Civil War Book Review: The Maps of Antietam by Brad Gottfried

by Brett Schulte on August 1, 2012 · 3 comments

The Maps Of Antietam Gottfried Savas BeatieGottfried, Bradley M. The Maps of Antietam: An Atlas of the Antietam (Sharpsburg) Campaign, September 2-20, 1862. (Savas Beatie: June 2012). 360 pages, 124 full color, full page maps), bibliography, endnotes, index. ISBN: 978-1-611210-86-6 $39.95 (Hardcover).

WOW.  I’ve never started a review with that word, but I’ll write it again.  WOW.  The Maps of Antietam: An Atlas of the Antietam (Sharpsburg) Campaign, September 2-20, 1862 continues a standard of excellence set by previous books in this series on Gettysburg, First Bull Run, and Chickamauga.  The Battle of South Mountain, the surrender at Harpers Ferry, the main bloodletting at Sharpsburg, the last act at Shepherdstown, and the movements throughout the 1862 Maryland Campaign are covered here on 124 (yes that number is correct) full page, full color maps.  If you ever buy another book on the Maryland Campaign without adequate maps, do not worry.  The Maps of Antietam will have you covered.  This book is a must have item for anyone remotely interested in the Maryland Campaign as a whole or its constituent battles.

Brad Gottfried is the author of numerous books on the Civil War, many of those focusing on the Gettysburg Campaign.  He came up with the idea of full page maps and a page of facing explanatory text while working on some of those Gettysburg books.  He led off this series of Civil War battle atlases with Gettysburg, moved on to First Bull Run, and has now completed Antietam.  Dave Powell, a lifelong student of the Chickamauga campaign, contributed a volume on that western battle.  Gottfried has hinted that he hopes to do every Eastern campaign before this series has run its course, exciting news indeed.

The first striking thing about The Maps of Antietam is its weight.  This is a very well put together book, and you get the sense its bindings will still be in good shape decades from now. The book follows the standards of excellence set from day one in the Savas Beatie “The Maps of…” series.   Each full color map, printed on 70-lb. matte art paper, is displayed on the right hand side of the page.  The accompanying text describing what is happening on the map is on the facing page, making it very easy to follow along.  The maps are so well done that you can quite easily get a feel for the action without even reading the text if so desired.  Maps are broken up into twenty-one “Map Sets”, and each set contains at least one and up to ten maps.  Sources are noted using endnotes, and the notes are very well done and serve as a great resource for further reading on the campaign.

In Map Set 1: The Invasion of Maryland, the early periods of this campaign which involved minor skirmishes and marching only are represented by “zoomed out” maps covering the entire region of Northern Virginia and Maryland from Washington, D.C. in the east to the Potomac River near Williamsport and Harpers Ferry in the west.  Typically corps and division sized blocks are used for infantry, while cavalry may sometimes be broken down further based on the units screening the main bodies of the opposing armies.  Red is used for the Confederates and blue for the Union, a standard color choice.  These maps show the action from when Lee crossed the Potomac into Maryland up to the time the armies were approaching battle at South Mountain on September 13, 1862.  Roads, railroads, rivers, mountains, and cities are represented on the map.

Map Sets 2-7 cover the operations around and Battle of South Mountain, from September 13-14, 1862.  Map set 2 continues with the high level campaign maps, showing the two armies slowly approaching one another and clearly displaying the importance of the South Mountain gaps to the entire outcome of the campaign.  Maps Set 3 is the first set of “battle maps”, looking at the action at Fox’s Gap on the morning of September 14, 1862.  A separate section below will describe the battle maps in further detail.  Map Set 4 continues to look at the Fox’s Gap fighting from noon to evening.  Map Set 5 covers the fighting done primarily by Meade’s Pennsylvania Reserves against Rodes’ Alabamians on the Frosttown Plateau north of Turner’s Gap.  Map Set 6 shows Hatch’s First Corps division moving forward directly against Turner’s Gap and D. H. Hill’s cobbled together defenders.  Map Set 7 completes the South Mountain map sets with a look at Franklin’s Sixth Corps routing the skeleton force of Confederates sent to defend that crucial place.  South Mountain was heavily wooded and very rugged terrain, and the use of hachures to denote elevation does an adequate job of depicting just how far from flat the battlefield was.  Clearly marking the elevations of those lines would have provided an even better understanding for this reader.

