At our dinner meeting held on September 25th, Dennis E. Frye gave an outstanding presentation about his new book titled: Antietam Shadows: Mystery, Myth & Machination. The following is a summary of Mr. Frye's presentation:
- The first chapter of Mr. Frye's book begins with a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte: "What is history but a fable agreed upon." Mr. Frye said history is not facts. History is nothing but our opinions. The only fact about the Battle of Antietam is that it was fought on September 17, 1862. We all have opinions, prejudices, etc. Historians have a tendency to repeat what other historians have written as facts.
- General Lee did not intend to fight at Antietam. He intended to invade Pennsylvania. Lee told President Davis of his plans. At Antietam, Lee's army was only 15 miles from Pennsylvania via Redeemer's Road.
- Lee's actions prior to the Battle of Antietam can be summarized in the following four-letter words: rest, wait, join, move, and risk.
- General McClellan was given two jobs by President Lincoln: Protect Washington D.C. and end Lee's invasion. McClellan accomplished both.
- The day before the Battle of Antietam, McClellan moved 20,000 troops, about one-third of his army, around the Confederate left, in order to cut off Lee's invasion route into Pennsylvania. At that point, McClellan knew that he had ended Lee's invasion and thought that Lee would retreat back into Virginia. Why Lee would stay and fight did not make sense. Did McClellan outthink Lee?
- A famous quote attributed to General Lee at Antietam is: "We will make our stand on those hills." Mr. Frye said he has spoken these words numerous times on battlefield hikes that he has led at Antietam. He found this quote was in Volume II of Douglas Southall Freeman's R.E. Lee: A Biography. In his footnotes, Freeman indicated that the quote came from a book written by William Henry Morgan of the 11th Virginia Infantry and published in 1911. However, Morgan was home on sick leave and did not actually fight at the Battle of Antietam. Morgan heard about the quote from some comrades who claimed Lee said it and Morgan then wrote about it 50 years after the battle. Mr. Frye said as good students of history, it is best when we act as detectives and question what we read.
- According to Mr. Frye, one of the best books written about the Battle of Antietam is Landscape Turned Red by Stephen W. Sears. Sears researched the letters McClellan wrote to his wife that were later saved by McClellan's family and donated to the Library of Congress. According to Mr. Frye, Sears hated McClellan and wrote that McClellan blew the opportunity to destroy Lee's army.
- McClellan was a democrat and ran against Lincoln in the election of 1864. Republicans attacked McClellan politically, because they did not want him to be known as the hero and savior of Antietam and did not want McClellan to be elected president.
- In the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion officers would often lie about what happened, in order to cast themselves in a good light.
Here are some additional photos from the September 2018 meeting ...
Round Table members Marcia Hicklin and Sam Rabicoff
David Merello, Fred Whitehead, Judy Smith, George Leff, Blair Tarr, and Rudy Wrobel waiting in line to buy books signed by Dennis Frye
Every month, another book auction by Arnold Schofield and Don Bates
Round Table President, Chip Buckner, introducing the speaker
Our speaker, Dennis E. Frye