An Interview with J. David Petruzzi, author of The Gettysburg Campaign in Numbers and Losses: Synopses, Orders of Battle, Strengths, Casualties, and Maps, June 9 - July 14, 1863
Scroll down to see an interview with JD Petruzzi and Steven Stanley on The New Gettysburg Campaign Handbook
: Why did you decide to write a book on the Gettysburg Campaign?
JDP: For several decades now, I have enjoyed compiling Orders of Battles and statistics on all types of skirmishes and battles, especially those of the cavalry during the Gettysburg Campaign. I’m a bit of a “stats nerd,” but the compilation and study of orders and statistics really helps flush out the details of these contests. It has always been both fun and educational for me to search in sources such as the Official Records (ORs), regimental histories, diaries, newspaper articles, manuscripts, and even personal letters to construct Orders of Battle and compile statistics for these lesser-known actions. Usually they aren’t in any secondary sources because many of these actions are hardly touched on by any of them, certainly not in any type of detail. But during both the weeks prior to the Battle of Gettysburg and the two weeks following, both armies suffered thousands more casualties that are so often overshadowed by the 51,000 suffered during the main battle itself. These several dozen major and minor actions deserve to be studied and given their rightful place in our understanding of the suffering endured by both armies during the entire campaign.
When Steve and I were preparing the manuscript for The New Gettysburg Campaign Handbook last year, I mentioned to publisher Ted Savas that in addition to including my detailed Order of Battle (OOB) for the Gettysburg battle, I had also been working on compiling other OOBs (as well as strengths, losses, commanders, etc.) for some 50 major and minor actions during the campaign. Most folks aren’t even aware of most of these fights. Only a few had ever been compiled by anyone previously, and fewer still had ever been mapped. Ted then suggested the idea of doing a separate book for all these orders and statistics, featuring new maps by Steve. Each fight would also include a narrative of the action, and a synopsis of its effect on the campaign. We additionally decided to include some tables or graphs mapping out the effects of casualties on units that suffered the most during a campaign.
The result of this work, besides opening up an entirely new world of actions for readers to discover and learn about, is that they can follow particular units from the beginning of the campaign to the end, and see how their numbers dwindled. We all are aware of the devastating effects that casualties had on units during the main Gettysburg battle, but with this new book you can now take, for instance, any regiment/brigade/division/corps and follow it throughout the campaign. You can see the replacement commander(s) along the way if a commander was taken out of action due to wounds or death. And since the cavalry units of both sides conducted most of the fighting that took place before and after the main battle, now the true detailed story of those units comes to life regarding their activities in battle and the effects that they too suffered throughout the campaign.
: What can readers expect to see when they open this new book?
JDP: As the subtitle says, our new book contains narratives, photos, maps, orders of battle, and detailed casualty numbers for nearly fifty engagements throughout the Gettysburg campaign. The book begins with an explanation of the structure of the book – how to easily read the orders of battle and casualty figures, then we present a concise synopsis of the campaign. The first engagement presented is the massive cavalry battle at Brandy Station, Virginia of June 9, 1863, then four dozen engagements (including the Battle of Gettysburg) are detailed all the way through July 14, 1863, when the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia successfully escaped across the Potomac River. Steve completely designed the book for Savas Beatie, and it’s entirely in full color just like the other two books in this trilogy – The Complete Gettysburg Guid and The New Gettysburg Campaign Handbook. Eighty brand-new campaign maps by Steve grace the book, many of the maps presented to the reader for the very first time.
: What was the inspiration for this book?
JDP: Well, one of the primary features of our most recent book, The New Gettysburg Campaign Handbook, is the very detailed and most accurate Gettysburg Order of Battle that we included. For decades, I have been researching, revising, and compiling information on Orders of Battle, strength, and casualty information for as many engagements – whether large or small, pivotal or virtually inconsequential – of the entire Gettysburg Campaign. Like folks who enjoy diagramming baseball games, I have long been fascinated with the “stats” of various campaigns of the Civil War, notably that of Gettysburg. I have found over the years that many orders, strengths, and casualty numbers that have been published have been incomplete and/or inaccurate. Over those decades I’ve gathered every scrap of material about the campaign I could find that would assist in compiling these statistics. These include not only The Official Records of the war and published primary and secondary works, but also mountains of manuscripts, letters, diaries, and especially war-time newspaper articles. On a nearly daily basis, following any major or minor engagement/skirmish throughout the war, both Northern and Southern newspapers published information about casualties. They are often incomplete or inaccurate to a degree, of course, but they greatly help the researcher to compile strength and casualty statistics that cannot be found anywhere else. I have a very large collection of copies of war-time newspaper articles, and I enjoy scouring them for statistical information on every possible shooting engagement during the war that I can find – from the biggest battle down to the tiniest, most obscure skirmish I can dig up. So, we were very proud of the detailed Order of Battle we presented in that book.
