Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A Big Batch of Propaganda: George Patton and the Countown to D-Day

Patton inspecting troops (with redacted insignias) in England.
On the eve of D-Day, George S. Patton was on the road to redemption. His actions of August 1943 during the Sicilian Campaign dulled the luster of his notable victories in the Mediterranean. Enraged by his discovery of two shell-shocked combatants who he thought cowardly, Patton slapped and berated the battle fatigued veterans. The scandalous incidents garnered him widespread disdain among American readers. Temporarily exiled in the wake of heated public outrage, the general became a pariah as his colleagues charted one of the great campaigns of the Second World War.

Capitalizing off the Germans’ dual fear and admiration of Patton, Allied planners elevated the general as a centerpiece of Operation Fortitudethe epic ruse to conceal the French invasion’s true target. The Nazi high command considered Patton the absolute best Allied field commander. The enemy therefore surmised Patton would lead the invasion from Dover to the Pas de Calaisthe thinnest neck of the English Channel.

By contrast, Dwight Eisenhower and George Marshall felt Patton too brash for such a delicate operation and appointed the more subdued Omar Bradley to spearhead the American ground campaign in Normandy. Feeding German anticipation, Patton was placed in charge of a fictitious “Phantom Army” comprised of phony soldiers, inflatable tanks, and artificial ships to offer the illusion of an Allied thrust aimed at Calais. Among other components of military trickery, dummy Spitfire aircraft could be assembled from two large duffle bags. Victory grew dependent upon not only bombs and bullets, but intelligence and deception. If successful, Fortitude would prevent a concentration of German forces in the Cherbourg-Havre region of the Normandy coast. Amidst the secrecy and subversion, Patton was to keep a low profile. This he proved unable to achieve.[i]

Without Eisenhower’s consent, Patton ventured to Knustford, south of Manchester, to participate in what he believed to be an informal opening of a British Welcome Club for American soldiers. Instead, there was a formal ceremony with 200 spectators, a band, and—worse yet—the press corps. Patton’s impromptu speech ignited international headlines when he stated, “Since it is the evident destiny of the British and Americans, and of course, the Russians, to rule the world, the better we know each other, the better job we will do.” Initial reports varied whether or not Patton made reference to the Soviets. In either case, this perceived omission spiraled into a diplomatic controversy of the highest magnitude. American and Russian leaders seemed equally aggrieved by the general’s rhetorical blunder. Such was not the damage control Eisenhower wished to quarterback at this late stage of invasion planning.

Because Eisenhower’s press censorship policies dealt only with matters of military security, the Knutsford incident became fodder for the media. According to one United Press report from April 26, “Patton’s statement that it is the destiny of the Americans and Britishlater revised to include the Russiansto ‘rule the world’ brought mingled expressions of amazement and displeasure from army and congressional circles.” Army officials were “amazed that Patton would utter such a controversial expression in view of the earlier furor he had caused by slapping two shell-shocked American soldiers.” Rep. Jessie Sumner of Illinois declared Patton’s remarks were as “balmy as Hitler.” Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio called the statement “irresponsible.” Rep. Hamilton Fish of New York raged that Americans had no desire to rule the world and the general’s remarks did not represent “even a small percentage of Americans.” Regardless of what Patton did or did not say, the backlash of the press was severe.[ii]

 Knutsford town hall--where Patton delivered his speech. The cinematic depiction of the scene in the movie Patton was also filmed here. Courtesy of Rambles with a Camera.

In his speech, Patton facetiously added, “The only welcoming I’ve done for some time has been welcoming Germans and Italians into hell. I’ve done quite a lot in that direction, and have got about 177,000 of them there,” he boasted. “The sooner our soldiers write home and say how lovely the English ladies are, the sooner American dames will get jealous and force the war to a successful conclusion. Then I shall have a chance to go and kill Japs.” For many readers, Patton’s hawkish pledge was a far more terrifying note of distinction than any omission of the Soviets.

An editorial in the Christian Science Monitor boldly declared, “If General Patton had deliberately tried, he could hardly have produced a bigger batch of propaganda for the Nazis, the Japanese, and the Chicago Tribune than he did in his speech.” As the Patton incident demonstrated, journalism, diplomacy, and propaganda meshed together in often inopportune ways. Despite his many missteps and foibles, Patton would yet redeem his reputation before 1944 was done.[iii]

This article is a deleted section of the author’s latest book, Dispatches of D-Day: A People’s History of the Normandy Invasion.

