Book Review: “The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, Volume III: Shepherdstown Ford and the End of the Campaign”

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Carman vol 3 cover imageMere months after the bloodletting subsided on the Antietam battlefield, participant Ezra Carman began collecting materials for a history of the Maryland Campaign.  It proved to be his life’s work.  When Carman died in 1909, his 1,800 page handwritten tome remained nearly finished.  However, the manuscript never became a published work, and this incredible resource sat in the dark halls of the Library of Congress for decades.

While previous scholars have utilized pieces of Carman’s manuscript for their own works, this essential history of the Maryland Campaign remained difficult to access. Now, with the publication of the third and final volume of Carman’s history, Maryland Campaign scholar Dr. Thomas Clemens has brought Carman’s work to light and made it easily accessible.

The third volume follows a pattern familiar to readers of the first two: Carman’s words edited and meticulously annotated by Dr. Clemens. Additionally, it picks up right where Volume II ended.

Ezra Carman recognized that the Maryland Campaign did not conclude at Antietam, and included a valuable summary of the subsequent action at Shepherdstown, an action that witnessed the last shots of the operations in Maryland and Virginia. Carman did not stop his history there, however. Almost as an epilogue, he included a chapter examining the post-Antietam relationship between Army of the Potomac commander George B. McClellan and his commander-in-chief.

Two additional chapters made their way into Clemens’ third volume. One is a good overview of the Maryland Campaign, covered more in-depth in Volume I. The other is sure to make some cringe in their chairs while reading it.

Either written as an appendix to his manuscript or as a piece of it, Carman sought to give his readers a slice of the Army of the Potomac’s history not thought of by many as the army’s–and its commander’s–finest moment.  The chapter examines the Second Bull Run campaign through the eyes of the three commanders at the top echelon of Federal command (Lincoln, Halleck, and McClellan) and asks the nagging question: could McClellan have done more to help John Pope’s beleaguered Army of Virginia fighting along the banks of Bull Run?

Carman presents the facts, and finds the culprit holding back portions of McClellan’s army from rushing to Pope’s rescue is not McClellan but, in fact, Henry Halleck.  He further elucidated his opinion, believing McClellan’s actions during the Second Bull Run campaign were “actuated by a loyal devotion to country and we think the records prove it” (p. 86).  Carman does save McClellan from the ignominy of having the blame rest at his feet, all at Halleck’s expense.

As if these additions which round out the trilogy are not enough, Dr. Clemens added a “Biographical Dictionary” of approximately 1,500 entries.  The names range from the well-known to the little-known, but all of the people listed were either mentioned in Carman’s manuscript or consulted by Carman to pull his work together.  Never has such a biographical treasure-trove been so completely compiled for one campaign.

Historians have had to wait over a century for Carman’s full manuscript to see the light of day in such a complete manner as this.  The wait was worth it.  No student of the Maryland Campaign can go without this trilogy.  Carman’s and Clemens’ stamp on the campaign will last for the next century and more with it’s completion.

Ezra A. Carman and Thomas G. Clemens, The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Volume III, The Battle of Shepherdstown and the End of the Campaign.

Savas Beatie, 2017.

408 Pages, footnotes, bibliography, index.


1 Response to Book Review: “The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, Volume III: Shepherdstown Ford and the End of the Campaign”

  1. I thought the chapter you referenced on Lincoln, Halleck, and McClellan during 2nd Manassas was, by itself, worth buying the book. Good stuff.

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