Thursday, January 30, 2014

Writing about Hanover Court House (again) and site visits.

For the fourth time in my writing career, I'm chronicling the events of the battle of Hanover Court House, fought May 27, 1862, just north of Richmond, Virginia. The battle pitted an augmented North Carolina brigade under Brig. Gen. Lawrence Branch against Fitz-John Porter's V Corps. I first wrote about Hanover in my 2003 book, The Thirty-seventh North Carolina Troops: Tar Heels in the Army of Northern Virginia. This was followed by an article on the battle that appeared in America's Civil War in 2006, and a book that same year entitled The Battle of Hanover Court House: Turning Point of the Peninsula Campaign. Since Hanover was the first official battle of Branch's brigade, it will feature prominently in this new history of the Branch-Lane brigade on which I am currently working.

To be honest, there might be more about the battle of Hanover in this new book than any other battle. After Hanover, Branch's brigade became an official part of the Light Division. At most battles after this, the brigade functioned as a whole. At Hanover, the Twenty-eighth Regiment was fighting near the Kinney Farm house, while the Thirty-third, Eighteenth, and Thirty-seventh Regiments were fighting a disjointed action near Peak's Turnout and the intersections of the New Bridge and Ashcake Roads. And, for the Twenty-eighth and Eighteenth regiments, this was the first time they experienced combat: lots of material to draw from.

Last year, I wrote a great deal about steps to take for writing a regimental history. One of those steps I might not have reiterated enough is this: when writing, it is extremely important to visit as many places as your regiment might have fought. Visiting sites gives you a greater understanding of the land on which these men fought. For the Thirty-seventh Regiment (and for the Branch-Lane brigade), I believe I have visited every battlefield, save Chantilly. From the maps I have seen, their portion of the field of battle is in a subdivision, likewise for the 58th NCT. I visited every field, save some of the non-existent trenches around Atlanta. While in some cases the fields themselves have changed (take the famous charge on July 3, 1863, at Gettysburg), visiting these places (with maps in hand) is really important.

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