Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Booknotes: I Dread the Thought of the Place

New Arrival:

I Dread the Thought of the Place: The Battle of Antietam and the End of the Maryland Campaign by D. Scott Hartwig (Johns Hopkins UP, 2023).

This long-awaited tome announced its arrival tonight with a thunderous bang as the UPS driver carelessly (maliciously?) flung it against the front door, a collision felt throughout the entire house. The book weighs a full 4 1/4 lbs, more than some early-19th Century cannonballs, so, while the damage was less than expected, I can be forgiven for being highly annoyed by the courier's unprofessionalism.

While things have begun on a sour note, there's no denying the high level of anticipation attached to this book. It's been slightly more than a decade since the publication of Scott Hartwig's very well-received To Antietam Creek: The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 (2012), and its big follow-up, I Dread the Thought of the Place: The Battle of Antietam and the End of the Maryland Campaign, is undoubtedly one of the year's most celebrated publishing events. Beginning with the legendary cornfield fighting at dawn on the 17th and continuing through to the final escape of Lee's army back to Virginia, the book not only covers the battle itself but "the powerful reverberations―military, political, and social―it sent through the armies and the nation."

From the description: "Based on decades of research, this in-depth narrative sheds particular light on the visceral experience of battle, an often misunderstood aspect of the American Civil War, and the emotional aftermath for those who survived. Hartwig provides an hour-by-hour tactical history of the battle, beginning before dawn on September 17 and concluding with the immediate aftermath, including General McClellan's fateful decision not to pursue Lee's retreating forces back across the Potomac to Virginia."

Supplementing the text (the main narrative runs nearly 800 pages) are 21 maps "illustrating the state of the battle at intervals ranging from 20 to 120 minutes." The appendix section contains a formation and tactics primer, orders of battle, and unit strength & loss tables. Endnotes are included, as is a source essay, but to save space the full bibliography is maintained online at the publisher's website.

This is definitely one of those 'clear my schedule' books.


  1. Drew: To be fair, he may have lost his footing and pitched forward into the door. If he threw it, he'd have to be at least an Olympic bronze medalist in the shot put. I'll close with "how come we don't get nothing like this for the Peninsula Campaign?"

    1. That's what his union rep maintains.

    2. Should be amazing. Hartwig has been working on Antietam something like thirty years isn't it? I always thought it was cool a Gettysburg park ranger was such an expert on Antietam. Can't wait for his take on one of the great battles of American history and your review of it.


***PLEASE READ BEFORE COMMENTING***: You must SIGN YOUR NAME when submitting your comment. In order to maintain civil discourse and ease moderating duties, anonymous comments will be deleted. Comments containing outside promotions and/or product links will also be removed. Thank you for your cooperation.