Ezra Carman – The Maryland Campaign of September 1862

29 03 2008

A couple days ago I succumbed and pre-ordered Joseph Pierro’s new edition of Carman’s definitive study of the Maryland Campaign from Amazon.com.  The book retails for a hefty $95, and Amazon.com offers a 20% discount and another 5% off of that for pre-ordering.  So you can imagine my surprise when a package arrived at my door today (March 29th) and upon opening I found it enclosed that same book!  A zero invoice from Taylor & Francis (parent of publisher Routledge) accompanied it, with the notation Compliments of Francesca Filippeli.  I had mentioned to editor Joseph (Jake) Pierro months ago that I would happily post a blurb on the book here, with the admitted hope of receiving a gratis copy.  Today my shameless efforts paid off, and I had time to cancel my order with Amazon.com!  However, I intended to post my reactions to the book regardless of and uninfluenced by the means of its acquisition.  

Think of Ezra Carman as the John Bachelder of Antietam – though Bachelder would be more accurately described as the Carman of Gettysburg.  Carman may even be Bachelder on steroids.  Within a few weeks of the battle at Sharpsburg, Carman began a careful study of the campaign by touring the battlefields and interviewing participants.  In 1866, he was appointed New Jersey’s trustee in the Antietam National Cemetery Association.  In 1894 he was appointed to the board that oversaw the marking of the battle lines at the Antietam National Battlefield (established in 1890) as its historical expert.  From then until 1898 Carman oversaw the development of the text for and positioning of the battlefield markers.  In 1904, the War Department published Carman’s 14 plate Atlas of the Battlefield of Antietam; regimental level maps which editor Pierro notes form the basis of all subsequent understandings of the tactical evolutions of the battle.  The History is the end – but never before published – result of Carman’s massive research conducted over at least 40 years.  The manuscript and papers, spread over the country in various repositories, have been the basis of influential Maryland Campaign studies like Murfin and Harsh.

Physically, it’s an attractive, oversize book with the artwork printed right onto the cover.  It has the size and heft of a middle-school textbook, which isn’t surprising since Routledge is a textbook publisher.

Inside, Pierro provides a biographical sketch of Carman and an Editor’s Note.  The 24 chapters of Carman’s manuscript span Maryland’s role in the Civil War, the Invasion through Shepherdstown, results of the campaign, and an analysis of the Lincoln/McClellan dynamic.  Fifteen appendices complete the 484 pages of pure text.

Praise the Lord, Pierro liberally employs real, live, bottom-of-the-page footnotes.  Not included in the book are maps or illustrations (other than a frontispiece photo).  Hey, I love maps as much as the next guy – maybe more, since my small brain needs them to help me orientate myself- so I exchanged a few lengthy emails with Jake today, and his rationale for this seems reasonable.  Carman’s manuscript did not include maps either, and this work is Carman’s, with Pierro in the role of editor.  While it may be reasonable to conclude that Carman expected his Atlas of the Battlefield of Antietam to serve as the maps for his manuscript, those maps are quite large and are on a regimental level, making them difficult and, perhaps more important considering the already high price of this book, expensive to reproduce.  The typical purchaser is not likely to be a mapless Antietam neophyte, and the Atlas maps – the 1904 version; there was an edited version produced in 1908 – are available for free online from the Library of Congress’ Making of America website (see here).  All things considered, the decision seems prudent.

Needless to say, the publication of the Carman manuscript is a great contribution to the literature of the1862 Maryland Campaign.

Jake Pierro has graciously agreed to a virtual interview with Bull Runnings, and I hope to get that done and put up in the days ahead.



2 responses

31 03 2008

Looking forward to the interview. I’ve found the War Department tablets at Antietam are a bit easier to understand than those at other battlefields. With a handful of exceptions no ten cent words are used. Terms used are familiar to those with even a basic understanding of military tactics. A lot of that is due to Carman’s approach. Very descriptive, yet informative. My main complaint is the actual placement of the tablets. In some cases these are several hundred if not thousand yards from the activity cited. Not so much Carman’s fault, as he was working within the limitations of what was a very, very confined battlefield park at that time.


28 08 2009
behind AotW » Blog Archive » John Westbrook at Antietam

[…] of the Regiment’s actions on the morning of 17 September are from page 217 of Jake Pierro’s edition of his […]


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