Outstanding soldier vignettes: Provide details, details, details, but don't overwhelm me. Humanize the men and boys who fought. Tell me something I don't know. Give me a few goosebumps when I take the book with me to a battlefield to walk in a private's footsteps.
Photos: I'm a visual guy, so I want lots of images. Don't crush me with text. I want a book I can take into the field to compare the photos to the actual battlefield scene.
Directions, directions, directions: Make it easy for me to get from Point A to Point B to Point C. I graduated from West Virginia University and sometimes can be easily confused. Be explicit.
|A Field Guide to Antietam (2016) was published by|
The University of North Carolina Press.
Finally, I want big, accurate maps, preferably in color and with lots of detail, If the maps are postage stamp-sized and the text requires a magnifying glass to read, you've lost me.
A Field Gude to Antietam (The University of North Carolina Press) by Carol Reardon and Tom Vossler, a retired U.S. Army officer, easily meets all my criteria. I'm not surprised. During a visit in January to my favorite bookstore, Half Price Books in Dallas, I bought their 2013 battlefield guidebook, A Field Guide to Gettysburg. After a quick perusal of the slick, 454-page book in our hotel room, I wondered what took me so long to part with my cash.
At 347 pages, their Antietam book is slimmer, but it follows the same excellent, easy-to-read format as the Gettysburg guide. There are sections titled "Who Fell Here?." "Who Commanded Here?" and "Who Fought Here?" that are packed with detail. And I absolutely love the soldier vignettes near the end of each battlefield stop section.
Reardon, the George Winfree Professor of American History at Penn State, mined pension records, period newspapers, regimental histories and more for amazing gems on Antietam soldiers. One of my favorites is the one on the Hyatt boys, brothers in Company C of the 3rd Arkansas. Elijah died of his Antietam wound on Oct. 2, 1862. Robert was wounded in the thigh and had his leg amputated but survived. Another brother, Benjamin, was in a hospital in Winchester, Va., and missed the fighting at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. He wrote to inform his parents of his brothers' fate, noting about Robert, "[He] bears his calamity like a man [,] is very cheerful [,] he is not yet eighteen years old but with many others has sealed his devotion with his blood."
Speaking of gems, I asked Reardon for her favorite out-of-the-way spots on the Antietam battlefield. Here's what she wrote:
|Bas-relief images of William McKinley as soldier and U.S. president on memorial near Burnside Bridge.|
|The imposing lion on the 15th Massachusetts monument.|
|Gravestones for Werner von Bachelle and Peter Kop at Antietam National Cemetery. (Find A Grave)|
|Near crest of hill overlooking the infamous Bloody Lane.|