Monday, November 28, 2022

Booknotes: Decisions of the Maryland Campaign

New Arrival:
Decisions of the Maryland Campaign: The Fourteen Critical Decisions That Defined the Operation by Michael S. Lang (U Tenn Press, 2022).

From the description: The latest volume in the Command Decisions in America’s Civil War series, Decisions of the Maryland Campaign: The Fourteen Critical Decisions That Defined the Operation "introduces readers to critical decisions made by Confederate and Union commanders throughout the campaign. Michael S. Lang examines the decisions that prefigured the action and shaped the contest as it unfolded. Rather than a linear history of the campaign, Lang’s discussion of the critical decisions presents readers with a vivid blueprint of the campaign’s developments. Exploring the critical decisions in this way allows the reader to progress from a sense of what happened in this campaign to why they happened as they did." With over a dozen installments already published, the format established by this series is a methodologically matured one, and interested parties wondering exactly how a 'critical decision' has been defined and how these studies work can find such information among numerous reviews here on the site.

The series has two recent developments of note. First, Larry Peterson, a frequent contributor, has joined Matt Spruill as co-editor of the series. Second, there has been some impetus of late toward dividing campaign decisions and battlefield decisions into separate studies. With companion volumes covering the 1862 Kentucky Campaign and the Battle of Perryville, Peterson himself was the first to go in that direction. Michael Lang continues in that vein with this book, to be used in either standalone fashion or in conjunction with his earlier Decisions at Antietam: The Fourteen Critical Decisions That Defined the Battle (2021).

Some critical decisions are impossible to separate from campaign and battle, and Lang notes in the preface that a few of the decisions under consideration are present in both works. Series authors tend to aggregate the decisions in some manner, and here Lang groups his fourteen decisions into three time periods. The period of September 3-13, 1862 encompasses early-campaign decisions (six in number) made by Lee on one side and Halleck/McClellan on the other. The September 14-16 interval, also composed of six decisions, addresses army commander and principal subordinate decisions surrounding South Mountain, Harpers Ferry, and initial contact at Sharpsburg. With the earlier volume covering the battle itself, this book's third period looks at a pair of decisions (one each by Lee and McClellan) made during the three days following the September 17 battle.

The book includes numerous period and modern photographs as well as fifteen maps. As is the case with most series volumes, this one is divided into roughly equal halves between the main critical decision exploration on one side and on the other a combination of detailed touring guide (closely tied to the decision analysis), orders of battle, endnotes, bibliography, and index. Also present are strength and casualty tables for both sides.


  1. Replies
    1. Hi Michael,
      It's a courtesy announcement of a title just received. If I get a chance to do a review, I'll be sure to let you know!


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