 Patton's ceremonial appearance in Knutsford is still remembered there today.
Courtesy of the George C. Marshall Foundation. 

[i] Barbier, 74-75, 84-85; Penrose, 57.
[ii] “U. S., Britain to Rule the World, Declares Patton,” Ogden Standard Examiner, April 26, 1944, p. 1-2.
[iii] “Let Patton Fight,” Big Spring Daily Herald, May 11, 1944, p. 8.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Almost Like Custer: D-Day on Pointe du Hoc

"The Pointe" courtesy of artist Larry Selman.

The middle-aged physician seemed an unlikely participant for one of D-Day’s most daring missions. At forty years-old, he was almost double the age of his patients in the 2nd Ranger Battalion. Capt. Walter Block was a former Chicago pediatrician with an audacious disposition. When the war commenced, he yearned for an adventurous career in the airborne. His wife, Alice, would have none of it. Instead, Block opted to join the rangers, “who had something to do with trees,” he assured her. His clever rhetorical dupe would yield life-altering consequences for many.[i]

As one of the few medical personnel involved in the Allied assault on the imposing cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, the square-jawed doctor’s task was a formidable one. For nearly three days, the physician dodged concentrated enemy fire while leaping from trench to trench in his efforts to evacuate wounded. According to the Chicago Tribune, Block then oversaw the evacuation of dozens of maimed combatants from the 100-foot cliff to landing craft. The battle was “an inferno from beginning to end,” commented Block. “During that time our men were scrambling up the ropes and meeting Jerry hand to hand.”

Climbing over the tedious precipice, Block discovered all was in shambles. “Those --- ---- Germans did nothing but counterattack,” he recalled. “One attack right after another was repulsed. It kept up all day, and my back was plenty tired from crouching and running from one shell hole to another, rendering medical aid.”

“It was almost like Custer’s Last Stand,” he continued. “Food low, water low, ammunition very low, and fewer men. Our men began to use German weapons and I proceeded to put Heinie prisoners to work as stretcher bearers.” A captured bunker atop the Pointe served as an overcrowded battalion command post, an ammunition storehouse, a morgue, and Block’s makeshift field hospital illuminated by candlelight. Occupants heard the crackle of ricochets off the concrete. One of Doc’s medics recalled, “At times there were so many patients, the men had to lie in the command post until maybe one of the other patients would die or be patched up well enough to go back out, maybe to fight.”

In the brief interludes between attacks, Block disbursed stimulant pills to maintain the vigilance of the besieged rangers. “A constant watch was kept to insure that no sleeping man snored and gave their positions away,” reported one observer. Few of them were more fatigued than Block himself. Toiling in the blackness of the bunker and the treachery of the trenches, the doctor performed something of a medical miraclea series of benevolent deeds that earned him a Silver Star.[ii]

The cliffside fortification (frequently and incorrectly referred to as “Pointe du Hoe” in period accounts) was thought a near-impregnable objective with doomful prospects. Accented by a jagged peninsula between Utah and Omaha Beaches and spanning only a few hundred yards, the landmark brimmed with a lethal miscellany of pillboxes, trenches, machine guns, and booby traps. Intelligence indicated the presence of six 155-mm guns with the capacity to hammer landing zones miles away.

In the press, the saga of Pointe du Hoc initially appeared as little more than a sideshow of the big show. The actions of a few hundred men initially seemed trivial in numerical contrast to the sweeping episodes of Omaha Beach. A small blurb on page three of the June 10 edition of Stars and Stripes summarized the incident in surprisingly concise terms. Part of the ninety-five-word piece read, the “rugged Rangers stormed ashore, battered their way up sharp cliffs, and had captured the battery 15 minutes later. The Germans attempted to recover their strategic battery, but all thrusts were repelled by the Rangers.” A more compelling story soon emerged, illustrating the broader strategic importance of the seaside promontory.[iii]

Harold “The Duke” Slater, a handsome and ambitious captain of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, demanded exactness of his men assigned to the silencing of the guns: “I want each one of you to become so thoroughly familiar with Pointe du Hoe, so completely at home with it, that you could find your way from one gun position to another blindfolded.” The troops mentally visualized their maps and charts as they churned toward the French coast on June 6. “The long prelude was finished,” one recalled. The fourteen months of training were over.

