Thirty-Six Hours Before Appomattox
by Christopher M. Calkins
80 pp., 18 maps, numerous illustrations
This little-known gem was self-published by the author in the 1980’s. It makes a perfect prequel to Calkins’ book Battles of Appomattox Station and Appomattox Court House, April 8-9, 1865, an entry in the H.E. Howard Virginia Battles & Leaders series of books, and one which I will be reviewing in an upcoming blog entry. Back to Calkins’ earlier work for now, however. The author’s blurb near the front of the book is now a little outdated (Calkins is now chief historian at Petersburg National Battlefield), but one piece of information is there that is most important. The author spent five years at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, and while there he took quite an interest in the battles of the campaign. As it stands today, Calkins has written at least three books on the campaign that are known to me, numerous magazine articles, and he even helped design the driving tour for the campaign. All in all, he probably knows more about the Appomattox Campaign than any other historian living today. Due to this, I encourage you to read some of his work if you haven’t before. This 80 page book (really a large pamphlet) contains numerous maps, many of them created by the author specifically to match up with his writing. The maps are full of detail, and Calkins even breaks down the VI Corps attack at Sayler’s Creek in regimental level detail. This book is worth the $14.00 I paid for it just for the maps alone. Luckily, the text is solid as well. Calkins covers the relatively well-known battle of Sayler’s Creek, but he also covers some of the lesser-known actions of the campaign, such as the running skirmishes at High Bridge and the Battle of Cumberland Church near Farmville on April 7. Many Federals believed the war could have ended there had the VI Corps promptly forded the Appomattox River and joined in the attack on the Confederates by Humphreys’ Federal II Corps. Not content with just the text and maps, Calkins also liberally sprinkled the book with numerous illustrations of the people and places covered in the book. Pictures of important crossroads, houses, and even Cumberland Church grace the pages of the book as well. I highly enjoyed this one and recommend both to fans of tactical studies and wargamers. There’s something here for anyone reading my blog. If you have trouble getting it at www.amazon.com, you might also try a search for the book at www.abebooks.com. I just checked before posting this and quite a few copies are being offered there.
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