: So beyond the plethora of books already available on Gettysburg and the campaign, what new value will this book provide for readers?
JDP: That’s exactly what we want to make available with it for students and scholars alike: new value on Gettysburg and the entire campaign. Because nothing like this has been compiled before, for the very first time readers will have, in one source, detailed narratives on dozens of engagements during those weeks of June and July 1863 of which very little has ever been written previously. In addition, Orders of Battle for each give our readers a list of each company, squadron, battalion, regiment, brigade, division, and corps for each side that was present during the engagement. Sometimes, there were only a few soldiers (just a small part of a company, for instance) engaged on each side. And sometimes there were only militia troops and even civilian volunteers involved. For each unit involved, we give their total strength and the officer or individual who commanded them. Then, for each unit, we give the known casualty statistics broken down into captured, wounded, mortally wounded, killed, or missing. The narratives are not presented in a vacuum – meaning that within each narrative, we explain to the reader how the engagement may have affected the campaign, and thus why it happened and what the results meant to everything else that was happening at the time. Because there is an engagement during nearly each day of those five weeks from June 9 through July 14, 1863, we are able to include information in each narrative that tells the reader what else is taking place among both opposing armies – for instance, where elements of each army are located, where they are moving, and what the plans are for each. Hence, the reader will be able to virtually follow the movements and events of the entire campaign as he/she reads along, and we hope that a sense of “tension” begins to develop for the reader as they see the two armies moving toward a collision at Gettysburg beginning July 1. Then, after the battle, we follow both armies as they jockey for positions along the Potomac River as Robert E. Lee tries to safely cross and save the rest of his battered yet still-dangerous Confederate troops.
So even though this new book stands alone as a complete work, we hope that it will also therefore be the perfect companion while readers consult any other book on the battle or campaign. During nearly any day of the campaign, the reader can consult our book to get detailed knowledge of any engagements that day, exactly who was involved, and what casualties occurred. Then they have a superb full-color map by Steve, many of them of engagements that have never been mapped until now.
: Surely because of incomplete information, especially regarding the obscure smaller engagements during the campaign, it must have been difficult to construct complete statistics for at least some of them?
JDP: Oh, yes, it certainly was. Unfortunately, Confederate records can be woefully incomplete across the spectrum. And sometimes there’s just precious little detailed information available on many of those small skirmishes that broke out before and after the main battle. As we explain this unfortunate condition in the Introduction to the book, sometimes we could only estimate strengths and casualties for some of the smaller engagements, but we believe we are very close on all of them based on the best information we could compile. And when you look at some of the skirmishes and battles during the retreat of July 4 -14, must of the Confederate army was scattered across wide areas and in disarray. Many of the units were not together, and the columns of retreating wounded soldiers were comprised of members of all units and branches. Therefore, during some of the engagements – especially those involving Confederate wounded – we just don’t have reliable, complete information about who was present, or even how many. There are enough clues in the primary sources, however, to allow us to make reliable educated estimates and guesses where they must be made.
It can also be difficult to be completely accurate on the Confederate side for the main Gettysburg battle. Early in 1863, commander Robert E. Lee issued an order that minor wounds not be reported, so casualty figures for the Army of Northern Virginia in any source are likely actually higher than listed. And during the three days of the battle, soldiers of both sides were wounded more than once, some were captured then escaped before the end of the battle or shortly after, and many troops simply come up missing in the records with no further information available. Therefore, no compilation of statistics about the main battle could ever be 100% accurate.
: As you have compiled these statistics over the years, and put this book together, how did it change your outlook about the battle and campaign?