Map Set 8 depicts the operations around Harpers Ferry in great detail.  In fact, I had never seen maps quite to this level of detail for those operations before.  The maps start out with a more zoomed out view of the area surrounding this important location, and gradually zoom in to detailed battle maps down to even company level.  The hopelessness of the situation for the trapped Federals under Colonel Dixon Miles becomes apparent when viewing these maps.

Map Sets 9 and 10 take the reader from South Mountain and Harpers Ferry to Sharpsburg and its surrounding area up to the eve of the Battle of Antietam.  The sharp fight between the Pennsylvania Reserves and and Hood’s division on the night of September 16 is rendered down to the regimental and battery level.  A final map shows the battlefield dispositions of all units on the night of September 16 at the brigade and division level.  The stage has been set for the bloodiest single day in American history.

Map Sets 11-20 are the heart of this book, depicting the entire Battle of Antietam at the battery and regimental level, typically from one half hour to an hour at a time.  The battle is broken down as follows by map set:

Northern Combat – (28 maps):

  • Map Set 11: Hooker Opens the Battle (5:15 – 7:00 a.m.) – 6 maps
  • Map Set 12: Hood’s Division Moves Up and Attacks (6:45 – 7:45 a.m.) – 6 maps
  • Map Set 13: Mansfield’s XII Corps Enters the Battle (7:15 – 8:45 a.m.) – 6 maps
  • Map Set 14: Sedgwick’s Division Drives East (8:15 – 9:30 a.m.) – 7 maps
  • Map Set 15: Final Actions on the Northern Front (9:30 – 10:30 a.m.) – 3 maps

Combat in the Center – (8 maps):

  • Map Set 16: The Sunken Road (9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.) – 8 maps

Southern Combat – (16 maps):

  • Map Set 17: The Lower (Burnside’s) Bridge (9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.) – 6 maps
  • Map Set 18: Burnside Advances on Sharpsburg (Afternoon, September 17) – 3 maps
  • Map Set 19: A. P. Hill’s Division Arrives from Harpers Ferry (3:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.) – 7 maps

Overall State of Battlefield, Evening of September 17 – (2 maps):

  • Map Set 20: Evening Stalemate (September 17 – 18, 1862) – 2 maps

To recap, that’s 10 map sets containing 54 full color, full page maps depicting the entire battle at regimental and battery scale.  Again, WOW.

Map Set 21, the last map set in the series, covers the fighting at the Battle of Shepherdstown as the Confederates were withdrawing from the battlefield over the Potomac River into Virginia.  Seven maps compose this final map set in the book.

Before moving on to cover the rest of the items in this magnificent book, I’d like to take a look at a representative battle map and point out what you can expect.  Feel free to left click on the image below to bring up a full sized image of the map while reading this review.

Map 12.3 Hood Attacks the Cornfield at Antietam, Maps of Antietam, Gottfried

Direction is clearly represented by a large circle with an arrow pointing north to orient the reader.  Regiments, the smallest standard unit of organization typically broken down to in a battle, are represented by blue (Union) and red (Confederate) rectangles.  Batteries of artillery are represented gun by gun, and although they are not color coded, they are not difficult to assign to one army or the other based on their location and in which direction the guns are facing.  Houses are rendered in black squares, and depending on the lighting, they tend to look a lot like Union regiments if you are not careful.  Vegetation is rendered with the following distinctions: woods, corn, orchard, stubble, and plowed.  Fences are divided into the following categories: rail, post/rail, and stone.  Elevation is marked with hachures but the specific elevation is not listed on each specific line of elevation. This is an area which could be improved in future volumes in this series.  A clear map scale is laid out at the bottom of the map, the map number is listed, and the time frame the map represents is clearly marked.  Browns are typical for roads, plowed fields, and fences, green for vegetation, blue for water, and black for text.   To reiterate, these maps take up one entire page and are rendered in full color.

