The Tale Untwisted: General George B. McClellan, the Maryland Campaign, and the Discovery of Lee’s Lost Orders

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January 2023
18 images, 17 maps, 192 pp
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Companion volume to Calamity at Frederick: Robert E. Lee, Special Orders No. 191, and Confederate Misfortune on the Road to Antietam

Click HERE to read the Front Matter and part of Chapter 1!


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


About the Book

The discovery of Robert E. Lee’s Special Orders No. 191 outside of Frederick, Maryland, on September 13, 1862, is one of the most important and hotly disputed events of the American Civil War. For more than 150 years, historians have debated if George McClellan, commander of the Union Army of the Potomac, dawdled after receiving a copy of the orders before warily advancing to challenge Lee’s forces atop South Mountain.

In The Tale Untwisted, authors Gene Thorp and Alexander Rossino document in exhaustive fashion how “Little Mac” in fact moved with uncharacteristic energy to counter the Confederate threat and take advantage of Lee’s divided forces, seizing the initiative and striking a blow in the process that wrecked Lee’s plans and sent his army reeling back toward Virginia.

This study is a beautifully woven tour de force of primary research that may well be the final word on the debate over the fate and impact of the Lost Orders on the history of the 1862 Maryland Campaign.

Advance Praise

“Thorp and Rossino make a very persuasive case for McClellan having received the Lost Orders in mid-afternoon and sending his dispatch to Lincoln at midnight on September 13, 1862. If I were writing my Antietam book today, I would follow their account.” - James M. McPherson, author of Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom

“This well-documented and logical explanation of the controversial Lee’s ‘Lost Orders’ debate finally puts the actions of General George McClellan in a proper context. Before a single Union soldier took a step in response to any order based on finding S.O. 191, Lee remarked that he found the Union army ‘advancing more rapidly than convenient.’ Now we know why.” - Thomas G. Clemens, ed., The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, Vols. 1–3

“A clear, extremely well-researched study exploring when Lee’s famous ‘Lost Orders,’ S.O. 191, came into McClellan’s possession and how he responded to them. It is good history and anyone with an interest in the 1862 Maryland Campaign will find it a fascinating and illuminating read.” - D. Scott Hartwig, author of To Antietam Creek: The Maryland Campaign of September 1862

“Who Lost the Lost Orders? is the greatest single mystery of the Civil War. But chasing its answer has frequently distracted attention from the larger mystery of what George B. McClellan did with the discovery of the Lost Orders. For almost a century-and-a-half, opinion has followed McClellan’s legion of critics in blaming him for ‘dawdling,’ even with the greatest intelligence coup of the war in his hands. Gene Thorp and Alexander Rossino beg, very pointedly, to differ. In The Tale Untwisted, they offer an alternative view, with McClellan in heated pursuit of the Confederate army, managing a badly demoralized and hastily improvised Army of the Potomac and deploring a lackluster surrender of Harpers Ferry that ought never to have occurred.” - Allen C. Guelzo, author of Robert E. Lee: A Life and Gettysburg: The Last Invasion

Born in Baltimore, Gene Thorp is a senior cartographer at the U.S. Department of State Office of the Geographer. He spent 15 years as an award-winning graphics editor at The Washington Post covering daily stories from the 2000 Bush-Gore election to the rise and fall of the Islamic State. His custom maps can be found in numerous non-fiction books on the New York Times Best-Seller list and throughout museums and parks across America. 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.