Ranger Alfred Baer of Memphis later speculated as to why the initial assault garnered relatively little press coverage. “What actually took place on that small portion of the Cherbourg Peninsula can never adequately be told. At best, it can merely be hinted at, and can never be completely understood by anyone who was not himself present on the Pointe that bloody morning.” Because ranger training was so specialized and the mission was small in scope, few correspondents were present. For Baer and comrades, their gutsy attack was a durable thread of a larger fabric. Their bond would carry them through even bloodier battles to come.[iv]

Invasion day began with “the biggest Fourth of July you ever saw, magnified a thousand times,” stated one astonished ranger. The dim morning sky was illuminated with every color of the rainbow by a deadly assortment of shells, rockets, and flares. The battalion’s British-operated landing craft veered significantly off course until ranger commander James Rudder ordered readjustment. The 225 rangers were over an hour late striking their objective. The delay, combined with communication difficulties, compelled reinforcements to Omaha Beach insteadforsaking Rudder’s unit to wage a headlong attack largely on its own. Vomit and saltwater puddled around the soldiers’ ankles. Men used helmets to bail out the tides. Steady ocean sprays left the seasick combatants numbly fatigued. Three of the craft sunk. Sheldon Bare and Jack Kuhn, both from the same Pennsylvania county, found themselves sharing a boat that morning. Kuhn dropped his submachine gun in the murky slop. “Bare, I lost my Thompson!” Kuhn bellowed on the congested LCA. Bare calmly reached down and retrieved the weapon, stating, “Here you go, Jack.” Few other challenges of the day would be as simply resolved.[v] 

“Keep your eyes on the Pointe, boys,” ordered a sergeant. “[A]nything can happen now!” The nausea of the journey diminished as the men tensed up. They checked ammo and firmly gripped their weapons. An incoming shell from the USS Texas gorged a massive chunk from the cliff top, raining a mountain of rock on the beach and thereby lessening the height for the rangers to scale. From 200 yards out, the stout sergeant Leonard Rubin eyed a German silhouetted atop the Pointe. “Let’s see if the sonofabitch can survive this business!” exclaimed Rubin. The sergeant spewed a hail of bullets toward the shady figure, knocking the distant defender to his death.

“Fire the rockets!” a comrade shouted. “Let’s go!” Six projectiles hissed forth from the boats with limp lines of wet rope following the forward arc. The rounds were tipped with grappling hooks to lodge into the Pointe’s crest. Bogged down with water, half the grapples fell short of their targets. Large ladders donated by London firemen were also employed. Sgt. Len Lomell pushed through waist-deep water and up the beach’s stony center. Desperation forced him to think and act promptly. The ropes and firemen ladders alone were not ushering rangers up the slopes promptly enough.

“Topside the cliff,” recalled Baer, “the ever-increasing bark of rifles and machine guns tells its story to the men below. The rope is too slow.” Germans frantically slashed lines, harshly dropping rangers back to the gravelly beach. Some desperate GIs attempted to scale the rocks with knives as climbing picks. Lomell ordered four-foot sections of steel ladders rushed up and assembled. “The Germans on top rolled hand grenades down the slopes, they tried to cut toggle lines, they threw everything they had at those men coming at thembut they didn’t stop them,” Stars and Stripes later reported. “In little groups of twos and threes they scrambled over the top and went to work.” The frantic situation presented few viable alternatives.[vi]

Twenty-four year-old Frederick Dix, a small, black-haired staff sergeant from Syracuse, was embroiled in the fatal feud. Dix later conveyed the rangers’ exploits to correspondent Hal Boyle. “We spent 11 weeks practicing that maneuver and it caught the Germans flatfooted, because they didn’t think we’d dare come ashore,” noted the sergeant. “We ran into rifle, machine gun, and sniper fire from the flanks as soon as we got within range and lost some of our medics right there on the beach. Some of them tried to plant a Red Cross flag where they were working over the casualties but a sniper put three bullet holes in it before they could raise it.” The Germans were not all that brave, insisted Dix. Many of them “ran like hell,” and for good reason.[vii]

