Thursday, September 06, 2012

"Boots and Saddles: Cavalry During the Maryland Campaign of September 1862"

Boots and SaddlesBoots and Saddles: Cavalry During the Maryland Campaign of September 1862 by Laurence H. Freiheit (Camp Pope Publishing, 2012) is one of those massive tomes that I immediately admire upon opening, and will certainly keep for future reference, but know I will never read from cover to cover. I love my military micro-history as much as anybody, but late summer 1862 mounted operations in the East are just a bit outside my areas of interest. However, I would like to give Boots and Saddles something of the exposure it clearly deserves so I'll just describe it briefly.

The popular wisdom is that Union cavalrymen could not match their Confederates opponents until 1863, but this selective use of the evidence really doesn't represent the broader picture, and Freiheit's book, beyond its value as pure military history, is an important counter to this established untruth. Written primarily from the Union perspective, Boots and Saddles first examines the reorganization of the mounted arm in the wake of the Peninsula Campaign. From there, the author describes in minute fashion the clashes and movements from Virginia on up to Frederick, Maryland and the South Mountain Passes. A large chunk of the book is devoted to the Harpers Ferry breakout. Operations during the Antietam battle and after (Shepherdstown and Williamsport) round out the volume. Although I always harp on books that don't offer original maps, this one does a pretty good job of using them as a base rather than an end in themselves, with unit positions and movements associated with the text overlying the archival drawings. Readers who love their notes packed full of explanatory and supplemental material in addition to the source notations will love Freiheit's frequently page-filling efforts in this regard.

Appendices include treatises on the intelligence gathering exploits of the Union cavalry during the campaign and an assessment of the mounted arm's overall performance. Orders of battle, including strength figures for both sides, appear in this section. Finally, a series of driving tours created by Craig Swain, accompanied by detailed directions and modern road maps, is provided for those who wish to experience the sites firsthand.

I have no idea of the print run for this title, but I would imagine that it is fairly small and the book will be highly sought after in the collector's market.

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