Richmond Redeemed (2nd Edition): SmartLayers Edition

by Brett Schulte on September 18, 2014 · 9 comments

Richard Sommers’ massive Richmond Redeemed, about the Fifth Offensive at the Siege of Petersburg, is getting a 2nd Edition courtesy of publisher Savas Beatie.  In addition to the print copy, a “SmartLayers” e-book edition is also getting produced.  Check out the YouTube video demonstration below as well as the Savas Beate press release:

cppbanner Richmond Redeemed (2nd Edition): SmartLayers Edition

Savas Beatie Teams up with Olive Software to Release an Enhanced Interactive Digital Edition of the Civil War Bestseller Richmond Redeemed for 150th Anniversary!

El Dorado Hills, CA, September 11, 2014—Savas Beatie is pleased to announce the release of a universally viewable “enhanced” interactive ebook of Richmond Redeemed: The Siege at Petersburg, by Dr. Richard Sommers. This special edition utilizes Olive’s SmartLayersTM technology to include substantial extra content written, collected, and organized by the author during the three decades since its original 1981 release.

Savas Beatie, a leader in independent military and general history book publishing and America’s most dynamic and influential Civil War publisher, has produced a long and steady stream of awardwinning titles and national book club selections. The release of this enhanced ebook coincides with the publication of a revised and updated print edition of Dr. Sommers’ influential award-winning book. “We are excited to offer this special edition,” explained Theodore P. Savas, the managing director of Savas Beatie. “This remarkable digital edition offers scores of icons and links representing photos, further reading on related subjects, videos, and, most important of all,” continued Savas, “original author marginalia in the form of dozens of comments, assessments, and additional insights and information keyed to specific personalities, combat, tactics, and decision-making. Every reader of the Civil War is going to be stunned by both the presentation and the staggering amount of information in this book.”

“Olive Software is pleased to launch its innovative SmartLayers content enrichment service with Savas Beatie. We believe SmartLayers represents a terrific platform for publishers to create premium editions of their static ebooks and turn them into highly engaging, dynamic products. The Savas Beatie team has done just that with their SmartLayers-enabled edition of Richmond Redeemed,” said Joe Wikert, Director of Strategy and Business Development at Olive Software, Inc.

Wikert continued, “Author Richard Sommers is also to be highly commended for this effort; he leverages SmartLayers to provide readers with access to much more information than can be found in the standard ebook or print edition.”

Richmond Redeemed author and Senior Historian Emeritus of the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center Richard Sommers said that the enhancements afford readers “a fuller, wider, deeper, and richer understanding of the crucial operations in the Siege of Petersburg.”

This enhanced ebook is available to Military and History Book Club Members for the special low price of just $4.99 during the month of September with the purchase of the print edition. It will be sold to the general public at the regular retail price of $19.95 starting October 1, 2014. No third-party app or particular e-reader device is required to view this ebook. The content is designed to be read on any device with a modern web browser, and automatically updated with every author addition in the future. The viewing platform also has note-taking capabilities, bookmarking, enhanced search capabilities, and other digital book features. Watch a short demonstration video here:




Check out the Siege of Petersburg Online for daily posts on battle accounts in newspaper articles, diary entries, letters and more!

What are your Top 10 Gettysburg Books? See what a panel of bloggers said recently.

Want to read some interesting Civil War content from amateurs and pros alike? Check out the Top 10 Civil War Blogs and Top 10 Civil War Blogs: 11-20.

Bagdad – Back Door to the Confederacy

by Fred Ray on September 15, 2014 · 3 comments

In my reply to Spengler I noted the difficulties of making a land link with Mexico to supply the Confederacy. After doing a bit more research I found that there really was a land link, although subject to all the difficulties I mentioned.

When the Union blockade went into effect Southern cotton became both scarce and valuable, making it worthwhile to go to considerable lengths to smuggle it out. Soon after the outbreak of the war the port of Bagdad, or the port of Matamoros, assumed great importance. Established in 1848, it was on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande at its mouth, some 65 miles downstream of Matamoros. Nothing much happened there because there wasn’t much of a harbor – the water was shallow and filled with sand bars, making navigation treacherous even for shallow draft vessels. Ocean-going ships had to stand miles off shore and have cargo off- and on-loaded to lighters. When the war began, however, its proximity to the Confederacy made it a very attractive place, and the sleepy fishing port soon bustled with activity. If you wanted Southern cotton it was the only neutral unblockaded port where it could be had in quantity.

Bagdad, whose population eventually reached 20,000 souls, was where the money was and soon became a typical boom town full of speculators, hustlers, gamblers, prostitutes and anyone looking for a fast buck. At one point some three hundred ships from all over Europe were anchored there waiting to load cotton. This might be a lengthy wait – it could take up to three months to take on a full cargo, given the vicissitudes of weather and current, not to mention political and business uncertainties. Still, it was worth the risk and difficulties because the cotton could be sold for a small fortune to the mills of Europe.