The crown of the Pointe resembled the pocked dreariness of battlefronts from the Great War. Once more, Yanks climbed “over the top” as they ascended the cliff’s precarious edge and into the labyrinth of smoking craters and splintered gun emplacements. “To any of the Germans dug in on Pointe du Hoe,” wrote Baer, “there could have been no plan of attack apparent from the actions of the enemy swarming up over the top of the cliffs.” Despite the German’s frenzied consternation, fierce duels were inescapable. Livid exchanges of Mk 2 and potato masher grenades scarred man and nature alike as the two sides plunged into each other with intimate animosity. Small arms fire erupted from every corner, creating small mounds of brass casings under soldiers’ sore feet. Men’s ears rang amid the echoing fury of Thompsons and Schmeissers. Sheldon Bare fell victim to the violence when a sniper’s bullet punched through his right shoulder. He screamed a flood of obscenities as he floundered backward into a crater. Unlike scores of his comrades, the Pennsylvanian survived the melee. The bitter competition swept the Germans inland, although radio failure prevented Rudder from announcing the attack’s outcome.[viii]

Lieutenant Commander Knapper and Chief Yeoman Cook, of USS Texas (BB-35), examine a damaged German pillbox at Pointe du Hoc on D-Day, 6 June 1944. Earlier in the day Texas had bombarded the point in support of the Omaha Beach landings. The body of a dead U.S. Army Ranger, killed during the assault on Pointe du Hoc, lies covered up at right. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

But was the feat a success? The rangers were puzzled to discover empty gun mounts and painted telephone poles where the 155-mm guns were supposedly installed. With the blessing of their lieutenant, Len Lomell and thirteen others set forth to locate and decommission their presumably relocated objective. Hunkered along a roadway heading into the countryside, the squad moved swiftly and softly through the thick growth. Following enemy tire tracks, Lomell and Jack Kuhn together inched ahead to maintain the hunt. They eventually discovered five of the six artillery pieces camouflaged a few hundred yards from the road. There, an entire company of Germans stood idle, half-undressed and inexplicably leaving the formidable guns unmanned. Kuhn was astonished by the artillerists’ lackadaisical response to the sounds of nearby combat.

Undeterred by the number and proximity of the enemy, the two American sergeants stealthily crept forward. Under the watchful barrel of Kuhn’s Thompson submachinegun, Lomell disabled two of the pieces with thermite grenadesmuted pyrotechnics that ignited briefly intense bursts of heat. Jammed into the guns, the grenades melted the machinery with the effect of white hot lava. The daring GIs fell back to their squad to retrieve more explosives and then returned to decommission the remaining guns. Simultaneously, a fellow ranger loudly detonated a nearby ammunition cache with a Bangalore torpedo. The dual feats were executed under the noses of 100 or more Germans, perhaps saving untold lives on the neighboring beachheads.[ix]

According to Dix, many Germans were concealed in a lengthy tunnel connecting their defenses to the ammo dump. “We made a hell of a noise and scared one seventeen-year-old German,” Dix declared. “He was a senior noncom. His outfit, too, was running out of his pillbox to give up.” Before the soldier could dash to the Americans, his own captain sent a slug through the deserter’s neck, killing him instantly. Dix and company thereafter captured the officer and angrily forced him to open a barn-turned-pillbox.

“You can’t trust those guys, you know,” Dix bickered. “One [German] stood up and waved a white flag and yelled ‘kamerad.’ One of our boys said ‘Let’s give him a chance,’ and stood up and hollered, ‘Come over here.’” The shouting revealed the Americans’ position and MG-42 rounds soon shredded the surrounding leaves into green confetti. The GI who made the charitable overtures to the enemy was cut down. “He was a nice guy, too,” Dix admitted. “You can’t trust those Germans. They put mortars and artillery in on us then, and wounded eight more of our men. What a hell of a trick to play.”[x]

Despite the herculean achievement of scaling the Pointe and dismembering its neighboring guns, the rangers had yet to face their most grueling obstacle: counterattacks. Undermanned, undersupplied, inadvertently neglected with their backs to the sea, the Americans dug in for a desperate defense. For fifty-eight contentious hours the rangers fiercely guarded their triangular perimeter against seemingly insurmountable odds. “Sometimes they were pinned down in the point itself with the sea on three sides and the Germans to the front,” wrote G. K. Hodenfield. “They were low on water and food. Their ammunition was rationed. Their only weapons were rifles and two mortars. At night they crouched in their foxholes and peered into the night, waiting for the attack they knew was coming.” A private asked Col. Rudder what they should do. The commander replied, “Build up your lifelines and we will hold this point.” And thus they did.

