Ever since Harry Smeltzer started his Bull Runnings blog/site focusing on the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas), I’ve wanted to do something similar for the Petersburg Campaign. I’m happy to say I’ve finally started on that project. The new web site is called Beyond the Crater: The Civil War Petersburg Campaign Online. The site went “live” back in early August of 2009, but I wanted to fill out some content first prior to announcing it to everyone.
I want to be very clear to everyone that this project is MASSIVE in scope. The Petersburg Campaign lasted almost 10 months, involved hundreds of thousands of men, and saw 80,000+ casualties. The Official Records for the campaign fills 3 volumes (in three parts each) for a total of nine books. Other portions of the campaign are contained in other volumes of the Official Records as well. This is a site I plan to be slowly working on for a long, long time to come. I plan to properly annotate all information on the site, in effect making it a portal for further research.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the content you’ll find freely available at Beyond the Crater:
- The Official Records volumes on the Petersburg Campaign, report by report: Like Harry does at Bull Runnings, I am slowly adding the reports found in the Official Records to Beyond the Crater. Eventually, the goal is to include all of the reports and correspondence from Volume XL , Parts 1,2, and 3 (Serial Numbers 80-82 which cover the Petersburg Campaign from June 13-July 30, 1864); Volume XLII, Parts 1, 2, and 3 (Serial Numbers 87-89 which cover the Petersburg Campaign from August 1-December 31, 1864); and Volume XLVI Parts 1, 2, and 3 (Serial Numbers 95-97 which covers the war in the East from January 1, 1865 to the surrender at Appomattox Court House).
- A bibliography of the Petersburg Campaign: This area is a work in progress. There is a solid foundation in place, but I hope to eventually create the most detailed bibliography of the Petersburg Campaign ever attempted. As new books are released on the Petersburg Campaign and I review them, they will be added to the bibliography. I want to include unit histories in this section eventually.
- Battle Summaries of each individual battle which occurred during the Petersburg Campaign: So far not too much has been done here. I have the CWSAC battle summaries of each battle up (sample here) with links to battle summaries on the Crater Road and Siege of Petersburg web sites. I do plan to write my own summaries as time permits, but I am also actively looking for volunteers to write some of these as well. Use BTC’s Contact Form if you are interested in contributing.
- Maps of each battle and raid which occurred during the Petersburg Campaign: I have all of the National Park Service and Wikipedia maps of the Petersburg Campaign which are in the public domain. Despite this status, I have fully sourced each map with a link back to the originating web sites. The Civil War Preservation Trust was also kind enough to give their permission to reproduce their Petersburg maps at Beyond the Crater as well. I hope to obtain written permission from the authors/publishers of various books and articles on the Petersburg Campaign to use their maps as well, but this will necessarily be a slow process and will no doubt result in some negative responses.
- Orders of Battle, broken down into each of the Nine Offensives Grant launched during the Petersburg Campaign: Currently I am working on the Order of Battle for the First Offensive of the Petersburg Campaign. The goal is to add armies, then corps/departments, then divisions, brigades, and finally regiments/batteries. This will necessarily be a slow process, but the end result will be worth it. When I am finished, I hope to have the most detailed and accurate Petersburg Campaign orders of battle in existence. The initial Confederate orders of battle will be obtained from F. Ray Sibley’s The Confederate Order of Battle, Volume 1: The Army of Northern Virginia. The initial Union orders of Battle will be obtained from the Official Records. Future changes will be made based on research in numerous other sources.
- A day by day chronology of the Petersburg Campaign: Longtime TOCWOC (and American Civil War Gaming & Reading) readers may remember the Today in the Petersburg Campaign series I ran in 2006. I have resuscitated that series for the Beyond the Crater web site, and it will act as a day by day chronology of the Petersburg Campaign.
- A breakdown of each and every military unit down to the regimental/battery level which served in the Petersburg Campaign: The orders of battle drill down to the regimental/battery level, and each one of those regiments/batteries will have its own page at Beyond the Crater. Units will be categorized by state and then branch of service to allow users to easily find what they are looking for.
- And, coming soon, brief biographies of each leader: The leader biographies will eventually go down to the regimental level, not all of which will ever be written due to lack of information.
I recently signed a deal with News in History, a web site which allows users to view old newspaper articles. This will allow me to reproduce newspaper articles specifically pertaining to the Petersburg Campaign. Details on this are not solidified yet so I won’t elaborate until the pieces fall into place.
Another addition I hope to include is diary entries and letters from common soldiers. I am not sure yet if I want to include links to these on the individual unit pages, if I want to specifically have a diary/letter section of the site, or if I want to do both. This area is still very much on the drawing board.
In conclusion, I’m VERY excited about Beyond the Crater. Slowly but surely, I hope to make it the number one source for information on the Petersburg Campaign on the web. If you enjoy the writing at TOCWOC, please spread the word about Beyond the Crater to those you know who are interested in the Civil War. Like TOCWOC, I plan for the site to have multiple contributors over time. If you are interested in participating in some way, please use the Contact form at Beyond the Crater and let me know!
Check out Brett’s list of the Top 10 Civil War Blogs!
Check out Brett’s Civil War Books!
Did you enjoy this blog entry? Subscribe to TOCWOC’s RSS feed today!
Please consider using the ShareThis feature below to spread the word.
***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.