Army of the Potomac, Vol. III

(This post follows yesterday's preamble.)

Early in Russel Beatie's newly released third volume of the Army of the Potomac, we find the Comte de Paris advancing, with a small party, on the evacuated Rebel lines at Centreville.
Carrying the map, he had drawn at the end of February showing the location of Confederate units and their strengths, the Comte de Paris compared his findings of ninety five to one hundred and ten thousand men with the housing capacity shown by the remains on the ground.
An accompanying Swiss army engineer, Ferdinand Lecomte, commented that the count found his map "perfectly accurate."

To the repeat reader of conventional pop histories, this may be a difficult pill to swallow. Quaker cannons. Johnston's army ravaged by disease. Miserable collection of little huts. All that folderol represents invested time to some. To the deep reader, however, this is interesting stuff, made moreso by the obscurity of the sources.

Obscurity here is relative and based on our historians' lack of familiarity with an ancient, perhaps dead language once known as "French." The count kept a diary - Mark Grimsley has taken a stab at translating it in installments - that has not previously been fully translated or published.

Beatie makes extensive use of this document in his third volume. In the passage above, he also makes use of another French tract, Ferdinand Lecomte's Campagnes en Virginie.

As to the defenses at Centreville, there are surprises. Will make mention of these in my next post on Army of the Potomac. My point is not to pile on the spoilers but to convey that for the experienced, open-minded reader this book is a very special reading experience.

(Lecomte, by the way, had published his study of Jomini in 1861 and I am not sure if Campagnes is based on this report.)