Appendix 1 contains a complete order of battle for both sides for the campaign down to the regimental and battery level.  Commanders are listed for every organization listed all the way down to those individual regiments and batteries.  Unit strengths were not listed at all.  The Maryland Campaign remains one of the most difficult to assign solid troop strength numbers due to the massive straggling in Lee’s army. Still, others have attempted this and it would have been nice to see here as well.  Another point of contention is the organization of Lee’s army at this time.  The more simplified view of Longstreet’s Wing and Jackson’s Wing, used here, seems to originate from an Official Records order of battle from October 1862, after the battle.  Much evidence suggests that Lee’s command structure was much more convoluted during the Maryland Campaign.  As Gottfried says, however, no original research is done in this book and the exact makeup of Lee’s army is still in dispute.  See here for an example of challenges to the two wing structure at Antietam.

Appendix 2 is an interview with Brad Gottfried covering various points of interest from this series of books.  Among the highlights:

  • Gottfried became interested in the Civil War as a youngster, went away to college, and then did not pick up a Civil War book again until he was 42 years old!
  • Upcoming volumes in the “Maps of…” series include a book on the post-Gettysburg 1863 campaigns in the East (cavalry battles, Bristoe Station, Rappahannock Station, and Mine Run) as well as Part 1 of an 1864 Overland Campaign series (Wilderness and Spotsylvania).
  • Gottfried first came up with the idea for these atlases while writing Brigades of Gettysburg, when he needed to know the exact location of various regiments at given times and realized no one book gave him everything he needed.
  • The author does his own maps because this is a very time consuming process which makes it difficult for two people to collaborate on.
  • Gottfried offers his thoughts on whether or not he thinks Sharpsburg was a good place for Lee to offer battle.  Hint: it wasn’t.

Some subset of the people reading this review are probably wondering how this book compares to John Michael Priest’s two books covering South Mountain and Antietam in the late eighties and early nineties.  I own all three books and came up with the following attempt to answer that question, at least on a basic level.  First, let’s cover the most basic facts.  John Michael Priest published Antietam: The Soldier’s Battle in 1989.  It contains 72 maps in black and white which cover the September 16-17, 1862 fighting at The Battle of Antietam.  All of Priest’s maps are very zoomed in.  You see only a small portion of the battlefield, but you never see the full battlefield.  The campaign is not covered at all.  This book focuses exclusively on the Battle of Antietam.  Shortly after the first book, Priest followed up with Before Antietam: The Battle for South Mountain.  Seventy black and white maps cover the action from September 5-15, 1864 during the Maryland Campaign.  This is, in essence, Priest covering the rest of the Maryland Campaign.  He does have some more zoomed out campaign maps, but he also includes his bread and butter battle maps.  Many of the battle maps in this book do not have the time clearly marked on them, a downside in what is a very micro-detailed tactical history of the fighting.  In both books, Priest hand draws unit movements on what appear to be computer generated maps.  The maps do look slightly less polished than completely computer generated maps would, but overall the effect is not displeasing.  Most Priest maps, like those in The Maps of Antietam, cover periods ranging from 15 minutes to an hour.  Like Gottfried, Priest uses hachures to depict elevation changes, and like Gottfried, the exact elevations are not written down along the hachures.  At times, Gottfried’s elevation marks tend to blend into fence lines, while Priest’s generally do not suffer from this issue.  Ironically, the black and white rendering is what reduces this issue at least in part.  Priest does try to calculate numbers and losses in his order of battle, something Gottfried steered clear of.  Both books depict regiments with their numerical designation rendered in a number followed by the state as its postal abbreviation.  Examples include “5 TX” for the 5th Texas, and “2 WI” for the 2nd Wisconsin.  Priest does not tie one page of text to one map on the facing page as Gottfried does.  Instead, his maps appear every 2-3 pages and are close to the text they match up with, but not always without turning a page or two.  In some cases maps appear on consecutive pages.  Gottfried tries to synthesize accepted standard accounts of the fighting with some first person accounts thrown in to spice things up.  Priest tends to focus almost entirely on first person accounts to the detriment of After briefly glancing through the three books, it is fair to say Gottfried’s book is an updated and more readable version of events which provides the bigger picture as well as the infantryman’s view of the fighting using color rather than black and white maps.  Although I do not personally have time to do so, I’d love to see a detailed, multi-part set of blog entries focusing on some portion of the fighting at Antietam which covers the differences in what the maps depict between Sears, Priest, and Gottfried.  I am sure there are subtle and not so subtle differences, but real life prevents me from engaging in such a fascinating exercise at this time.

