Cummings has a knack for ferreting out interesting stories, and I especially enjoy his astute observations on period photographs and drawings, and his skillful, Frassinito-esque camera work. lining up angles long disguised by modern sprawl. Take a look at this nifty blog entry regarding a May 9, 1864 sketch by Alfred Waud.
I am glad to see Spotsylvania given such passionate attention, since it is one of my favorite periods to study in the Overland Campaign. I wrote my last major college paper on the battle, and I cringe to think that a copy of that paper may survive in a file drawer somewhere. It was for an independent study course, the last four credits needed to get my B.A. in History, and had I known then what I know now, I would not have attempted to write anything meaningful about such a large, long, and complicated affair.
Once I delved into it, I was quickly in over my head, but had invested too much time and trouble in the project to reverse course. In the end, I produced a reasonably sourced semblance of a battle narrative, marred by occasional tangles of impenetrable confusion. Suffice it to say, Spotsylvania kicked my ass and left me bleeding, but I lived to fight another day, unlike so many thousands of poor souls who perished there. The eminent Professor Jaebker was generous, and gave me an A for effort, though his red-ink critiques filled the margins of every page.
Sometime later I learned that my mother's great-grandfather, Francis Marion Kirby of the 5th Wisconsin, was shot in the knee there. The 5th Wisconsin was selected for Emory Upton's bold and ill-fated assault on the salient on May 10, and it seems likely that he got his wound in that action. I wrote about one of my visits to Fredericksburg in this old post from 2006.
|Jed Hotchkiss map of Spotsylvania, Library of Congress|
I'm still learning what happened at Spotsylvania, after all these years, because like the war itself, the story is just that big. Given my experience with Dr. Jaebker, I am greatly impressed by the work of historians like Gordon Rhea, and William D. Matter, and feel gratitude that they took the time to sort it all out in proper fashion.