Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ed. Pierro: "The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Ezra A. Carman's Definitive Study of the Union and Confederate Armies at Antietam"

[ The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Ezra A. Carman's Definitive Study of the Union and Confederate Armies at Antietam ed. by Joseph Pierro (Routledge-Taylor and Francis Group, 2008). Case-bound hardcover, notes, appendices, index. ISBN: 978-0415956284 $95]

Fellow blogger Harry Smeltzer has described Ezra Carman as the John Bachelder of Antietam, but, with more western sensibilities, I prefer to think of him as the D.W. Reed of Antietam. Carman's celebrated manuscript is, of course, far more detailed and complete than Reed's own history of the Shiloh campaign (which is not in traditional narrative form), but both men were heavily involved in interviewing veterans and in serving on the battlefield park commissions that sought to objectively verify the opposing battle lines. Carman and Reed also were instrumental in creating the text summaries for the metal tablets that dot their respective parks, and in determining their proper location. Additionally, like Reed, Carman also oversaw the rendering of an awesomely detailed set of maps to supplement his manuscript. These are high order examples of cartographic art. However, unlike Reed, Carman's maps are not available in published form; nevertheless, scanned images can be found at the Making of America website [map collection URL].

Among students of the Antietam campaign and battle, the Carman manuscript is immensely influential. Thus, it's availability for the first time in published form by Routledge and editor Joseph Pierro is an important event. The book itself is an oversized, case-bound hardback that should hold up to heavy use. While densely packed on the page, the bold-type text is nevertheless quite readable, with Pierro's notes thankfully placed at the bottom of each page. The text is not a mere transcription of Carman's writing, but rather reflects a great of effort on the part of the editor, both in copy editing and in source material verification.

In addition to a comprehensive battle and campaign history that runs almost 400 pages, numerous appendices were included. These are also annotated. An order of battle for each army is provided, as well as losses presented in tabular format for Antietam and for the earlier fighting at Harper's Ferry, Crampton's Gap, Turner's Gap, and Fox Gap. The strength tables are mostly at division level and above [there are some brigade strengths, but no complete tables for numbers and losses at the regimental level]. An index was compiled by Pierro as well.

The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 should be a part of every institutional Civil War library, as well as the bookshelf of serious students of the campaign. For those parties, the investment is clearly worthwhile. The limited print run should serve notice to collectors, as well.


  1. Excellant review. Amazon sells for 76.00. I consider it the best Civil War book of the year. Hope you will post a list of the best of the year at the years end. James McCorry

  2. James,
    Thanks, I plan on posting the same sort of yearly "awards" list that I did back in January. You can check it out in the archives, if interested.


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