The lines of battle precariously ebbed with every German rush. The enemy congregated in massive waves and screamed with each advance to intimidate the rangers. The GIs patiently awaited the approach, taking careful aim to conserve every round of precious ammunition. In methodical fashion, the defenders blunted enemy rebuttals with skilled marksmanship and grim determination. Sgt. Eugene Elder, a six-foot mortar man from Missouri, knocked out a dozen German machine guns with his 60-mm. “I never saw such shooting,” a comrade marveled. When Elder expended all his rounds, he fired colored flares at the enemy out of pure spite. “These really scared the hell of the Germans,” Dix commented. “They were perfectly harmless, but they make a hell of a flare and sparks.”

After each relentless counterattack, the rangers resumed their original placements and vigilantly maintained the line. Wishing to continue the fight alongside their pals, many of the wounded refused evacuation. They actively scavenged for ammo and appropriated the many Mausers littering the ground. The company welcomed much-needed artillery support by the Navy circling offshore, which took its cues from the American command post above. “Whenever the Germans tried to concentrate any sizable body of men, a destroyer opened up and chased them away,” wrote Hodenfield. “And as they left their position the rangers cut them down with rifle fire.”

By morning of the third day, reinforcements doggedly pushed their way to Pointe du Hoc and swept remaining resistance from the immediate vicinity. The ragged American defenders joked that they were the lucky survivors of their own “Little Bataan.” Unlike their less fortunate Pacific counterparts in 1942, deliverance was at hand.

“I never saw anybody more welcome,” Dix said of reinforcements. The moment of victory was bittersweet for the New Yorker. “Out of my own group, 65 men, we had lost six killed and 17 wounded and we were the lightest hit outfit in the battle,” he remarked. “But it was worth it. We held that point for them and the boys we have got left are willing to take another any time our side wants it.” Regardless of casualty figures, nobody could strip the men of their achievement. One concluded, “Our job was to take and hold that neck of land and we did it and are damn proud we did it.”[xi]

U. S. Army Rangers show off the ladders they used to storm the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, which they assaulted in support of Omaha Beach landings on D-Day. Photograph was released for publication on 12 June 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 

[i] O’Donnell, 25.
[ii] “Saves 50 Amid Hail Of Fire In D-Day Hell,” Chicago Tribune, August 30, 1944, p. 7; G. K. Hodenfield, “How Rangers, Cut Off, Held On Grimly in Own ‘Little Bataan,’ Stars and Stripes, June 12, 1944, p. 4; O’Donnell, 106.
“Battle Sidelights,” Stars and Stripes, June 10, 1944, p. 3.
Baer, 30. Alfred Baer, a member of the 2nd Ranger Battalion’s D Company, offers a concise yet lively account of the Pointe du Hoc assault in this rare album compiled for his fellow veterans of the unit.
Baer, 32; O’Donnell, 67; Ryan, 211.
Beevor, 102; Baer, 34-35; G. K. Hodenfield, “How Rangers, Cut Off, Held On Grimly in Own ‘Little Bataan,’”

Stars and Stripes, June 12, 1944, p. 4.
Harold V. Boyle, “Rangers, When Ammunition Gone, Use Enemy’s Weapons,” Waterloo Daily Courier, June 11, 1944, p. 6.
Baer, 35-36; O’Donnell, 74-75.
Baer, 36; O’Donnell, 86-88.
Harold V. Boyle, “Rangers, When Ammunition Gone, Use Enemy’s Weapons,” Waterloo Daily Courier, June 11, 1944, p. 6.
G. K. Hodenfield, “How Rangers, Cut Off, Held On Grimly in Own ‘Little Bataan,’ Stars and Stripes, June 12, 1944, p. 4; Harold V. Boyle, “Rangers, When Ammunition Gone, Use Enemy’s Weapons,” Waterloo Daily Courier, June 11, 1944, p. 6.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

A Fierce Glory

A Review of Justin Martin's New Antietam Book

Second perhaps only to Gettysburg, Antietam remains a highly studied and quite pertinent battle of the American Civil War. Waged on September 17, 1862, the fierce clash in western Maryland became the bloodiest day in American history--inflicting more American casualties than D-Day eight decades later. The literary canon chronicling the Maryland Campaign is a long and distinguished one. Historians Ezra Carman, James Murfin, Stephen Sears, Tom Clemens, and Scott Hartwig have each left their left valuable imprints and observations on Antietam's story. All that being said, one might be left to wonder what else could be written about this momentous campaign.

