by Curtis L. Older
Philadelphia: Casemate, 2023. Pp. xii, 230.
Illus., maps, appends, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 1636242731
A Critical Small Action on the Eve of Antietam
The author of several books on the history of the region around Fox's Gap in Maryland, in his latest work Older takes a careful look at Confederate Brig. Gen. John Bell Hood's operations in the vicinity on September 14, 1862, South Maintain, Turner's Gap, and Fox's Gap. With regard to Fox's Gap, he pretty much refutes the work of everyone who has ever written about what Hood did with his two brigades as they moved south of the Old National Pike and Turner's Gap that day. Older concludes that Hood and his troops were not near Fox's Gap, but rather at the intersection of what are now the Moser Road and Reno Monument Road, about a half mile west of Fox's Gap.
The reverse at South Mountain, Turner's Gap, and Fox’s Gap were so significant that Robert E. Lee prepared for what would have been his first retreat, until he received word of Stonewall Jackson's success at Harpers Ferry. Lee then moved his army to Sharpsburg where the battle of Antietam took place on September 17th, a tactical draw though in the end Lee retreated back to Virginia. At the time and since, soldiers and historians have considered these battles an important turning point in the war, and perhaps Lee’s biggest miscalculation. To many, the Union success was a great victory, one which, Older argues has been largely forgotten, diminished, or neglect by many scholars.
Older makes his case while critiquing the work of such historians as Ezra Carman, Scott Hartwig, Stephen Sears, John Priest, John Hoptak, and Brian Jordan. In every case, he explains his reasons for disagreeing or for accepting their analysis, presenting the evidence for the readers, so they can better understand his case.
Following the battles of the Maryland Campaign, Abraham Lincoln visited the battlefields with George McClellan, among them Fox’s Gap. And Lincoln announced the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation soon after, on the evening of September 24th, 1862.
Older makes his case in six chapters,
· "Approaching Battle",
· "Fox’s Gap – The Union Perspective,"
· "Fox’s Gap – The Confederate Perspective
· Brigadier General John Bell Hood’s Advance,"
· "The Confederate Dilemma at Turner’s Gap," and
· "After South Mountain."
Older makes extensive use of primary sources, bringing readers eyewitness accounts from many soldiers from both armies, and an impressive number of maps, which support his argument that many authors have not always understood the landscape features of the battlefield at the time of the fighting, leading to incorrect conclusions concerning Hood’s movements and encounters with Union forces.
This reviewer recommends this important new comprehensive work that should be read by serious history buffs of the Maryland Campaign.
Our Reviewer: David Marshall has been a high school American history teacher in the Miami-Dade School district for more than three decades. A life-long Civil War enthusiast, David is president of the Miami Civil War Round Table Book Club. In addition to numerous reviews in Civil War News and other publications, he has given presentations to Civil War Round Tables on Joshua Chamberlain, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the common soldier. His most recent previous reviews here include Civil War Monuments and Memorials, The Tale Untwisted, The Confederate Military Forces in the Trans-Mississippi West, The Civilian War, The Carnage was Fearful, The Civil Wars of Joseph E. Johnston, Confederate States Army, Vol. I, Navigating Liberty: Black Refugees and Antislavery Reformers in the Civil War South, Gettysburg In Color, Vol 1, "The Bullets Flew Like Hail", John Brown's Raid, Searching For Irvin McDowell, A House Built by Slaves, They Came Only To Die, General Grant and the Verdict of History, Gettysburg In Color, Vol 2, Man of Fire, and To the Last Extremity.
Note: Hood's Defeat Near Fox's Gap is also available in audio- and e-editions.
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