Thursday, October 29, 2020

Booknotes: Visual Antietam Vol. 3

New Arrival:
Visual Antietam Vol. 3: Ezra Carman’s Antietam Through Maps and Pictures: The Middle Bridge To Hill’s Counterattack by Ezra A Carman and Brad Butkovich (Historic Imagination, LLC, 2020).

From the description: "In the early 1900s Ezra A. Carman wrote a sweeping and detailed manuscript chronicling the Maryland Campaign of 1862. As the colonel of the 13th New Jersey Infantry, he was a participant in the battle. He “served as a trustee on the Antietam National Cemetery Association Board from 1866 to 1877 and as an ‘historical expert’ and member of the War Department’s Antietam Board for Antietam National Battlefield Site from 1895 to 1897.” Drawing from extensive interviews with fellow veterans, including numerous walks on the battlefield, the manuscript provided a unique and detailed history of the campaign."

While the Carman manuscript, titled The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, has always been a major part of modern Antietam research, it remained unpublished until 2008 when Joseph Pierro released his edited version through McFarland under the title The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Ezra A. Carman's Definitive Study of the Union and Confederate Armies at Antietam. This was followed soon after by the appearance of a three-volume set (I, II, and III) edited by Tom Clemens and published by Savas Beatie between 2010 and 2017. The Clemens trilogy is far more extensively annotated, edited, mapped, and illustrated, and it is generally considered the "definitive" edition.

Also released as a trilogy is Brad Butkovich's Visual Antietam series that does not seek to match previous efforts but rather present the Antietam chapters of the Carman manuscript in a new way that features visual aids in the form of detailed original maps and modern battlefield photography. Visual Antietam Vol. 1: Ezra Carman’s Antietam Through Maps and Pictures: Dawn to Dunker Church was published in 2018 and Visual Antietam Vol. 2 - Ezra Carman’s Antietam Through Maps and Pictures: The West Woods to Bloody Lane was released the following year. 2020's Visual Antietam Vol. 3: Ezra Carman’s Antietam Through Maps and Pictures: The Middle Bridge To Hill’s Counterattack completes the series.

Vol. 3 "contains forty (40) images, both period and modern, allowing the reader to see the battlefield today and as it was only days after the battle. Thirty-two (32) original maps explain the troop movements during the course of that morning and afternoon east and south of Sharpsburg." As was the case in the two earlier installments, the third-volume battle maps are densely detailed with exhaustive depictions of both unit positions and terrain features. Every page of Carman text (on the left as you open the book) is accompanied on the right side by a full-page map, modern photograph, or (in some cases) archival photograph. A unique quality of Butkovich's photography is his concerted effort in capturing images of the battlescape at the historical time of day (thus the lengthening shadows seen in the book's later photos). The volume concludes with modified orders of battle that include some unit strengths. Much of the focus of Butkovich's books published through Historic Imagination is on aiding simulations, but the series is a highly useful research tool for any Antietam student.

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