Civil War author to hold book signing

Published 10:27 pm Thursday, March 3, 2011

History professor Brian Wills traveled all over Virginia gathering information on the state’s important Civil War sites.

You don’t have to follow in his footsteps — you can just read his book, “Civil War Sites in Virginia: A Tour Guide.” But if you do want to follow someone’s footsteps, you can use the book to follow Gen. Robert E. Lee; John Mosby, the Confederate Army’s “Gray Ghost”; or the black experience during the Civil War, among other things.

Wills’ book is an updated edition of one that scholar James I. “Bud” Robertson wrote in the 1980s. Since then, many changes have taken place that necessitated an updated edition, Wills said. Interstate exit numbers have changed; some sites have closed, opened or changed hands; some have had new features added; and some became more or less accessible to the public.

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Wills will hold a book signing at the Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum, 326 N. Main St., Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m.

“With the sesquicentennial coming, it becomes all the more important to help people identify what’s there,” said Wills, a longtime Suffolk resident who now is a history professor at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. “One of the things I did was to try go to through [the old edition] and see what had changed, what needed to be added, what needed to be clarified.”

Wills spent a considerable amount of his time visiting “the vast majority” of the sites in the book. Having grown up in Suffolk, sites in the area have a prominent place in the book.

Suffolk places in the book include Riddick’s Folly, which was used as a Union headquarters during the town’s occupation; Cedar Hill Cemetery, where numerous veterans of the war are buried; and Providence United Methodist Church on Pruden Boulevard, which was used as a field hospital.

Besides a general listing of the state’s Civil War sites, Wills also groups the sites into themes, such as Lee’s path through the state.

The locations in the book range from big battlefields to tiny cemeteries and from large buildings to the slightest traces of buildings that stand no more.

Wills’ other books, including “The War Hits Home: The Civil War in Southeastern Virginia,” also will be available at the book signing.

For more information, call the station at 923-4750.