Thursday, April 15, 2021

Booknotes: Faces of Union Soldiers at South Mountain and Harpers Ferry

New Arrival:
Faces of Union Soldiers at South Mountain and Harpers Ferry by Joseph Stahl and Matthew Borders (Arcadia Pub and The Hist Press, 2021).

From the description: "The first Confederate invasion of the North in the fall of 1862 led to a series of engagements known as the Maryland Campaign. Though best remembered for its climax, there was desperate fighting at both South Mountain and Harpers Ferry prior to the bloodletting at Antietam Creek. These battles in particular were desperate affairs of bloody attacks and determined defense. In this work are the images of thirty Union soldiers, published here for the first time, that help give a face and a history to those men who struggled up the slopes of South Mountain or sheltered from Confederate cannons at Harpers Ferry."

Stahl and Borders's Faces of Union Soldiers at South Mountain and Harpers Ferry is the second volume in their Faces of Union Soldiers series, the first being 2019's Faces of Union Soldiers at Antietam. Borders, a Monocacy NB ranger, and Stahl, a volunteer and licensed guide at Antietam and Harpers Ferry, once again aim to bring more individual stories to the forefront, and their finding thirty previously unpublished Maryland Campaign soldier "faces" is a proper selling point.

As expected for a series installment, style and organization established in the Antietam volume remain the same for this book. Each Union soldier's image and personal story is discussed in two parts. The first section consists of a biographical and military service summary of the subject individual that is also accompanied by a brief overview of his unit's history and participation in the September 14-15 fighting. The second part offers a description and analysis of the CDV photographic image (reproduced front and back on the page), with some emphasis on grooming, uniform, and picture studio details and features. The soldier stories are grouped into chapters oriented around the fighting at the gaps (from north to south: Frosttown, Turner's, Fox's, and Crampton's) and at Harpers Ferry, and both introductory and bridging narrative add cohesion to the material. Notes and bibliography indicate a rigorous research effort, and supporting maps are borrowed from Bradley Gottfried's Maps of Antietam.

In addition to armchair reading, the book is intended for use by battlefield visitors and alongside other guidebooks to add a more intimate touch to major events.


  1. Drew: If this volume measures up to the first, it will be well worth getting.

    1. Thank you for your support and kind words. I think you will really enjoy this one.


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