William J. Bolton's Civil War journal is especially valuable since he served throughout most of the Civil War, steadily rising through the ranks from captain to colonel with the 51st Pennsylvania. Bolton's commander throughout most of the war was John F. Hartranft, an influential figure who later became governor of Pennsylvania. William J. Bolton was lucky to have his brother John serving in the same unit, so he could draw on his recollections for the two periods when he himself was out of action due to wounds. The 51st Pennsylvania was largely drawn from Norristown, Pennsylvania, a prosperous county seat. The 51st served throughout the war in the IX Corps under Ambrose Burnside, and thus was involved in a wide variety of actions in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee and Mississippi. Bolton was wounded twice during the war, at Antietam and Petersburg, and experienced all levels of command and virtually every type of combat and campaign situation. Bolton reworked his Civil War journal some time after the war, drawing on the Official Records and other sources to supplement his own experiences. Dr.
Richard Sauer is extremely knowledgeable about Civil War sources, and clearly indicates where Bolton drew on other sources or where his recollections or information were in error in this carefully edited work.