JDP: That casualties were much worse during the campaign than most folks think. We often hear about the “50,000” casualties of the battle and little else about the rest of the campaign. That figure is ponderous enough, but what does it mean to the armies and the war as a whole? Within those 50,000 are brothers, sons, fathers, cousins, etc. – devastating conditions for the families of the time to be sure. But for each army it shaped the way the war was to proceed over the next two years until it ended. At Gettysburg alone, Robert E. Lee lost not only one-third of his army, but also nearly 70% of his officer corps. Just think about that for a moment, and what it meant to the leadership of his regiments, brigades, divisions, and even the corps. Federal commander George G. Meade lost a quarter of his army and half of his officer corps, including the services of three of his seven corps commanders. As to the losses for the entire campaign, we were able to document approximately 60,000 casualties between the two armies throughout those five weeks – shocking losses in wounded, killed, captured and missing.
I also learned a great deal regarding the losses of my beloved cavalrymen. Because cavalry losses were comparatively lower during the main battle, cavalry engagements and casualties are little more than an afterthought for most students. The cavalry, however, bore the brunt of most of the fighting during the three weeks before, and the two weeks after, the main battle. Once I added up all the casualties among both sides’ horsemen, I had to run the numbers again and again because I simply didn’t believe them. But what I found was that J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry lost nearly four out of every ten men during the campaign. Compare that figure to many of the Confederate infantry’s losses, and it suddenly takes on new meaning. The Federal cavalry lost about one-quarter of its force from Brandy Station to July 14’s final fight at Falling Waters, Maryland. Losses among many artillery units of both sides were likewise ponderous. When one looks at losses during the campaign as a whole, it is readily apparent that each branch did more than its duty. Readers will have to get the book to see the details!
: How long did it take to compile the Orders of Battle and casualty statistics in The Gettysburg Campaign in Numbers and Losses?
JDP: This is a work that I can honestly admit (like our The Complete Gettysburg Guide) has been decades in the making. Many of the actions detailed in this book aren’t even listed in any source such as the ORs or secondary works. Many of them are tiny little skirmishes that can only be found in rare regimental histories, mentioned in letters and diaries, or newspaper articles written by veterans. I've been collecting them since I was a teenager. Once I nail down that an action took place, then I search out every available source to find out which units participated. In some cases, the only units involved were portions of regiments or companies. In other cases, local citizens were involved, and in others local militia got into the fight. Then the work of finding out about casualties (if any) begins. In a number of cases, there just isn’t enough detailed information to list casualties with certainty. In those cases we’ve done the best we can according to the primary sources. No one will ever know the exact number of casualties suffered by the opposing armies during the whole campaign, but we’ve been able to give our readers the details on most of them - but it demonstrates that the suffering endured throughout the Gettysburg Campaign goes far — beyond just those numbers you see listed for the main battle itself. Additionally, thousands of the wounded ended up dying eventually due to their wounds or inadequate treatment days, weeks, and months later.
The work involved has taken even more time that we originally projected —unfortunately, we had to back up the release date of the book by a few months because of the amount of work needed to dig up additional sources to fill in as many details and statistics as we could.
: Both you and Steve have described this volume as the final book in a “Gettysburg Trilogy” of sorts. We hope you are planning more for additional battles and campaigns! Are you?
JDP: Through the graciousness and support of Savas Beatie, indeed we are. The first book in this “trilogy” was our The Complete Gettysburg Guide, a guide to the entire battlefield and surrounding area. The second volume, The New Gettysburg Campaign Handbook, is chock full of information and statistics of the battle and campaign for all ages and knowledge levels. This new Numbers and Losses volume ties up the set by presenting the detailed Orders of Battle and strength/casualty statistics on dozens of engagements, many of which most readers have never even heard of.
This format naturally lends itself to all other battles and campaigns. Currently we are working on the guide for the 1862 Maryland Campaign. It will have a companion Handbook, because there is so much interesting trivia and facts about the Battle of Antietam and its campaign available. We’ll likewise have a Numbers and Losses volume that will include several dozen engagements during the campaign – like Gettysburg, many of them fought by the cavalry – that will present much of the information and maps for the very first time ever. We plan a number of additional “trilogies” of battles and campaigns that interest both us and many readers, and we hope they will be worthy additions to the amount of material already available on them.
: What makes The Gettysburg Campaign in Numbers and Losses different from other books on the same topic?
JDP: In reality, no existing work is very similar to this book at all. Once again, Ted has come up with a book idea that no one has ever tackled before. Admittedly, because I have compiled so much information regarding the cavalry over the years, it would actually be more difficult for someone else to attempt this because the story of the “before and after” the main battle is really a story of the fighting of the cavalry of both sides. For decades I have collected cavalry regimental histories, diaries, letters, articles, muster rolls, and unpublished manuscripts that are essential to compile this information. We plan to compile future books like this one, dealing with other campaigns.
