets off on the wrong foot with errors about Confederate activity during the establishment by the Federals of the Deep Bottom bridgehead.  The author did not examine carefully enough the Official Records of the Union and Confederate navies.  Those records make it clear that the Secessionists were engaged in a joint land and naval operation at the time the Northerners crossed to Deep Bottom.  Custis Lee's infantry from the Department of Richmond arrived at Deep Bottom as early as the afternoon of June 20, 1864, hours before the Unionists crossed, and that Col. Carter's artillery got there that evening--still before the Federals crossed.  ORN, 10:705-706.  This is surprising because the author did look at ORN.

The body of the book is a pleasant and informative read.  I am writing now about the establishment of the Deep Bottom bridgehead by the Unionists and was pleased to pick up some sources of which I was unaware.  The account of the first battle of Deep Bottom is informative and reasonably well, if not obsessively, researched. 

The book's epilogue includes the curious statement that "Grant's strategy of sending a force north of the James while simultaneously threatening Petersburg would not bear much fruit until the end of September 1864."  It bore fruit in August 1864, when Grant severed the Weldon Railroad south of Petersburg after luring Rebels north of the James by striking there first.

I'll be looking forward to reading the author's book on the battle of New Market Heights.  The publisher's format was a reasonable compromise between the superficial and the obsessive.  The maps were good.  The research was reasonable.  The modest footnotes were very well organized.  This was a good introduction to the subject, only slightly marred by its initial and final errors.  It is difficult to write about any segment of the siege of Petersburg without knowing something about all of it.  For example, knowing something about the August fighting is essential to assess the fighting in June.