Preview: “Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of South Mountain in History and Memory” – and a Preservation Opportunity

26 02 2012

I’ve mentioned before that I serve on the board of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation, which does good preservation work down Western Maryland way. The good folks at Savas-Beatie publishing have partnered with us in the ongoing effort to raise funds for the preservation of Civil War sites in the Antietam vicinity. When you order a product from the S/B website (, simply enter SHAF as the coupon code and 10% of the retail price of your order will go directly to SHAF. This applies to all S/B titles, including current releases like Brian Jordan’s “Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of South Mountain in History and Memory” and SHAF President Dr. Thomas Clemens’s “The Maryland Campaign of September, 1862, Vol. I”, as well as upcoming titles like Vol. II of Tom’s work and Bradley Gottfried’s “The Maps of Antietam.” This is a great way to build your library with quality books and help SHAF achieve its goals in the process. Remember, enter SHAF as the coupon code.

Speaking of “Unholy Sabbath”, I recently received a copy in the mail. Physically, this is the standard, high quality book you’ve come to expect from Savas-Beatie. The author is a very young cat, a 2009 graduate of Gettysburg College who is currently working on his PhD. at some sheepskin factory called Yale. The author’s academic bent is reflected in the use of a colon in the title, and the focus on memory – not that there’s anything wrong with that (the memory thing, I mean). This is an example of the “new” military history, and I’m all for it, as how the fighting is remembered by participants and the public as time passes is fascinating to me, and tells a bigger story. It’s richly illustrated and includes plenty of Brad Gottfried maps – unfortunately, these don’t have topo lines and the lay of the land was vitally important to how the fighting developed at the passes. It’s a minor quibble for me, but then I’m pretty familiar with the area. Also included are full Orders of Battle and an extensive bibliography that confirms the author’s use of a wide array of manuscript and published primary and secondary sources. I say give it a whirl, though I must admit I have BIG problems with his description of Special Orders 191.

You can follow “Unholy Sabbath” on Facebook here.

And here’s the book trailer:



5 responses

26 02 2012
Steven Stanley


It is a nice book and I agree with you on the maps. I will have to send you copies of my South Mountain maps for J.D.s and my Complete Antietam Guide book.

Steve Stanley


26 02 2012
Harry Smeltzer

I look forward to seeing them, Steve.


27 02 2012


James A. Kaser wrote a book in 1996 called “At the Bivouac of Memory,
History, Politics, and the battle of Chickamauga.” He was working as an archivist at BGSU in Ohio in 1989 when the Library purchased a crude wooden compartmented box that turned out to be the field desk of Col. Arnold McMahan of the 21st Ohio, whose revolving muskets made such a critical difference on Snodgrass Hill. The desk was full of war records and testimonial letters from the men of the 21st, not handled since the 1890’s. They primarily concerned Chickamauga, and the 21st OVI’s exact position during the final stand. The funny thing was that many of the firsthand statements of the men did not match up with the “official” account being compiled at the time by the famous newspaperman of Cincinatti,Henry Van Ness Boynton, (who fought with the 35th OVI.) Boynton was one of the main forces behind the organization of the Chickamauga Chattanooga National Military park, and had a running battle of sorts in the press with Col. McMahan over what units were actually there on Snodgrass Hill, and what they actually did. Also many of these Union veterans were against inviting the former confederate “traitors” to share any part of the memorial park. Needless to say the well connected Boynton, and the national need to reconcile both sections won, and his version of history,(which glorifies the valor of both sides,) won out and is the official line enshrined there to this day. Kaser, not a military historian, was studying the scientific nature of memory along the lines of writers like Gene Wise, Carl Becker, and Charles Beard when he was assigned to catalog the 21st OVI’s last documents. The book that resulted examines the difference between the gritty firsthand experience and the sanitized marble rememberence, and the process and politics of how it all came to be remembered that way. A very obscure book, but I thought I would recommend it.


28 02 2012
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks for the tip, Luke!


28 02 2012

As always, thank you for the great review of our book, Unholy Sabbath. If your readers would like more information about the book, including an excerpt, or its author, please check at
Savas Beatie LLC
Publisher of Historical Titles of Distinction


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