September 10, 2007

Antietam Books

The 145th anniversary of the battle of Antietam (aka Sharpsburg) is one week away. That anniversary coupled with the forthcoming publication of Ezra Carman’s legendary Maryland Campaign manuscript inspired me to discuss books on that battle. The now-standard work on Antietam would be Stephen Sears’ Landscape Turned Red, published 23 years ago and easily obtainable in the first edition. Another modern and well-written study is James Murfin’s The Gleam of Bayonets, published by Thomas Yoseloff in 1965. It's a pricier book than Sears’ and in my opinion, is difficult to find in collector’s condition, especially the easily rubbed, black dust jacket. I know I’m still searching for that elusive copy in premium condition! Note that this title has also been republished by the Easton Press in their traditional full leather and gilt edged format.

As for 19th and early 20th-century titles, there were plenty of articles but surprisingly few books written on "America's singlest bloody day," as compared to the 3-day engagement at Gettysburg. By far the most popular and easiest to obtain is The Antietam and Fredericksburg, written by Francis Winthrop Palfrey, who was also the colonel of the 20th Massachusetts Infantry. It was published in 1882 as part of Scribners' matching 16-volume "Campaigns of the Civil War" series, which was then reissued in 1885 in a special half-leather "Subscription Edition." Critically, it has been described as “..somewhat stilted in style but is still a generally reliable story of the l862 Maryland and Fredericksburg campaigns.” The clothbound first edition is reasonably common with copies in nice condition going for around $30-40.

One other oddity is The North and South at Antietam and Gettysburg by William Spear. This was a 171-page hardcover that was privately published by the author in 1908. I've never seen a copy though it looks like there a couple of beat copies currently for sale on ABE. Can anyone out there fill me in on this title?

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