This is ultimately the question author Justin Martin attempts to answer. Stemming from his previous works on poet Walt Whitman and renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, readers should be immediately aware that this is not a typical analytic strategy study. Only three maps can be found in the book. If anything, Martin's A Fierce Glory is a cultural study of the engagement that engulfed Sharpsburg and how it molded people, society, and politics.

Balancing out the narrative of combat itself is the approachable story of Abraham Lincoln's struggle to maintain the fragile Union and his simultaneous attempts to slowly dismantle slavery. Martin presents a fair portrait of an imperfect man attempting to achieve great tasks in the process. This story line serves as a fitting prologue to the broader military summations that follow. Lincoln's time in Washington was consumed by woe and death. The killing of his trusted military aid-de-camp Elmer Ellsworth in 1861 and the death of Willie Lincoln in 1862 were only a sampling of the tragedies to befall Lincoln during his tenure as commander-in-chief. Amidst all this heartache, Lincoln sought refuge at the Old Soldier's Home on the outskirts of the city. Here, the president further pondered the emancipation of the South's four million slaves. The Maryland Campaign had the potential to sway Lincoln's decision making as he navigated troubled political waters.

Diehard Civil War buffs seeking new, revelatory information on the bitter military struggle that ensued are unlikely to find much new here. Martin's comparatively concise 250 page work is overshadowed by the meatier studies done by the likes of Sears and Hartwig. Many of the highlighted anecdotes have been culled from post war reminiscences and digitized regimental histories. The book, however, is well suited for general audiences wishing to gain an introductory overview of this important moment of the 1860s. Undergraduates in my Civil War course would enjoy a book such as this. The story is presented in a way that is highly personable and digestible. Martin's mission is not to convey every conceivable element of a military engagement but rather interpret a searing, human experience.

While far from comprehensive in its scope, the book nonetheless shines in its visceral descriptions of the battle. Some opening description of the fight's initial phases in and around the Miller Cornfield come to mind:

The battle was getting frantic. The topmost section of the field fairly crawled with soldiers; they were in the corn, the surrounding pastures and meadows, and the woods that girded the open spaces. The sound had grown deafening. There were the pops of muskets, the peculiar whistling of bullets, the clip when they hit a cornstalk, the crack of striking wood, the thud of connecting with a body. Cannon fire poured in from all directions. The heavy shells screamed and sizzled, clattered in the treetops; shrapnel plopped in the soft earth or ricocheted with a metallic zing. "If all the stone and brick houses of Broadway should tumble at once the roar and rattle could hardly be greater," Alpheus Williams, a Union general, would recall of the cornfield fighting (Martin, 45-46).

Such visual descriptions of the fray carry well throughout the book's text. Elsewhere in the book, additional cultural context is offered through the themes of religion, mourning, and the infancy of battlefield photography. Slavery also comes to the forefront of the conversation, including Robert E. Lee's association with the institution, which has so often been misinterpreted by Civil War aficionados.

There were two elements of Martin's book I found particularly refreshing. Firstly, he did not succumb to the perennial military bashing of Federal commander George McClellan. In comparison to the caution he exhibited in earlier campaigns, the general is depicted as comparatively aggressive in his approach to the battlefield and his plans to resume the fight on September 19. While McClellan exhibited his fair share of despicable traits in his lifetime, his performance at Antietam should not be considered among them, Martin asserts.

Secondly, readers can truly tell that the author spent much time hiking the battlefield. He has a keen sense of the terrain and cites in the end notes park ranger tours he attended while conducting research. He traveled to the New York Public Library and National Archives as his quest for information continued. This extra effort pays off in the long run.

A Fierce Glory is a highly recommended read for anybody with a fledgling interest in the Battle of Antietam. Martin reminds us that battles are not merely the stories of right wheels and left flanks but of common individuals shaped by the dramatic circumstances of their times.