Author and historian Timothy Reese, a noted authority on the Battle of Crampton's Gap, has consented to have AotW present here the principal content of his reference website, formerly hosted on Earthlink, now withdrawn from service. This page from that site introduces his published works on the battle.
See also his main Crampton's Gap page.
For the most part, the Crampton's Gap battlefield has been subsumed into the larger South Mountain battlefield, joint tactical operations at Fox's and Turner's gaps six and seven miles to the north respectively. This practice has been widespread since the Civil War Centennial of the 1960s. Therefore period literature has tended to homogenize and misconstrue Crampton's Gap as an insignificant sideshow to larger engagements. Conventional wisdom defines it as an unsuccessful attempt to relieve Harpers Ferry and nothing more. Most campaign histories tell it that way or shove it aside altogether. Few in number, modern texts now look at the battle, its commanders, and its pivotal campaign role in far greater depth.
If one seeks the facts of Crampton's Gap, the following two volumes are as yet the only place to find them.
Sealed With Their Lives (below) tactically defined the battle for Crampton's Gap. As a logical follow-up, its pivotal strategic context within the campaign must be elaborated upon. To this end a new volume, much shorter than the first, has been prepared in which Crampton's Gap is documented as the direct corollary to the Lost Order and immediate trigger to the Antietam climax.
This book is entitled High-Water Mark: The 1862 Maryland Campaign in Strategic Perspective, currently available from Butternut and Blue of Baltimore. Its table of contents outlines the campaignís strategic spine:
Foreword by Edwin C. Bearss, Chief Historian Emeritus, U.S. National Park Service
As cited in current Butternut and Blue listings:
Tim Reese, in High Water Mark: The 1862 Maryland Campaign in Strategic Perspective, clarifies and documents the fluid conditions which drove the armies to Sharpsburg. He also emphasizes the campaign's strategic spine linking the "Lost Order" to Antietam through Crampton's Gap. Several old myths will be dispelled. This book includes several lucid maps and a number of photographs. Ed Bearss has written an introduction. This edition will be limited to 750 copies. Now available, June 2004. Signed copies available.
Softcover; 71 pages; 29 maps & illustrations; $14.95
Inquiries about purchase should be directed to James McLean at Butternut and Blue
3411 Northwind Drive, Baltimore, MD 21234
web site: www.butternutandblue.com
From The Civil War Bookshelf, cwbn.blogspot.com, July 8, 2004:
I want to do justice to the most important work published this year, High-Water Mark: The 1862 Maryland Campaign in Strategic Perspective by Timothy J. Reese. It's out this month from Butternut and Blue.
Reese's analysis of the Maryland Campaign is the major contribution to understanding the subject in our lifetimes; there is nothing like it. In Sealed with Their Lives, he explained why and how the attack through Crampton's Gap was the master key to understanding events that followed. In High-Water Mark, he zooms out from the plan, the battle, and its aftermath to set material in a broader context, again with unique insights derived from his deep analytic powers.
I am taking my conclusions too far, perhaps, by saying that placing Antietam at the center of the Maryland campaign has stupefied Civil War historians and readers. Issues boiling under the surface of Sealed with Their Lives and High-Water Mark have to do with our bad habits as ACW readers and thinkers - matters Reese handles wonderfully.
For extended analysis and review of High-Water Mark see Final Thoughts.
To date this is the only literary attempt to tactically define this battle and its campaign impact. The publisher has run out of stock. Copies may still be had online or at any number of book dealers specializing in ACW titles. If your local library doesn't have it on the shelves, you can always order it through interlibrary loan.
As you probably know, book reviews can be very subjective, misleading, and at times nasty. The following positive commentary from The Civil War Bookshelf http://cwbn.blogspot.com/ lends some idea of what's in store for you:
Timothy J. Reese is an independent battlefield guide specializing in the battle at Crampton's Gap, near his Burkittsville home. He began researching the fight in 1985 and distilled his findings into a remarkable 1998 book: Sealed With Their Lives: The Battle for Crampton' s Gap. The study is as much a product of thinking as walking.
Author Reese has a totally unexpected and refreshing view not only of Crampton's Gap but of the Maryland Campaign in general and he regards the battle at the Gap as the key to understanding the whole. Antietam was not supposed to happen; Crampton's Gap was to be the engine for undoing Lee once McClellan found Lee's special orders. Reese's interpretation of McClellan's envisioned battle is marvelous and his "deconstruction" of Mac's orders to Corps Commander Franklin are unsurpassed. I feel I would spoil the fun for any deep students of the war, were I to give away more.
This is a wonderful artifact by a battlefield guide (independent!) who searched for truth in a cluttered, worked over corner of Civil War history. It is pricey, but its freshness and rareness make it worth the cost to obtain it.
Now you might say independent (self-appointed) guides and experts are not park historians, per se. You'd be right. But there is no Crampton's Gap park with an assigned official park historian, is there? And where is there a historian this good in park uniform, anyway...
And from Amazon.com:
Author Reese has a totally unexpected and refreshing view not only of Crampton's Gap but of the Maryland Campaign in general and he regards the battle at the Gap as the key to understanding the whole. Antietam was not supposed to happen; Crampton's Gap was to be the engine for undoing Lee once McClellan found Lee's special orders.
Reese's interpretation of McClellan's envisioned battle is marvelous and his "deconstruction" of Mac's orders to Corps Commander Franklin are unsurpassed.
Anyone who thinks they know the Maryland campaign should read this book and think again. Great stuff.
-- Timothy Reese, Burkittsville, Maryland
© 2000, Tim Reese
published online previously as part of the website at http://home.earthlink.net/~tjreesecg/index.html