Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of South Mountain in History and Memory, September 14, 1862

Overview

Many readers of Civil War history have been led to believe the battle of South Mountain (September 14, 1862) was but a trifling skirmish, a preliminary engagement of little strategic or tactical consequence overshadowed by Antietam's horrific carnage just three days later. In fact, the fight was a decisive Federal victory and important turning point in the campaign, as historian Brian Matthew Jordan convincingly argues in his fresh interpretation Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of ...

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Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of South Mountain in History and Memory, September 14, 1862

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Overview

Many readers of Civil War history have been led to believe the battle of South Mountain (September 14, 1862) was but a trifling skirmish, a preliminary engagement of little strategic or tactical consequence overshadowed by Antietam's horrific carnage just three days later. In fact, the fight was a decisive Federal victory and important turning point in the campaign, as historian Brian Matthew Jordan convincingly argues in his fresh interpretation Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of South Mountain in History and Memory, September 14, 1862.

Most authors of the Maryland Campaign brush past South Mountain in a few paragraphs or a single chapter. Jordan, however, presents a full-length study based upon extensive archival research, newspaper accounts, regimental histories, official records, postwar reunion materials, public addresses, letters, and diaries. Readers will come away with a full understanding of the strategic results of the fighting in general, and a keen appreciation of the tactical actions at Fox, Turner, and Crampton's gaps in particular. The Northern victory provided a substantial boost for the downtrodden men of the Union army who recognized the battle for what it was: a sharp, hours-long combat that included hand-to-hand combat and resulted in nearly 5,000 casualties. Indeed, South Mountain was the first conclusive victory for the Army of the Potomac—the first time the men of that army maintained possession of the field and with it the responsibility of burying the dead.

Jordan goes well beyond the military aspects of the battle to better understand and explain how and why South Mountain faded from public memory. He chronicles how and why former Confederates, true to the Lost Cause, insisted they were outnumbered while proud Union veterans remembered South Mountain as a full-scale engagement—wholly distinct from Antietam—where they outfought and defeated their Rebel opponents.

About the Author: Brian Matthew Jordan graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Civil War Era Studies from Gettysburg College. The native of northeastern Ohio discovered a passion for history at an early age. He is a frequent speaker at Civil War Round Tables nationwide, delivers popular tours for Gettysburg College's Civil War Institute and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and conducts seminars for various Teaching American History grant recipients. His published work has appeared in multiple journals including Civil War History. Jordan is currently working on a Ph.D. in History at Yale University.

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What People Are Saying

Peter S. Carmichael
The intense fighting along Antietam Creek has long obscured the historical vision of Americans who tend to see September 17, 1862, as an isolated event of unparalleled historical importance. Brian Jordan assumes a different approach. He broadens our perspective by restoring to prominence the South Mountain battles, and in so doing offers readers a panoramic view of the entire Maryland Campaign that is rarely found in most studies. Unholy Sabbath is an engaging and revealing read, one that explores overlooked and uncharted dimensions of Robert E. Lee's first raid across the Potomac River. (Peter S. Carmichael, Robert C. Fluhrer Professor of History at Gettysburg College and Director of the Civil War Institute)
Allen C. Guelzo
Had there not been a battle at Antietam four days later, the battle of South Mountain would today be hailed as George McClellan's tactical masterpiece, and one of the greatest battles in American history. And with McClellan as the clear-cut victor, there might not have been an Emancipation Proclamation or a second Lincoln presidential term. All this, and much more, is exhumed by Brian Jordan from the historical forgetfulness that has enveloped South Mountain. Unholy Sabbath is at once a painstakingly-detailed battle history, a great campaign study, and a provocatively novel way of treating how our national memory of the Civil War has been created. (Dr. Allen C. Guelzo, Director, Civil War Era Studies Program, Gettysburg College)
Bradley M. Gottfried
Brian Jordan has done a masterful job recounting the largely ignored seminal fight for South Mountain on September 14, 1862. Unholy Sabbath is an admirable achievement, authoritative in its command of the facts and sources and a pleasure to read. Readers will come away with a much better understanding of just how important this battle was to the entire campaign, and just how close General Lee's Confederate army came to disaster. Jordan's Unholy Sabbath is a 'must-have' book. (Bradley M. Gottfried, author of The Maps of Gettysburg and The Maps of Antietam)
Eric J. Wittenberg
Brian Jordan's first book is, without question, the best and most tactically detailed account of the critical Battle of South Mountain, fought on September 14, 1862. The bloodletting at Sharpsburg three days later has always overshadowed South Mountain, and Unholy Sabbath is a big first step toward equalizing that disparity. But for the Union victory at South Mountain, there never would have been an Antietam, and Jordan makes that fact perfectly clear. This is essential reading for anyone interested in the 1862 Maryland Campaign, and I recommend it highly. (Eric J. Wittenberg, award-winning author of Gettysburg's Forgotten Cavalry Actions and Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart's Controversial Ride to Gettysburg)
William C. "Jack" Davis
Jordan's research is excellent, his judgments mature and reasoned, and his writing crisp and engaging. All serve his aim to restore South Mountain to its deserved stature in 'History and Memory' as the place where the Yankee soldier gained the self-respect and confidence to begin the long turn of the tide in the Eastern Theater of the Civil War. (William C. "Jack" Davis, award-winning author of Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour and A Government of Our Own: The Making of the Confederacy)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611210880
  • Publisher: Savas Beatie
  • Publication date: 1/27/2012
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 871,634
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

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