Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gottfried: "THE MAPS OF ANTIETAM: An Atlas of the Antietam (Sharpsburg) Campaign, Including the Battle of South Mountain, September 2 - 20, 1862"

[ The Maps of Antietam: An Atlas of the Antietam (Sharpsburg) Campaign, Including the Battle of South Mountain, September 2 - 20, 1862 by Bradley M. Gottfried (Savas Beatie, 2012). Hardcover, 124 color maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. 345 pp. ISBN:978-1-611210-86-6 $39.95 ]

The Maps of Antietam is the fourth Civil War volume in the much admired Savas Beatie Military Map Series, and the third offering from Bradley Gottfried. For those unfamiliar with these books, they are much more than a traditional atlas and completely original in the Civil War sphere of military history publishing. Maps are organized into thematic sets [in this case, there are 21 "action-sections" covering topics like the overall campaign, the fighting at the South Mountain gaps, the capture of Harpers Ferry, the various phases of the battle of Antietam itself, and the final spasm of violence at Shepherdstown]. The 124 maps (of operational and micro-tactical varieties) are multi-color affairs, with brilliantly detailed depictions of the terrain and meticulous notations of unit positions (at the level of companies, regiments, and batteries for the tactical maps) and movements. Opposite each map, is a full page of narrative, closely tied to the action.

The series has definitely matured over time. The most helpful customer suggestions (e.g. the lack of time interval estimates in the first Gettysburg edition) have been applied to subsequent volumes. Initially, I wasn't sold on the necessity to go full color, but this book, especially, with its myriad of terrain features, shouts out for the visual contrast that only color can offer. The transcendent beauty and utility of the work of the field's best cartographers, exemplified by guys like Steven Stanley, can unreasonably raise reader expectations, but Gottfried's mapmaking skills are nothing to scoff at and have definitely improved [sample pdf]. Gottfried's writing also gets better with each book, and it is no mean feat to have to cram descriptions of events displaying such a wide variety of complexity into a fixed amount of space, but a nagging number of errors still dog the text and titles. Another complaint is the lack of true elevation contour lines. These are not terribly essential for the Antietam battlefield, but the generic hash lines representing heights, while a mostly adequate compromise, do not really effectively portray the vertical ruggedness of the South Mountain and Harpers Ferry battlefields.

The need for better proofing aside, the narrative sections of the atlas, in addition to their role as 'map captions on steroids', are gleaned from the latest scholarship and together comprise a fine running history of the campaign and its many battles. The book is a must-have for any Antietam/Sharpsburg reference library, but even those with only a casual interest in the great battle -- but an abiding love of Civil War maps (like me) -- will often find themselves absorbed to the extent of wondering where the hours went!  Future volumes are greatly anticipated and word is already out that the next atlas will cover the 1863  post-Gettysburg campaigns in the eastern theater.


Links to reviews of earlier Savas Beatie Military Map Series titles:
Vol. 1 - The Maps of Gettysburg
Vol. 2 - The Maps of First Bull Run
Vol. 3 - The Maps of Chickamauga

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the great review our book, The Maps of Antietam. You may also enjoy the book trailer which you can view here: http://tinyurl.com/bpj2fgu.
    Savas Beatie LLC
    Publisher of Historical Titles of Distinction
    www.savasbeatie.com
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