The trade also provided desperately needed hard currency for the Confederacy and served as the port of entry for people and supplies of all kinds. While its location just across the border solved the problem of transportation through Mexico, it did nothing for moving goods through Texas and the rest of the South. As I mentioned in the previous post, there were less than 900 miles of railroad in Texas, none of which ran to the southern border or connected with railways further east. Cotton, mostly from east Texas and southwest Arkansas, had to be hauled overland by cart or freight wagon thorough rather desolate territory, which severely limited quantities. The Confederacy tried camels, but found the plan unworkable. Goods had to go first to Matamoros and then down the river to Bagdad, a lengthy and dangerous journey, and of course return the same way.

Then there was the political situation. Even though the French were ostensibly in charge they proved unable to exercise effective control – much of the time the port was under the sway of various warlords and bandit chieftains, who took a hefty slice of the action, not to mention the Juaristas. You would think that if the French were in on some nefarious sort of plot to support the Confederacy they’d have done a better job of it, but it simply confirmed their rather tenuous hold on the Mexican countryside. Napoleon III was interested in Texas – enough to worry Lincoln – but proved singularly inept in exploiting the crisis. In plain terms, the French emperor had bitten off far more than he was ever able to chew, much less swallow. Had he been more adept at the game the rich income from the cotton trade might have gone far to pay for his Mexican venture.

All this naturally attracted the attention of the United States, which was not happy about an open cotton port so near its borders. Matters came to a head in February, 1862, when a US Navy warship seized a British cotton vessel off Bagdad and claimed it as a blockade prize. Both the British and French dispatched warships to investigate, but neither side really wanted a fight (Lincoln’s policy was “one war at a time”) and the matter was settled with a series of conciliatory messages. The Americans backed down and agreed to respect the port’s neutrality, and there was no further interference.

One of the more amusing sidelights is that a substantial part of the cotton went to mills in the North via New York. Ever on the lookout for a lucrative business opportunity, merchants in the Big Apple sent ships to Bagdad using a variety of ruses and sold the cotton domestically for a substantial profit.

While the “back door to the Confederacy” did provide badly needed materiel (most of which stayed in the Trans-Mississippi) and money to the hard-pressed South, it was a trickle rather than a flood – the transportation obstacles were just too daunting. By way of comparison, historians estimate that some 320,00 bales of cotton were exported during the entire war from Bagdad. This is certainly a substantial amount (especially at wartime prices), but compare it to prewar Mobile, which shipped 685,00 bales in 1859 alone.

Bagdad did not long survive the war. Ship traffic evaporated with the surrender of the Confederacy, and three years later a hurricane severely damaged the town. By 1880 it was abandoned. Another hurricane a few years later wiped out anything that was left, and today it is an isolated stretch of beach much like it was in the 1830s.

Further reading: Waters of Discord: The Union Blockade of Texas During the Civil War by Rodman L. Underwood



Check out the Siege of Petersburg Online for daily posts on battle accounts in newspaper articles, diary entries, letters and more!

What are your Top 10 Gettysburg Books? See what a panel of bloggers said recently.

Want to read some interesting Civil War content from amateurs and pros alike? Check out the Top 10 Civil War Blogs and Top 10 Civil War Blogs: 11-20.

Sharpshooter Shorts

by Fred Ray September 10, 2014

Couple of short sharpshooter items. First from Berry Benson, South Carolina sharpshooter and scout; To each brigade in Jackson’s corps, – and also, I believe, in all of the corps of Lee’s army – was attached a body of sharpshooters; men picked from their regiments, not merely for skill in marksmanship, but also as best […]

Read the full article →

Reply to Spengler

by Fred Ray September 5, 2014

David P. Goldman is something of a polymath – scholar, investment banker, musicologist, and pundit. In the latter capacity, under the handle Spengler, he has written on a variety of subjects, including the Civil War. There, unfortunately, he comes off as being rather uninformed. Indeed one is tempted to use the characterization of Noam Chomsky […]

Read the full article →

Index for the Supplement to the Official Records

by Brett Schulte September 1, 2014

Several year ago I posted on Broadfoot Publishing’s hard to find set Supplement to the Official Records.  In that post, I linked to a very detailed index of the set, but when I went to click on the link recently, the site the index is on had exceeded its bandwidth.  In an effort to give this […]

Read the full article →

Short Takes

by Fred Ray August 29, 2014

Most students of the Civil War have at least heard of Clement Vallandigham, an Ohio lawyer who served in Congress and stood for governor of Ohio during the Civil War. Vallandigham was a prominent Copperhead Democrat who advocated a peaceful solution to the bloodshed, and was arrested, convicted by a military court martial, and eventually […]

Read the full article →

Some Nice Period Rifles On The Block

by Fred Ray August 21, 2014

Three very nice Civil War era rifles up for auction, but you’d better have some extra cash as I think all their estimates are rather low. Nevertheless these are fine examples of the British arms used by both sides but the more so by the Confederacy. However, none of these have any actual connection to […]

Read the full article →