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Editor’s Letter: Sailor’s Creek

The following is the Editor’s Letter from The Sailor’s Creek issue, Volume 31, #3

72 Hours Before Appomattox

This is the final issue of the Civil War Sesquicentennial observance. It doesn’t seem all that long ago when we kicked off the 150th with Hank Elliott’s feature article on First Manassas. Pardon me if I brag a bit, because I’m very proud of how we’ve covered the Sesquicentennial in Blue & Gray. In particular, we maintained balance in our five Special Commemorative issues at the beginning of each year with two features on the Eastern Theater, Hank’s, and Frank O’Reilly’s 2-issue treatment on Chancellorsville; two on the Western Theater, Jim Jobe’s Forts Henry and Donelson and Eric Jacobson’s Battles at Spring Hill and Franklin; and last issue’s feature on the Civil War in Indian Territory by Mike Manning that showcased the Trans-Mississippi Theater. I like to think the vets in Blue and Gray have looked down approvingly upon our efforts.

Chris Calkins is the author of this final feature and his article consumes most of the pages in the magazine. He is well known in the Civil War community as the former Historian at Petersburg National Battlefield. He has written several features for B&G on Petersburg during the war and served as a Tour consultant on other articles about the area when he was not the principal author.

A few years ago, Chris could not resist the opportunity to participate in developing the Sailor’s Creek Battlefield Historical State Park in Amelia County, Virginia, on the road to Appomattox. He left the National Park Service and became Park Manager and Historian at the new park. Chris has been instrumental in the design and interpretation of the Sailor’s Creek park. There a major setback to Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia occurred on April 6, 1865, during their retreat toward Appomattox to obtain food rations. Chris’ narrative is a revised and expanded edition of a work originally published in 1980 and now out of print.

The new Sailor’s Creek park has a fine Visitor Center and there is room to expand and improve sites to inform the visitor, in particular at the Marshall’s Crossroads area. As Chris is quick to explain, the Battle of Sailor’s Creek is actually three separate engagements, as you will discover. The jewel of the battlefield park is the James Hillsman house, which served as a hospital. Blood stains are clearly evident on the floor, protected with plexiglass. Medical history is important to the park’s interpretation.

A special web supplement, Chris’ 2001 B&G article “Final Bloodshed: The Hospital System During the Appomattox Campaign,” has been made available in PDF form.

David E. Roth

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