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Was a Mistake Responsible for the Battle of Antietam?

Was a Mistake Responsible for the Battle of Antietam?

“Special Order 191: Ruse of War” by Joe Ryan presents a thought-provoking and unconventional perspective on a pivotal moment in American Civil War history. For decades, the consensus among historians has been that the Battle of Antietam occurred somewhat accidentally, largely due to the unexpected discovery of General Robert E. Lee’s orders by Union forces. However, Ryan challenges this long-held belief, proposing a daring hypothesis: that Lee deliberately orchestrated the discovery of Special Orders 191 as a strategic maneuver.

See our piece: The “Lost Order” Of General Lee

Ryan, a retired Los Angeles trial lawyer with a substantial background in both legal practice and Civil War research, employs his investigative skills to dissect this historical event. His argument is built on a comprehensive examination of both direct and circumstantial evidence, piecing together a narrative that suggests Lee’s intentional disclosure of the orders. This move, according to Ryan, was a calculated risk to draw Union forces into battle at a strategically advantageous location.

The book is not just a mere reexamination of a historical event; it’s an exploration of its profound implications. Ryan posits that the resultant carnage of the Battle of Antietam, which still resonates in America’s collective memory, was a necessary precursor to the sweeping constitutional changes that followed, particularly in terms of equality and civil rights. He credits Lee with setting into motion the events that led to these significant legal and social reforms.

While Ryan’s thesis is undoubtedly controversial and challenges the traditional narrative, his approach is meticulous and grounded in extensive research. His background as a trial lawyer is evident in the way he systematically presents his case, appealing to both logic and emotion. “Special Order 191: Ruse of War” is more than just a historical account; it’s a compelling argument that invites readers to reconsider a crucial chapter in American history.

However, it’s important to note that Ryan’s conclusions may not align with the consensus view among historians. His interpretation is bold and will likely be subject to debate and scrutiny in academic circles. Readers should approach this book with an open mind and an understanding of its speculative nature.

A view down the “Bloody Lane” at the Antietam National Battlefield, in northwestern Maryland.

Special Order 191 Ruse of War by Joseph Ryan (americancivilwar.com)

Special Order 191: Ruse of War: Ryan, Joe: 9798864679708: Amazon.com: Books

Was a Mistake Responsible for the Battle of Antietam?