Maryland Campaign, Battle of Antietam Focus for Lecture Program, Oct. 13th

Dr. Thomas Clemens

Dr. Thomas G. Clemens

Charleston, W.Va. – Thomas G. Clemens, Ph.D., is one of America’s leading historians on the 1862 Maryland Campaign and the Battle of Antietam and is the world’s foremost expert on Gen. Ezra A. Carman, the campaign’s first historian.  Clemens’ will present “The 1862 Maryland Campaign and Battle of Antietam: Gen. Ezra A. Carman and Its First History,” on Tuesday, October 13 at 7:00 p.m.  The program will be held at the LaBelle Theater in South Charleston.  It is free and open to the public.  A reception and book signing will follow the program.

Clemens’ lecture is the featured program for the 2015 Civil War Scholars Lecture Series, a program of the Kanawha Valley Civil War Roundtable.

“The Antietam Campaign is one of the most important of the entire Civil War.  It marked the first time that the Confederacy invaded the north—and it was done at a time when the South was in the best position to gain its independence.  The Union victory at Antietam not only ended that possibility, but it also provided President Lincoln with the opportunity he needed to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.  The campaign is also important to West Virginia since its opening battle was fought at Harpers Ferry and its closing battle at Shepherdstown,” said Beth White, director of the Civil War Scholars Lecture Series.

“This is an incredible opportunity for area residents to learn about the Antietam Campaign and Gen. Ezra A. Carman, its first historian, from one of America’s leading historians on the subject.”

A veteran of the battle and civil servant after the war, General Carman was appointed historic advisor to the Antietam National Battlefield board in 1894.  Carman’s work resulted in the first narrative history of the campaign, maps and the initial interpretation of the battlefield for visitors.  Clemens has researched and studied Carman’s work for more than 20 years.

“For decades, scholars who have written about the Maryland Campaign and Battle of Antietam have cited Carman’s manuscript, but little was known about the sources that he used.  I wanted to make Carman’s work a more reliable, useful resource,” said Clemens.

One of the most important aspects of Clemens’ work was the discovery of hundreds of firsthand accounts that provided new information about the soldiers’ experiences.

“While Carman was a veteran of the battle himself, the truth is that in the 1890s, he was very much a government employee doing a government job.  He was looking for the facts—where were the soldiers positioned and whom were they fighting.  He didn’t look beyond that.  Yet, when I reviewed the original letters I found powerful, personal narratives that he ignored.  They provide a very human side to the battle that did not exist in the original narrative.  Those narratives make it come alive,” said Clemens.

Dr. Clemens has edited and annotated two volumes of the Ezra Carman papers that have been published—The Maryland Campaign of 1862: Volume 1, South Mountain and The Maryland Campaign of 1862: Volume 2, Antietam.  The third volume, covering the retreat and Battle of Shepherdstown, will be released later this year.  Volume One received the Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Book Award.

Dr. Clemens is the author of numerous journal and history magazine articles on the campaign and has been a licensed battlefield guide at Antietam for more than 30 years.  He is a founding member of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation and has served as its president since 1989.  He is a professor emeritus from Hagerstown Community College and has taught as an adjunct professor for several colleges. He earned his Ph.D. from George Mason University.

The Civil War Scholars Lecture Series is provided with financial assistance from the West Virginia Humanities Council, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Additional support is provided by the South Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Founded in 1983 by local historian Noble K. Wyatt, the Kanawha Valley Civil War Roundtable promotes the study of Civil War history in West Virginia and its lasting effects on society and the preservation of our state’s Civil War sites and artifacts for future generations.  Membership is open to anyone interested in learning more about the Civil War, its place in American history and West Virginia’s unique role in the Civil War era.  There is no membership fee.

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