I finished reading Unfurl Those Colors: McClellan, Sumner, and the Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign, by Marion Vince Armstrong, and, as promised, will post my thoughts. This is an excellent work, and although I do not necessarily agree with all of Mr. Armstrong's conclusions, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Not only does it offer sound tactical analyses of the maneuverings of the 2nd Army Corps throughout the Maryland Campaign and during the battle of Antietam, it is also laced with insightful accounts authored by the soldiers themselves. The narrative is lively and fast-paced, and the arguments are made in a clear, easy-to-understand manner. Mr. Armstrong differs from the more traditional views of McClellan and especially Edwin Sumner. The 2nd Corps commander was not, argued Armstrong, the brash, reckless officer who committed his men to battle with wild abandon, as is the traditional view of Sumner's actions at Antietam. He was, instead, fully aware of the situation unfolding against the Confederate left, and ordered his men into battle with clearly defined goals in mind. Armstrong also argued that Sumner did not lose heart during the afternoon while debating whether or not to launch another full-scale assault against the Confederate left by William Franklin's 6th Corps. Most interesting, and most controversial, however, is Armstrong's argument that Sumner provided positive orders to Brigadier General William H. French to veer his division southward from the East Woods and attack the Confederate center in the Sunken Road.
Unfurl Those Colors offers a balanced and refreshing view of George McClellan's role and actions as Union army commander and forces us to take a different look at Edwin Sumner's doings. I highly recommend Mr. Armstrong's excellent work to anyone interested in the battle of Antietam or the Army of the Potomac for that matter.