Ezra A. Carman, Edited and Annotated by Thomas G. Clemens
2010, Savas Beatie, 576 pp., $37.50
Image Courtesy of Barnes and Noble
Much has been written about the Maryland Campaign surrounding the Battle of Antietam, but there have always been the classics. As it is with classics, especially classics which were written right after the war, they run out of print and are quite difficult to get your hands on. For the longest time, I had heard of the great narrative which Ezra Carman had written on the entirety of the Maryland Campaign but was never able to get it. That was, until Thomas G. Clemens and Savas Beatie released the work in an annotated fashion.
Ezra Ayres Carman was born in Oak Tree, New Jersey and attended the Western Military Academy in Kentucky. During the Civil War, he fought with New Jersey units and faced some of the fiercest fighting throughout the war including the Battle of Antietam. After the war, he was appointed to the Antietam National Cemetery Board of Trustees and the Battlefield Board. Thomas G. Clemens has spent years studying the Maryland Campaign and gained his doctorate at George Mason University. He has written a myriad of magazine articles and has appeared in documentaries along with being a licensed tour guide at Antietam National Battlefield. Also, he is an instructor at Hagerstown Community College and also founded the Save Historic Antietam Foundation.
I should make one thing clear about this work. It is not a reprint. So many times when classics are reprinted, that it all they do, but this one is not one of those works. Clemens annotates the whole document with modern sourcing and extensive footnotes. Published in two volumes, the first deals with the Battle of South Mountain and some of the preliminary details of the campaign while the second deals with the Battle of Antietam. The annotations throughout not only give us an up to date look into the Maryland Campaign with modern sources, but a look into the mind of Carman as he was writing the work. Clemens tells us who Carman was more likely to paint in a greater light because of his experiences in the war and the politicking going on between Lincoln and McClellan throughout. While Carman states that this was not just a battle against armies, but a battle between the high command in Washington, Clemens adds that to tell us that not all was easy for the commanders. One of the aspects of the campaign which is largely ignored is the action taken at Harper’s Ferry before the Battle of Antietam and here, Carman places it in his narrative. The details of the capture of Union soldiers at the garrison is greatly important to the study of the campaign and here, it is given explicit detail through both the narrative of Carman and the annotation of Clemens.
The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 Volume I: South Mountain is a great addition to any Civil War library and is highly recommended for any reader. The excellent map system used in the book is a great aid to the narrative and the annotations are second to none. This is an excellent printing of this classic and goes to show that there is more to write about when it comes to the Maryland Campaign even if it is through annotations. Thomas G. Clemens has done a fantastic job and has performed a labor of love by pouring his knowledge into this text. Highly recommended!