Horn traces the regiment’s formation from militia units in and around Petersburg and Richmond – the Petersburg Guard, the Petersburg Grays, the Lafayette Guards, the Huger Grays, the Richmond Grays, among others – in the late 1850s to its activation in July 1861. Filled with photos, drawings, and maps, this history ranges from individual stories to the whole regiment, in the process spanning privates to generals, the brave and the self-serving, and those that lived and those that did not survive. It is filled with cogent insights and nuggets throughout. Take, for example, the regiment’s early brush with Major Thomas Jonathan Jackson, a professor at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. Looking for an assignment that would best use Major Jackson’s talents, Governor John Letcher considered him for command of the newly forming regiment. The 12th would be a plum assignment, but Jackson’s representation as an officer of “an eccentric and ascetic disposition” preceded him. The regiment’s officers protest so strongly that Governor Letcher assigned him elsewhere. It eventuated that the 12th was assigned to defend Norfolk. One can only imagine how the spring and summer of 1862 in the Valley and on the Peninsula might have been different had Major Jackson received the assignment.
History is a great playground for the imagination, and nothing serves one’s imagination better than eyewitness views and unit stories. Horn takes us on just such a journey — the toils and foibles; successes, failures, and fears; tragic incompetence and occasional brilliance. It’s all here.
This story finishes with casualty comparisons (appendices) of the 12th Virginia with other Confederate and Union regiments. A quick scan evidences the intensity of the fighting the Petersburg Regiment endured during the war. This is a great read. Enjoy.
As for John Horn, a native of Illinois, he received a B.A. in English and Latin from New College (Sarasota, Florida) in 1973 and a J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1976. He has practiced law in the Chicago area since graduation, occasionally holding local public office. He resides in Oak Forest with his wife and law partner, H. Elizabeth Kelley, a native of Richmond, Virginia. They have three children. He has published articles in Civil War Times Illustrated and America’s Civil War, and his books include The Destruction of the Weldon Railroad (reissued in 2015 in a revised and expanded Sesquicentennial Edition as The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864) and The Petersburg Campaign (1993). With Hampton Newsome, Horn co-edited Civil War Talks: The Further Reminiscences of George S. Bernard & His Fellow Veterans, published by the University Press of Virginia in 2012, which was extensively drawn upon for this regimental history.
Your reviewer is Emil L. Posey, former Vice President ofthe TVCWRT, now continuing to support as Secretary. His work history spans almost 45 years of military and civilian service to our country. He retired from NASA/George C. Marshall Space Flight Center on December 27, 2014. He has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Hood College, Frederick, Maryland; is a former president of the Huntsville chapter of the National Contract Management Association and is a life member of the Special Forces Association and the 1756h Infantry Association. He is also a member of Elks Lodge 1648 (Huntsville, AL) and the Tennessee Valley Genealogical Society. He is a dedicated bibliophile and a (very) armchair political analyst and military enthusiast.