In Memoriam - Dr Richard Sommers


Dr Richard Sommers died May 14, a huge loss for Civil War historians everywhere. Dr Sommers spoke nine different times to our Round Table, most recently at the June 2016 meeting. What follows is his obituary...

Dr. Richard J. "Dick" Sommers (born, August 11, 1942; passed away, May 14) was the son of the late Walter J. and Harriett Ruth (Lewis) Sommers. He is survived by his wife Marilyn Tracy Sommers; brother, Walter A. Sommers (Robin); nephews, William L. Sommers (Vicky); Cameron Smeak, and niece, Amanda Scott (Cameron), and ten first cousins. He was born and raised in south-suburban Chicagoland and earned his B.A. from Carleton College and his Ph.D. from Rice University. Dick devoted his 44-year professional career to military history in the U.S. Army Military History Institute/U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center/U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks. Even in nominal "retirement," he taught one course each July. In 2015, the War College designated him a "Distinguished Fellow." Besides his official government service, Dick pursued his personal scholarship through his own books, articles, and presentations on military history, especially on the Civil War. His Richmond Redeemed: The Siege at Petersburg remains a classic which inspired a whole genre in that field. The expanded 150th anniversary of that book earned the Army Historical Foundation's Distinguished Writing Award as the best book of 2014. His most recent book, Challenges of Command in the Civil War, was published in 2018. Beyond writing, he welcomed opportunities to spread military history, both professional and lay, through teaching at the Army War College, through encouraging fellow researchers at the Institute, and through sharing such interest abroad. He addressed Civil War Round Tables and the Civil War Trust from Boston to Austin, from Atlanta to Seattle, and he was especially active in his home Harrisburg Civil War Round Table, where he served since 1971, including 32 years as Program Chairman. His more personal side was as Tracy's beloved husband. They married in 2011 and were seldom apart. He was the most perfect husband-loving, gracious, witty, thoughtful-a noble gentleman. He and Tracy shared many interests and after retirement travelled primarily in the west and mid-west sharing places from their growing up years. He resided in Carlisle. He was grateful for privilege of worshipping at the First Presbyterian Church of Carlisle, where he was a long-time member, ruling elder and clerk of session. The family will receive friends, 6:00-8:00 p.m., May 31, at the Hoffman Funeral Home, 2020 W. Trindle Rd., Carlisle, PA. Church services will be held at the First Presbyterian Church, 2A N. Hanover St. Carlisle, PA 17013 on June 1 at 11:00 am. No flowers are requested. Memorial gifts may be given to the church or to the Army Heritage Center Foundation, 950 Soldiers Drive, Carlisle, PA 17013. Arrangements have been entrusted to the Hoffman Funeral Home and Crematory, 2020 West Trindle Road, Carlisle, PA 17013. To sign the guestbook, please visit

Published on and in The Patriot-News from May 17 to May 26, 2019