Saturday, May 15, 2021

Booknotes: Command at Antietam

New Arrival:
Command at Antietam: Lincoln, McClellan and Lee by David L. Keller (Arcadia Pub and The Hist Press, 2021).

Commonly understood as a tactical draw that became a Union strategic victory after Lee's army abandoned its campaign in Maryland and withdrew back to Virginia, the military, social, and political outcome of the Antietam battle has been explored by countless modern writers. A new look at the topic, David Keller's Command at Antietam: Lincoln, McClellan and Lee "reviews the time leading up to the Battle at Antietam, the battle itself and the results of the decisions and actions of the commands of Lincoln, McClellan and Lee."

The introduction doesn't offer specific hints regarding what unconventional ideas might be explored in the author's "fresh look at the command decisions of Robert E. Lee and George B. McClellan before, during and after the Battle of Antietam." According to the author, diagnosing McClellan's "psychological and personality issues" is intentionally avoided in the book. Instead, he has "chosen to evaluate only (McClellan's) military actions and the results of those actions." The book also aims to provide "insight into President Lincoln's evaluation of McClellan and his use of the Battle of Antietam for political purposes."

A retired army officer, Keller has authored a number of Civil War prison camp books and NPS studies. He served on General Westmoreland's staff during Vietnam, so he certainly has inside knowledge on modern army high command goings on as well as the military-political interplay at that level, a perspective that may have been useful in putting together this study.

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