The Battle of South Mountain
by John David Hoptak, The History Press
It seems almost futile to hope that the impressive scholarship on the Maryland Campaign produced in the past few years might bring the events of September 1862 out of the shadow of the Army of Northern Virginia’s second excursion north of the Potomac River. Still, one hopes the work of Joseph L. Harsh, Thomas G. Clemens and others will eventually serve as the catalyst for much-needed rethinking of the campaign by the broader community.
Readers willing to engage in that reevaluation will find value in John David Hoptak’s new book on the engagements at Fox’s, Turner’s, Frosttown and Crampton’s gaps that preceded the Battle of Antietam. It’s evident that Hoptak, a member of the outstanding interpretive staff at Antietam National Battlefield, has put in much time tramping the ground where the South Mountain battles occurred. He draws on his knowledge of the ground, as well as impressive research, to provide a thorough account of the fighting, as well as the maneuvers that prefaced and followed it.
His book is refreshingly sound and balanced in its assessments of men and events, reflecting Hoptak’s solid grounding in recent scholarship—above all, Harsh’s 1999 study Taken at the Flood and the first volume of Ezra Carman’s study of the campaign, edited by Clemens. The Battle of South Mountain is not only appealingly written but a worthwhile addition to Maryland Campaign literature.
Originally published in the August 2011 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.