This is the third and final volume of an exhaustively researched analysis of the Maryland (or Antietam) Campaign of the American Civil War. Originally authored by Union army officer Ezra Carman (1834-1909), the trilogy has been edited by Thomas Clemens, and enriched with bibliographical and genealogical reference material, a statistical study of casualties, a scholarly analysis of Lincoln’s decision to relieve General McClellan of his command, a summary of the entire campaign, and a good deal more. All three volumes provide very valuable details and thought-provoking interpretation and are highly recommended to Civil War students. The first two volumes are The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Volume I, South Mountain; The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Volume II, Antietam.
Ezra Ayres Carman was born in Oak Tree, New Jersey, on February 27, 1834, and educated at Western Military Academy in Kentucky. He fought with New Jersey volunteers during the Civil War. Thomas G. Clemens earned his PhD at George Mason University. He has published a wide variety of magazine articles and book reviews and is a licensed tour guide at Antietam National Battlefield.
Carman accomplished what he stated as his goal – providing a running narrative that ties together the entire campaign, while not shying away from controversies. This particular volume illustrates that the battle of Antietam or Sharpsburg did not end this most important campaign: General Robert Lee led his troops back to Virginia after the stalemate in Maryland, but intended to return at Williamsport; Union General George McClellan intended to follow the Army of Northern Virginia into Virginia, but the fight at Shepherdstown changed both commanders’ plans. Carmen covers the political controversies around this campaign by utilizing the near-real time letters and messages of the participants: for example, the telegraphic messages between Halleck and McClellan. This third volume is a useful window into the political conflict in the east between the professional army officers (almost to a man the senior officers were conservative members of the Democratic Party) and the Republican administration which had few allies in the Potomac Army. The author and his editor give more credit to McClellan than many contemporary historians, successfully portraying the general’s resolution in fighting Confederate forces as well as his belief that his accomplishments that lived up to his goals. The non-traditional viewpoint of McClellan’s assistance or lack thereof to General Pope in the battle of Second Bull Run should cause the reader to at least question the more common view of our times.
Interesting analysis is made concerning the interaction between McClellan, President Lincoln and Harry Halleck and why ultimately Lincoln replaced the commander on November 7th. Solid evidence is provided that shows how Union Generals Halleck, McClellan and Pope did not always work together with the best interest of President Lincoln and their soldiers. Carmen demonstrates the failure of Generals Porter and Franklin to act in conjunction with the orders of their commanding general at the battle of Second Bull Run which contributed to the utter defeat that Northern forces received from the Confederates.
I am grateful that Savas Beatie publishers has reproduced and greatly improved the original edition of the nineteenth century with the insights and corrections of the editor, himself an expert on the battle and latter part of the campaign. Carmen and Clemens provide an even handed and balanced appraisal of the campaign that has caused me to think about its importance to both war efforts in a new way. I have added this set to my list of must haves and encourage students of the war in the east to consider purchasing these books or pursuing them through the library system.
Reviewed by David Lady