14 April 2006
For some time now, maybe the last year or two, I’ve felt too closely focused on the events of one day, 17th September 1862. Not that there isn’t a lifetime’s work yet to be done, or that I’ve done much more than nibble at it, but obviously the Battle of Antietam didn’t spontaneously erupt out of the ground. It is surrounded on all sides – in time, geography, and event – by an ocean of context.
I’ve not entirely ignored the ocean, but haven’t paid it the attention it probably deserves.
So I’ve jumped out of the comfortable boat (a dingy, in this analogy) into the water. I’m not going too far really, only expanding the scope of my research and the website to include the duration of the Maryland Campaign. The period of roughly 4 through 20 September.
I have some reservations.
I worry that AotW will become wider than deep, a trait that would reduce it’s value. There are plenty of survey and CliffNotes versions of history online already. Collection of information in detail beyond the standard and the obvious is my goal at AotW.
I worry also that by expanding the scope, I’m diluting the effort. There’s so much yet to learn and document about the battle, and only so many hours (years) in which to do it.
I’ll just have to work with this for a while and see how it goes.
My first new project is mapping the motion of the military units on the Campaign. To do this, I’m building a new series of theater-scale maps, one per day. The physical context to Antietam.
As I have been plotting units, though, I’m finding there are far more of them than I’d read of previously, and the neat orders of battle with which I’m familiar are of less and less help. Local militia, orphaned cavalry detachments, signalmen, state troops; not to mention rear-area logistics, supply, and communications points.
New and exciting territory, but I may have bitten off more than I can chew.