Calamity at Frederick: Robert E. Lee, Special Orders No. 191, and Confederate Misfortune on the Road to Antietam

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Alexander Rossino
Pub Date:
October 2023
18 images, 10 maps, 168 pp
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Companion volume to The Tale Untwisted: General George B. McClellan, the Maryland Campaign, and the Discovery of Lee’s Lost Orders

Click HERE to read the Front Matter and Chapter 1!


Check out the high-quality reprint of the Antietam Official Records volumes HERE


About the Book

The loss of Robert E. Lee's Special Orders No. 191 is one of the Civil War’s enduring mysteries. But there is a LOT you have never been told.

In this meticulous study, Alex Rossino presents a bold new interpretation of the evidence surrounding the creation of the orders, their distribution, and their loss outside Frederick, Maryland, in September 1862.

Rossino makes extensive use of primary sources to explore these subjects and other important questions related to the orders, including why General Lee thought his army could operate north of the Potomac until winter; why Lee found it necessary to seize the Federal garrison at Harpers Ferry; what Lee hoped to accomplish after capturing Harpers Ferry; where Corporal Barton Mitchell of the 27th Indiana found the Lost Orders; and if D. H. Hill or someone else was to blame for losing the orders. The result is a well-documented reassessment that sheds new light while challenging long-held assumptions.

Calamity at Frederick is the Confederate companion to The Tale Untwisted by Gene M. Thorp and Alexander Rossino, which told the story from the Union perspective.



Advance Praise

“Stimulating and provocative. This is a fine piece of work.” — James M. McPherson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom


“‘Calamity’ is the word Robert E. Lee used to describe the loss of his campaign orders for the Confederate invasion of Maryland in 1862, and that is no overestimate. Yet, few single moments in the American Civil War have been so misunderstood as the loss and recovery of Special Orders No. 191; even the most detailed histories of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 fail to explain how Special Orders No. 191 were written, when and where they were lost and found, and what their exact consequences were. Rossino’s Calamity at Frederick is the first exhaustive account of the mysteries surrounding the loss of Special Orders No. 191 and is admirable in its painstaking reconstruction of the creation of the Lost Orders, its thorough attention to the timing and location of their discovery, and above all, to the actual results of their discovery. This is a major contribution to the history of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and shines a relentlessly illuminating spotlight on the incident which, maybe more than any other, cost the Southern Confederacy its bid for independence.” — Allen C. Guelzo, author of Gettysburg: The Last Invasion and Robert E. Lee: A Life


“Rossino’s new study brings to light new sources that reveal how Special Orders No. 191 were conceived, distributed, and written. In turn, he poses a new theory about who may have been the culprit behind the loss of one of those copies. Calamity at Frederick is an important contribution to the growing historiography of the Maryland Campaign.” — Kevin R. Pawlak, author of Such a Clash of Arms: The Maryland Campaign, September 1862 and co-author of To Hazard All: A Guide to the Maryland Campaign, 1862







A resident of western Maryland, Dr. Alex Rossino is an independent historian and author. He earned Master’s and Doctoral degrees in History at Syracuse University before working for nine years as a historian at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Dr. Rossino turned his attention to the American Civil War in 2011 and after several years of research, he produced Six Days in September: A Novel of Lee's Army in Maryland, September 1862. The book proved to be popular among historians and enthusiasts alike, leading to a sequel titled The Guns of September: A Novel of McClellan's Army in Maryland, September 1862, which is tentatively scheduled for release in 2023. Dr. Rossino also returned to writing history, producing Their Maryland: The Army of Northern Virginia from the Potomac Crossing to Sharpsburg in September 1862 (November 2021) and co-authoring with Gene Thorp The Tale Untwisted: General George B. McClellan, The Maryland Campaign, and the Discovery of Lee's Lost Orders, which came out in January 2023. Both books challenge long-held beliefs about the 1862 Maryland Campaign and offer new insight into one of the Civil War's most important periods.