Ranger publishes Civil War book

Brett Spaulding recently published Last Chance for Victory, a book about the Battle of Monocacy.

When Brett Spaulding began researching the Battle of Monocacy, he did not intend to write a book.

As a National Park Service ranger, Spaulding wanted to create an in-depth file on the battle with everything from which units were there to events before and after the fighting.

A number of books have been written about the battle, as well as historical files in various locations, but Spaulding wanted to bring the information together and make sure the details -- sometimes inaccurate or missing -- would be in one place.

"As I was working on this, I realized I was putting this together in chapters, so it was easy to make it a book," Spaulding said in an interview at the Monocacy National Battlefield Visitors Center off Urbana Pike.

"Last Chance for Victory, Jubal Early's Maryland Invasion" is 224 pages of detailed history, including the people involved, military strategy and an extensive bibliography of related publications.

Spaulding applied for a grant from the National Park Foundation, which paid to have the book edited. He paid for the publishing himself.

Spaulding kept a few copies and donated the rest to the nonprofit Western Maryland Interpretive Association. The books are sold at the Monocacy and Antietam battlefields, where revenue is used for land acquisition, educational programs and other expenses.

Ranger training is mostly on-the-job, Spaulding said. New rangers rely on veterans for background and specifics of their position. His book began as a reference guide for rangers on the battlefield, he said.

"The rangers and volunteers get a lot of standard questions, but sometimes someone will ask a more detailed question and we needed the answers," he said. "Most of the time, we would take their question and have to research it and get back to them in a few days."

Some visitors are descendants of those who fought in the battle and want information to share with their families.

"History isn't stagnant," said Tracy Evans, another ranger at the Monocacy National Battlefield. "You never know when someone will find a photograph or letter that will add to the history of the nation. It is very beneficial to us that Brett tapped into great resources and got into the real nitty-gritty of the battle."

Evans commended Spaulding for providing details down to the location of each military unit as the battle unfolded.

"Most people recognize battles by the number of casualties," Evans said, "and to some extent this battle was overlooked and forgotten."

Gen. Lew Wallace's Union forces, though outnumbered and eventually overwhelmed, were able to delay Gen. Jubal Early's Confederate units at Monocacy long enough for more Union troops to return to Washington and thwart Early's hope of capturing the capital city.

If Confederate forces had reached Washington sooner, history would have been different.

"Everyone would have known about it then," Evans said.

The Monocacy site is important for reasons other than the battle, Evans said.

The famous Special Orders 191 were found there; left behind by Gen. Robert E. Lee, the orders detailed his invasion plan. The site also played host to encampments from both sides in the Civil War and a recruiting station for the Union.

Spaulding took five years to complete the book, he said. "It wasn't assigned. I took it upon myself."

Will he write another book?

"I won't say never," Spaulding said, "but I don't have any plans for that."

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