Our Country's Fiery Ordeal

A blog about the American Civil War, written and maintained by historian Daniel J. Vermilya, author of The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (History Press, 2014) and James Garfield and the Civil War (History Press, 2015)

Dedicated to my great-great-great grandfather, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, Company D, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, killed at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.

"And may an Overuling Providence continue to cause good to come out of evil, justice to be done to all men where injustice has long prevailed, and finally, peace, quiet, and harmony to come out of this terrible confrontation and our country's fiery ordeal." -- Albert Champlin, 105th Ohio, Diary entry of June 19, 1864 (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Reviews: Maps of Antietam

I have had this book sitting on the shelf for a few weeks, and haven’t gotten around to reviewing it until now. Bradley Gottfried’s latest work, The Maps of Antietam, fills a void in the scholarship on the Antietam Campaign. While numerous books have been written on the battle and campaign, few cover the movements of troops in an easily accessible format. For students of the battle, the maps of Ezra Carman are the gold standard in studying the movements of troops on the field during the action. Gottfried’s work is based in part upon the Carman maps, and many of the troop placements and positions are familiar. The maps are conveniently divided into different sets, covering the campaign, various parts of the battle, as well as the end engagements near Shepherdstown on the 19th and 20th. Each map is accompanied by a page of text, detailing the actions of the specific map. Taken together, they provide a thorough explanation of the actions on the field for both first time readers and seasoned Antietam readers alike.

Maps of Antietam
, like any work, is not without its flaws, however. There are typos on several maps, and some of the troop placements are questionable. For example, Map 16:5, showing the fighting in and around the Sunken Road, shows the 61st and 64th New York flanking the very end of the Confederate line, placing the Union breakthrough further east than it actually was. Had these two regiments broken the line at that point, their fire into the Confederate flank would have been obscured by a distinct ridgeline running through the Sunken Road. Other examples include referring to Union Brigadier General Abram Duryee as “George Duryee” on page 132, and mislabeling the 107th New York of George Gordon’s Brigade as the 107th Pennsylvania (which was correctly labels in maps as being in Duryee’s brigade). Errors such are unfortunate, yet do not detract from the overall value of the book as much as simply make necessary a second printing so that they can be properly corrected.

Ultimately, while not perfect, Maps of Antietam is a very worthwhile work. It is nicely produced, the maps are easy to read and accessible, which is something that cannot be said for other maps of Civil War battlefields. I would recommend it for veteran students of the battle, as well as for Antietam novices, as it will serve as a handy reference for troop movements. It is not a comprehensive and authoritative work, but a good reference guide for those tramping the battlefield or searching for the movements of a particular unit. While nothing will ever surpass the work done by the magisterial Ezra Carman, Maps of Antietam is a welcome addition to the literature on Antietam and the Maryland Campaign.

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