Book Review - A Guide to Civil War Sites in Maryland, Blue and Gray in a Border State, by Susan Cooke Soderberg
The Smithsonian Associates Civil War E-Mail Newsletter, Volume 1, Number 9
The Mid-Atlantic area is the perfect place to live if you are interested in the Civil War. The reasons are obvious. Within a day's drive of Washington we have Richmond, Petersburg, Pamplin Park, Gettysburg, Antietam, City Point, Harpers Ferry, and more. But this informative guidebook by Susan Cooke Soderberg tells us about the places we may be overlooking, places that are literally right in our own back yards.
Soderberg takes us to many different parts of Maryland. She visits Silver Spring, where Jubal Early rode 'round the capital and exchanged shots with Lincoln at Fort Stevens. She notes the many significant spots in Baltimore, especially the train station where Lincoln changed cars before secretly coming into the capital for his first inauguration. Of course, she includes Antietam Battlefield; the prisoner of war camp at Point Lookout; the route to and the retreat from Gettysburg, where Robert E. Lee found little sympathy for the Southern cause from western Marylanders. In contrast, she shows us the coves and inlets of the Eastern Shore, where Confederate sympathizers there helped John Wilkes Booth escape into Virginia. Also, she lists the many military encampments in Rockville, Darnestown, Hagerstown, and Williamsport. Civil War cemeteries are located in every sector of the state.
For those who prefer personalities to biographies, Soderberg includes short biographies of famous Civil War Marylanders. The true value of the book is how Soderberg integrates the locations and the people with the significance of the events. She brings home to us that "the ghosts of the Civil War walk many paths in Maryland, not just the hallowed ground of battlefields."
Soderberg brings the Civil War very close, to the point that, "you are drawn to these places ... you understand them through your senses what you cannot glean from books ... but you experience, and that experience is then yours alone ..." After reading this book, you won't pass a present-day highway exit in Maryland without being reminded of the Civil War.