: What are some features of The Gettysburg Campaign in Numbers and Losses that you think readers will really enjoy?
JDP: We think readers will enjoy getting a full story of the entire campaign - seeing and learning about dozens of the actions that took place, the units involved, and their resulting casualties. We also think that it will be educational for readers to be able to follow particular units throughout the campaign (some units were much more involved in the fighting over the five weeks than others). And in many cases, it is quite shocking to see how some units suffered beginning at Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, until the Army of Northern Virginia escaped across the Potomac on July 14. We know that the casualty numbers are ponderous, for instance, for Confederate infantry units that participated in Pickett’s Charge, for instance - but some of the casualties suffered throughout the whole campaign by other units are just as heartbreaking.
Having this book alongside the reader as they read other books on Gettysburg or other facets of the campaign will really help them understand about the actions they’re studying, be it the Gettysburg battle, Brandy Station, 2nd Winchester, the retreat from Gettysburg, or little obscure actions such as a nasty little episode that took place in the hills above Cashtown, Pennsylvania - not far from Gettysburg - on the afternoon of June 23, 1863.
: Thank you for your time, we appreciate it.
JDP: You're welcome.
An Interview with The New Gettysburg Campaign Handbook authors JD Petruzzi and Steve Stanley
: I'm familiar with Savas Beatie's The New Civil War Handbook and The New American Revolution Handbook, but can you explain the books and their format for those of our readers who are not?
Petruzzi/Stanley: This is a very useful reference series and the books are great companions while reading other books on these subjects. For instance, The New Civil War Handbook by Mark Hughes presents a variety of topics such as quotes from participants during the war, which really put a human face on the conflict. The photo section, definitions, names for the war, list of books, websites, etc. all provide wonderful information that the reader can use to do further research. Same with the Revolution handbook, by Theodore Savas and J. David Dameron - the information found in there such as battles, generals, flags, etc., give a background that make reading scholarly works on the Revolutionary period much more enjoyable and easier to understand. One will want to have these books at hand while reading others. And, they stand alone - in and of themselves. Younger audiences will enjoy these handbooks because they provide a concise background on these seminal periods in our history that no other works provide.
: So what is the new project you are working on in this series?
Petruzzi/Stanley: It's titled The New Gettysburg Campaign Handbook. Based on the format of the other handbooks in the series, this one presents a wide variety of material that covers the entire campaign from the Battle of Brandy Station (June 9, 1863) through the escape of the Confederate Army across the Potomac (July 14, 1863).
: How does this book differ from other Gettysburg Guides, including your own The Complete Gettysburg Guide?
Petruzzi/Stanley: First, this handbook is complimentary to The Complete Gettysburg Guide - it contains all of the material that we couldn't fit into the Guide. For instance, this handbook contains, among many other topics, complete Orders of Battle for every single notable conflict during the campaign - large and small - that occurred from June 6 to July 14. That has never been done before. We think that alone will make this guide a reference work that every reader will want to have handy in order to supplement every other book on the Gettysburg battle and/or campaign. Plus, we have striven to make our Orders of Battle the most complete and accurate - we find many, many errors in other Orders that are available in books and online, and we have corrected them in ours. In addition, we have capsule biographies of the major participants, and lots of useful and fun statistical compilations: for example, Dr. Michael Jacobs' weather observations at Gettysburg during the battle; the ages of all the participating generals; the dates of their commissions; discussions of the major controversies of the campaign; and so much more!
: What new features will your Handbook have that we can look forward to seeing?
Petruzzi/Stanley: Those Orders of Battle (there are more than forty of them in the book) for one; the many statistical tables; the discussions of major controversies that arose during the campaign; and we think the Trivia/Interesting Facts section will be an enjoyable read for many!
: Are you working on any other projects that you can give us a sneak peek at?
Petruzzi/Stanley: Yes! At the suggestion of our publisher, Ted Savas, we are taking those campaign Orders of Battle and expanding that into another, likewise complimentary, project about which we'll release details soon. Suffice it to say that we sincerely hope it will be another reference that everyone will want to have, and it will be a completely unique presentation of that topic. We are also working on a "Complete Guide" that will cover the Maryland Campaign of 1862 that, like all of these works, will feature the complete design and maps by Steve Stanley.
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