Book Review: Their Maryland: The Army of Northern Virginia From the Potomac Crossing to Sharpsburg in September 1862

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by Alexander B. Rossino

El Dorado Hills, Ca.: Savas Beatie, 2021. Pp. 312. Illus., maps, notes, biblio. $32.95. ISBN: 1611215579

The Confederate Experience in Maryland

Dr. Rossino opens by saying that Their Maryland grew out of the writing of his 2011 historical novel Six Days in September. His research turned up much material about the Maryland Campaign of September 4–20, 1862, that did not make it into the book. Since then, having gathered more information on the events of the summer from an abundance of primary sources, he has now incorporated everything into this new book. Drawing on numerous accounts of the campaign written by Confederate soldiers, he argues that many of the accepted conclusions about the events in Maryland need revision.

Rossino covers the Confederate operations in Maryland in a series of seven chapters, each of which addresses a particular important aspect of the campaign. So we get a look at the question of whether Robert E. Lee hoped to foment a pro-Confederate rebellion in Maryland, the actual crossing of the Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland, the Confederate encampments near Frederick City and the famous “Lost Order”, the reception the army received upon entering Maryland, an overview of how events unfolded, and a critical look at Lee’s defensive posture at Sharpsburg on September 15–16, 1862. Finally, Rossino gives an analysis of Lee’s decision making on the field at Sharpsburg / Antietam on September 17th, why he fought there and what he hoped to achieve there.

Rossino argues that Lee hoped – believed? – that once he entered their state Marylanders would rise up and secede from the Union, and strengthen his army by several thousand volunteers. This would gain for the Confederacy an important victory, and force the federal government to abandon Washington, D.C. Recognition and assistance would then be forthcoming from Great Britain and France, forcing the North to sue for peace, thus securing the independence of the Confederate States of America.

This did not happen, and Rossino argues that Lee’s soldiers were disappointed that they did not receive a much better reception from the citizens of Maryland, and they were disillusioned that the state would not support the Southern cause for independence in a significant way. He found soldiers who believed that Maryland residents had a common view with other Southerners about slavery, but did not share their views about secession.

Rossino makes a number of other interesting points, clearing up historical mysteries. He delves into the question of Lee’s Special Lost Order 191, offering an interesting hypothesis on how and by whom it came to be lost and later picked up by some soldiers from the 27th Indiana.

He also offers a new perspective on the famous photograph of Confederate infantry stopped in the streets of Frederick, Maryland, which has been attributed to Jubal Early’s passage through the town in 1864, but may more likely have been some of Lee’s men in 1862.

Similarly, drawing upon hitherto unused primary source, Rossino takes issue with such historians as Ezra Carmen and Joseph Harsh on Lee’s actions during the battle of Antietam, arguing that the general played an active role in directing the fighting, trying at every opportunity to control the events.

Rossino includes a series of appendices which expand on some matters discussed in his main text or deal with unusual events that unfolded during the campaign, from the authenticity of several photographs, additional details on the “Lost Order”, men who refused to “invade” the North, efforts to capture “contrabands”, and more.

Rossino’s book is an interesting and fast moving read, offering insights into the thoughts of the Confederate officers and common soldiers that undertook the campaign. Their Maryland adds much to the historiography of the Antietam Campaign and is highly recommended by this reviewer.

 

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 previous reviews here include, , Voices of the Army of the Potomac, The Record of Murders and Outrages, Gettysburg 1963, No Common Ground, Confederate Conscription and the Struggle for Southern Soldiers, Stephen A. Swails, The Great ‘What Ifs’ of the American Civil War Chained to History, Grant vs. Lee: Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War, Spectacle of Grief, Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man of the Confederacy, and First Fallen: The Life of Colonel Ellsworth,

 

 

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Note: Their Maryland is also available in e-editions.

 

StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

www.nymas.org

Reviewer: David Marshall   


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