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3632Re: Any ideas on this book?

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  • joseph_pierro
    Sep 1, 2007
      Hmmmm. You know, I've been rolling your question over and over in my
      brain all day. It's a hard one to answer quantitatively.

      First of all, given the massive size of Carman's manuscript, one can
      find evidence to support almost any claim about it. At over 1,400
      handwritten pages, it would be equally true to say that "It contains
      a lot of factual material found in other sources" as it would be to
      say "It contain a lot of factual material found nowhere else." It
      all depends on which pages you want to hold up to support your
      position.

      Then there's the question of accessibility. A good deal of the
      factual material contained within the manuscript comes from
      nineteenth century sources that are long out of print, often unknown
      save to the most dedicated of Antietam scholars, and can only be
      found in the largest of research libraries. (Double checking some of
      Carman's quotations required trips to the Library of Congress's rare
      book division.) Can you find a good deal of his factual material
      published elsewhere? Yes--but spread across a few hundred books.
      Just to have it all between the two covers of Carman's book is an
      achievement.

      That said, if you mine the footnotes of Sears, Harsh, Murfin, etc.,
      you will find a number of instances where the Carman manuscript turns
      out to be the sole source for the episode in question. (From
      Carman's voluminous personal correspondence, one can compile a
      partial list of the veterans with whom Carman personally walked the
      battlefield. When you come to certain portions of the manuscript
      involving those persons, now and again you come across anecdotes and
      details that do not appear in any known published source. They're
      likely the product of Carman's conversations with the survivors--the
      manuscript providing the only fragments of a written record of those
      talks.)

      Leaving that all aside, there's the question of interpretation. Even
      when discussing facts contained in other sources, Carman brings a
      fresh perspective to the material. We can all agree on what the
      facts are and yet COMPLETELY disagree on what they mean. (In this
      regard, consider the bios of McClellan written by Stephen Sears and
      Ethan Rafuse. They used the exact same source material, yet the
      portraits they drew were so divergent it's hard to believe they're
      talking about the same man.) WHAT Carman has to say about the facts
      is as valuable as the facts he provides--and the former cannot be
      found anywhere save in his manuscript.

      Most importantly, the history of Antietam (as a construct) simply
      can't be understood without reference to Carman's work (the Atlas,
      the manuscript, the battlefield). Everything that has been done
      since with regard to Antietam travels through the prism of Ezra
      Carman. His findings have been employed by every serious study
      produced in the 20th century. Antietam NB's interpretive model--
      heck, its very layout--comes from Carman. Even those who comes to
      different conclusions can only do so by engaging with Carman's
      ideas. (He's like Douglas Freeman in regard to the Army of Northern
      Virginia. Everywhere you look, you have to deal with his influence.
      In the end you may not agree with him, but you can't avoid
      him.)

      My interest in the Carman manuscript was first piqued when I came to
      the acknowledgements page in Landscape Turned Red to find Stephen
      Sears refer to it as "the most detailed account of the events of
      September 17, 1862." Ted Alexander, Carman's 21st century successor
      at Antietam NB, calls the manuscript "one of the most important Civil
      War publications to come out in decades." William C. "Jack" Davis
      says it's "one of the great and largely unknown masterworks of Civil
      War history," Ed Bearss describes it as "a masterpiece," and James
      McPherson asserts that nothing written by another participant "rivals
      in accuracy and thoroughness Ezra Carman's study." I will gladly
      defer to the judgment of my historiographic betters in this
      instance. :)

      In the end, all I can say with certainty is that Carman's manuscript
      is not only important as an artifact of the history of the history of
      Antietam (that's not a typo; the repetition is deliberate), but--even
      100 years after its composition--it makes an important contribution
      to the historiography of Antietam in its own right.

      But if I don't stop TALKING about Carman's book and start INDEXING
      it, you'll never get to see and decide for yourself. :)

      Happy Labor Day to all!

      --jake

      --- In TalkAntietam@yahoogroups.com, "Scott Hann"
      <wutheringheights@...> wrote:
      >
      > Joe, thanks for the exhaustive answer to my question. Quite
      > frankly, I am far more familiar with Bachelder's correspondence
      with
      > Gettysburg veterans than I am with the government-funded manuscript
      > he wrote. I feared that the Carman work would merely rehash
      sources
      > previously published, but apparently this isn't the case. Can you
      > estimate the amount of material that is "fresh," that is, material
      > that hasn't been published previously in either the O.R.'s or
      > regimental histories?
      >
      > I enjoyed reading your article in America's Civil War. I too made
      a
      > contribution to the issue; more than a dozen photos from my
      > collection were used in the magazine.
      >
      > When the publication date nears I'll be sure to ask for an
      > autographed copy of your book.
      >
      > Best wishes,
      >
      > Scott D. Hann
      >
      >
      >
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