Crossroads of Freedom: Antietamby James M. McPherson
Pub. Date: 04/29/2004
Publisher: Oxford University Press
The Battle of Antietam, fought on September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest single day in American history, with more than 6,000 soldiers killed--four times the number lost on D-Day, and twice the number killed in the September 11th terrorist attacks. In Crossroads of Freedom, America's most eminent Civil War historian, James M. McPherson, paints a masterful/em>… See more details below
The Battle of Antietam, fought on September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest single day in American history, with more than 6,000 soldiers killed--four times the number lost on D-Day, and twice the number killed in the September 11th terrorist attacks. In Crossroads of Freedom, America's most eminent Civil War historian, James M. McPherson, paints a masterful account of this pivotal battle, the events that led up to it, and its aftermath.
As McPherson shows, by September 1862 the survival of the United States was in doubt. The Union had suffered a string of defeats, and Robert E. Lee's army was in Maryland, poised to threaten Washington. The British government was openly talking of recognizing the Confederacy and brokering a peace between North and South. Northern armies and voters were demoralized. And Lincoln had shelved his proposed edict of emancipation months before, waiting for a victory that had not come--that some thought would never come.
Both Confederate and Union troops knew the war was at a crossroads, that they were marching toward a decisive battle. It came along the ridges and in the woods and cornfields between Antietam Creek and the Potomac River. Valor, misjudgment, and astonishing coincidence all played a role in the outcome. McPherson vividly describes a day of savage fighting in locales that became forever famous--The Cornfield, the Dunkard Church, the West Woods, and Bloody Lane. Lee's battered army escaped to fight another day, but Antietam was a critical victory for the Union. It restored morale in the North and kept Lincoln's party in control of Congress. It crushed Confederate hopes of British intervention. And it freed Lincoln to deliver the Emancipation Proclamation, which instantly changed the character of the war.
McPherson brilliantly weaves these strands of diplomatic, political, and military history into a compact, swift-moving narrative that shows why America's bloodiest day is, indeed, a turning point in our history.
Table of Contents
|List of Maps|
|Introduction: Death in September||3|
|1||The Pendulum of War: 1861-1862||11|
|2||Taking Off the Kid Gloves: June-July 1862||41|
|3||"The Federals Got a Very Complete Smashing": August-September 1862||73|
|4||Showdown at Sharpsburg||97|
|5||The Beginning of the End||133|
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I found Mr. McPherson's book of no value in learning about what I believe to be the pivotal battle of the Civil War. His narrative provides no insight into the cause and affect of the conflict. I would recommend "Landscape Turned Red", or The Gleam of Bayonets" as prime sources for those new to the topic. McPherson's book is must NOT read!
Mr. Linder, in his review of 11/25/02, is rather unfair to McPherson. First of all, the book is not a novel. Secondly, it is entitled 'Crossroads of Freedom' with 'Antietam' as the subtitle. The book's aim is to place the battle in the larger context of events during 1861-62. Third, the maps are by no means confusing, assuming one knows how to read a map. One hopes that Mr. Linder moved on intellectually from the undergraduate wisdom displayed in his review. This book is a solid effort, perhaps overpraised but valuable for anyone interested in the period.