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This is an unedited excerpt from the book The Maryland Campaign of 1862, (June 2010 ISBN: 1-932714-81-4). It is provided to you courtesy of the author and Savas Beatie LLC (www.savasbeatie.com). All copyright protections apply. If you wish to reproduce this material in its entirety as presented below, you may do so provided: (1) You email Savas Beatie and alert us as to where it will appear (firstname.lastname@example.org), and (2) This introductory paragraph (and the one that concludes this excerpt) remain intact. Should you wish to reproduce only a portion of this excerpt, please contact us for permission (email@example.com). Thank you.
“Ezra Carman, a veteran of the battle and a member of the Antietam Battlefield Board, spent most of the 1890s composing ‘The Maryland Campaign of 1862,’” wrote historian Joseph Harsh in the introduction to his seminal work Takenat the Flood: Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862. “His history is perhaps the best study produced by any participant of the war.” Dr. Harsh went on to write that Carman’s 1,800-page manuscript is “an invaluable source of anecdotes and insights that historians have barely begun to utilize.”
Indeed, Carman’s work is the bible on Antietam and one of the most detailed studies of any major Civil War campaign. Carman was both a participant in the Battle of Antietam and its principal scholar. He spent a lifetime studying America’s bloodiest day, starting immediately after the battle by interviewing wounded soldiers in field hospitals from both sides, as well as local civilians. Carman’s work has often been compared to that of John Bachelder. Like Carman, Bachelder also devoted much of his life to studying one battle (Gettysburg) and interviewing hundreds of participants. Unlike Carman, however, Bachelder never saw combat during the Civil War (and did not witness Gettysburg like Carman witnessed Antietam). In addition, modern scholars have questioned some of Bachelder’s information and conclusions, particularly regarding troop positions at Gettysburg.
Scholarly use of Carman’s work has been an evolutionary process. While Gettysburg scholars have had ready access to the Bachelder papers for years, Carman’s papers remain scattered between five major repositories, with individual letters popping up frequently in other holdings. The late James Murfin listed the Carman manuscript in the bibliography of his groundbreaking study The Gleam of Bayonets: The Battle of Antietam and Robert E. Lee’s Maryland Campaign, September 1862. A close perusal of his endnotes, though, reveals very few actual citations to that work. And then along came Stephen W. Sears with his critically acclaimed book Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam. Sears took the Carman research a bit further by referring to the several collections in the National Archives, the Carman letters at Dartmouth, and the manuscript housed at the Library of Congress.
Other historians have followed suit by tapping the rich holdings of Carman’s papers. Popular author John Michael Priest utilized both the Carman manuscript at the Library of Congress and the so-called “Antietam Studies” at the National Archives for his books on the battles of South Mountain and Antietam. To date, the most extensive use of the Carman collections has been the three-volume study by the aforementioned Joseph Harsh. In 2008, Joseph Pierro, one of Harsh’s graduate students at George Mason University, edited the Carman manuscript for Routledge Press. Pierro did a credible job providing annotated footnotes that both corrected errors in the text and explained more about events and individuals mentioned in the narrative.
Enter Thomas Clemens — a professor of history at Hagerstown Community College, a lifetime student of the Civil War and the Battle of Antietam, and another graduate student of Professor Harsh. Besides his classroom duties, Tom has spent more than three decades as a volunteer at Antietam National Battlefield. Here, he has done everything from delivering lectures to giving costumed interpretive talks on artillery, assisting in the park library, and working weekends with fellow preservationists to clear brush on the battlefield. Tom is also a founder and current President of SHAF: Save Historic Antietam Foundation. With his depth of knowledge and total immersion into the subject for the past decades, Tom could easily carry the nickname “Mr. Antietam.”
Tom has spent many long years poring over both the Carman manuscript and related letters from other holdings to provide Civil War students with the most up-to-date version of Carman’s Maryland Campaign story. With the Savas Beatie publication of The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, we have the convergence of two experts. Ezra Carman, the leading authority on the Maryland Campaign and Antietam, and Tom Clemens, who is easily this country’s foremost authority on Ezra Carman.
The past few decades have witnessed the publication of thousands of books on the Civil War. Only a slim handful stands the test of time. I can confidently conclude that Tom Clemens’ editing of the Carman manuscript will remain one of the most important of the genre ever to be published.
Ted Alexander, Historian, Antietam National Battlefield