My reviews rarely contain paragraphs solely devoted to the wargamers’ perspective anymore, but the Savas Beatie “Maps of…” series is clearly a wargamer’s dream.  Creating literally dozens of scenarios for all of the fighting during the Maryland Campaign of 1862 just became much easier as a result of this book.  Pair The Maps of Antietam with Scott Mingus’ Antietam wargaming book containing the strengths and losses in the campaign and you’ll have everything you need to wargame the campaign, including strengths at various times, casualties, unit quality, weapons carried, organization, and exact placement at various moments in time.  Anyone interested in wargaming the Battle of Antietam, Harpers Ferry, or South Mountain will find these books indispensable.

The end notes reach from page 268 to 299.  Gottfried relies on mainstays like the Official Records, Carman’s manuscript, and materials written by men who were there.  In addition, some of the best modern day scholarship on the campaign, from Joe Harsh to Timothy Reese, plays a solid supporting role.  The bibliography runs from page 300 to page 311.  Gottfried relied heavily on the collection at Antietam National Battlefield for first person sources and supplemented that with other archival materials.  The list of secondary accounts referenced is also impressive.  It should be mentioned again that Gottfried himself admits he is breaking no new interpretive ground with this book, and that this was never the intention.

The Maps of Antietam: An Atlas of the Antietam (Sharpsburg) Campaign, September 2-20, 1862 carries on the excellent tradition of the Savas Beatie “Maps of …” series.  Brad Gottfried has produced a stunningly beautiful, clearly readable, concise history of the Maryland Campaign which relies as heavily on maps as it does text.  The 124 full color, full page maps are accompanied by standard accounts of the campaign on a facing page of text.  Maps range from extremely zoomed out campaign maps to specific tactical actions on various portions of the battlefields of the Antietam Campaign.  The text is fully sourced, and those sources provide a rich range of literature which students of the campaign will find useful as leads for further reading, especially of primary accounts.  Wargamers will find this book tailor made to guiding their efforts at creating scenarios for the battles at South Mountain and Sharpsburg.  Battlefield stompers will find the sturdy construction will allow for use while walking the ground over which these battles were contested almost 150 years ago.  Anyone remotely interested in this campaign will want to own this well made, well designed, and fascinating look at the 1862 Maryland Campaign.  At only $30 on Amazon, this book is a steal.  Buy this book.  You will not be disappointed.

Note: This book was provided gratis for the purposes of this review.

***

Check out the Siege of Petersburg Online for daily posts on battle accounts in newspaper articles, diary entries, letters and more!

What are your Top 10 Gettysburg Books? See what a panel of bloggers said recently.

Want to read some interesting Civil War content from amateurs and pros alike? Check out the Top 10 Civil War Blogs and Top 10 Civil War Blogs: 11-20.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ted Savas August 2, 2012 at 7:18 am

Brett.

Wow. I don’t usually begin blog post comments that way. Many thanks for performing such an in-depth review of this important new book.

One of the neat things we really did not see in advance was that these books in our Savas Beatie Military Atlas series “unlock” everything else written on these campaigns/battles. As one reader told me yesterday, he was re-reading “Landscape Turned Red” by Sears with Gottfried’s “Maps of Antietam” open right next to him. That is rewarding to hear.

Thanks again for all you do to keep independent Civil War publishing alive in this challenging market environment.

Ted

Reply

Savas Beatie August 2, 2012 at 11:16 am

Thank you for the great review of our book, The Maps of Antietam. You might also like our Maps of Antietam book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-d6nzRjCiM&list=UU0dF8dGp79SYwY9VAHef9qA&index=2&feature=plcp.
Savas Beatie LLC
Publisher of Historical Titles of Distinction
http://www.savasbeatie.com
http://www.facebook.com/savasbeatie

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: