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The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, Vol. I: South Mountain

 by Ezra A. Carman (edited and annotated by Thomas G. Clemens), Savas Beatie, 2010, $24.75

SOMETIMES IT PAYS TO come in second. That seems to be the case with the publication of Ezra Carman’s magisterial account of the Confederate invasion of Maryland in September 1862. Carman, the erudite colonel of the 13th New Jersey Infantry, fought at Antietam—and for 50 years after the war made that epic battle and campaign the focal point of his life.

Until recently, Carman’s 1,800-page handwritten manuscript was available only at the Library of Congress. But in the past two years it has been published twice: by Joseph Pierro in 2008 (The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Ezra A. Carman’s Definitive Study of the Union and Confederate Armies at Antietam) and by Thomas Clemens last May. Clemens’ annotated volume is arguably the better effort.

While Pierro’s version contains Carman’s entire manuscript, it is expensive, haphazardly annotated and provides no maps—a distinct disadvantage when trying to visualize the movements of two huge armies during a campaign where geography played such an important role.

Although only about half of the manuscript is included in Clemens’ volume, he has painstakingly analyzed Carman’s text, read hundreds of relevant letters and identified and annotated, in detail, the sources for most of the author’s facts. Reading Clemens’ footnotes is almost as satisfying as reveling in Carman’s rich prose, and a helpful bibliography lists the many sources Clemens consulted in preparing his version.

Publisher Savas Beatie knows well the value of cartography in its books. Though unable to reproduce the 14 original maps that accompanied Carman’s manuscript, Gene Thorp has drawn excellent topographical illustrations based on the originals. Experts and enthusiasts alike are sure to be eagerly awaiting Clemens’ treatment of the remaining Carman chapters, tentatively scheduled for publication in 2012.


Originally published in the January 2011 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here