The Long Road to Antietam: How the Civil War Became a Revolution

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Overview

In the summer of 1862, after a year of protracted fighting, Abraham Lincoln decided on a radical change of strategy—one that abandoned hope for a compromise peace and committed the nation to all-out war. The centerpiece of that new strategy was the Emancipation Proclamation: an unprecedented use of federal power that would revolutionize Southern society. In The Long Road to Antietam, Richard Slotkin, a renowned cultural historian, reexamines the challenges that Lincoln encountered during that anguished summer 150...

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The Long Road to Antietam: How the Civil War Became a Revolution

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Overview

In the summer of 1862, after a year of protracted fighting, Abraham Lincoln decided on a radical change of strategy—one that abandoned hope for a compromise peace and committed the nation to all-out war. The centerpiece of that new strategy was the Emancipation Proclamation: an unprecedented use of federal power that would revolutionize Southern society. In The Long Road to Antietam, Richard Slotkin, a renowned cultural historian, reexamines the challenges that Lincoln encountered during that anguished summer 150 years ago. In an original and incisive study of character, Slotkin re-creates the showdown between Lincoln and General George McClellan, the “Young Napoleon”
whose opposition to Lincoln included obsessive fantasies of dictatorship and a military coup. He brings to three-dimensional life their ruinous conflict,
demonstrating how their political struggle provided Confederate General Robert E. Lee with his best opportunity to win the war, in the grand offensive that ended in September of 1862 at the bloody Battle of Antietam.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Historian Slotkin (Regeneration Through Violence) moves from his path-breaking studies of America’s cultural mythology of violence to a set piece of real-life carnage in this gripping, multifaceted history of the Civil War’s bloodiest day. The author pens a fine narrative of the Battle of Antietam, balancing a lucid overview of strategy and maneuver with subtle, novelistic evocations of the chaos of combat as men “edg forward step-by-step each time they loaded and aimed, trying to get out of the smoke so they could see better how to shoot.” It’s a dramatic saga, full of coups and blunders, but it’s just the capstone of Slotkin’s searching analysis of the campaigns of 1862, when the conflict, he contends, took a “revolutionary” turn toward intense bloodshed and radicalism. (Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation immediately after Antietam.) At the center is his vivid rendition of the power struggle between Lincoln and Union generalissimo George McClellan, one of history’s great neurotics, who combined paralyzing timidity on the battlefield with grandiose ambition to become a virtual dictator and reverse the abolitionist thrust of Lincoln’s policies. Grounding military operations in political calculation and personal character, Slotkin gives us perhaps the richest interpretation yet of this epic of regenerative violence. 10 illus., 8 maps. Agent: Carl Brandt, Brandt and Hochman. (July)
James M. McPherson - New York Review of Books
“Provide[s] detailed and careful renderings of these events and of Lincoln’s intellectual journey.”
James A. Percoco - On Point: The Journal of Army History
“One of the best new books to examine the fateful day of 17 September 1862…. Slotkin has expanded much on the meaning of this battle, but also casts a new interpretation as to what the battle meant for the administration of President Abraham Lincoln and the nation.”
Christian Science Monitor
A remarkable piece of work, an eye-opening double history of a battle and a war.— Randy Dotinga
Tampa Bay Times
A riveting, perceptive analysis of the Civil War campaigns of 1862, of the reasoning behind the Emancipation Proclamation and of the complex power struggle between President Abraham Lincoln and the 35-year-old Union Commander of the Army of the Potomac, Gen. George B. McClellan… This is one of the most moving and incisive books on the Civil War that I have ever read.— Chris Patsilelis
Military History Quarterly
Richard Slotkin has added significantly to the literature… Slotkin evokes drama and, where appropriate, dark humor in recalling what became an extraordinary test of civilian authority over the military… Slotkin is an accomplished social historian (and novelist) with a focus on war and race, and he brings all his considerable skills to bear in this book. What makes even his unsurprising conclusions unfold at such a gripping pace is his great gift for narrative. It is as if Carl Sandburg were writing again—but with footnotes—for the author is a master at telling a story, capturing a mood, bringing characters to life, and making substantive and well-documented historical points in the bargain.— Harold Holzer
Slate.com
An absorbing account… Slotkin paints a detailed portrait of the talented but flawed general who helped Lincoln bring about his revolution, if ever so unwillingly… Slotkin’s description of the battle is essential to completing his meticulous, maddening portrait of McClellan.— John Swansburg
Cannonball
This is much more than another treatise on the battle itself. Yes, the movements and countermovements on the battlefield are there, but this sprawling book has multi-faceted tentacles which Slotkin, an award winning author and former university professor, skillfully weaves into a cohesive narrative… This is a thought-provoking book which goes well beyond the standard battle narratives and places Antietam in its full context as a significant point of change in U.S. domestic policy, a shift with far-reaching ramifications for the next century.— Scott Mingus
HistoryNet.com
In this engrossing book Richard Slotkin looks beyond that blood-drenched battlefield to explore how President Abraham Lincoln linked victory at Antietam to his decision to free slaves and declare that they could join the Union Army.— Thomas B. Allen
New York Review of Books
Provide[s] detailed and careful renderings of these events and of Lincoln’s intellectual journey.— James M. McPherson
Newsweek
“Slotkin has produced an absorbing revisionist history of what could be called the second American Revolution.”
Military Heritage
“Slotkin does an excellent job of tracing the strategies used by both sides.”
Randy Dotinga - Christian Science Monitor
“A remarkable piece of work, an eye-opening double history of a battle and a war.”
Chris Patsilelis - Tampa Bay Times
“A riveting, perceptive analysis of the Civil War campaigns of 1862, of the reasoning behind the Emancipation Proclamation and of the complex power struggle between President Abraham Lincoln and the 35-year-old Union Commander of the Army of the Potomac, Gen. George B. McClellan… This is one of the most moving and incisive books on the Civil War that I have ever read.”
Harold Holzer - Military History Quarterly
“Richard Slotkin has added significantly to the literature… Slotkin evokes drama and, where appropriate, dark humor in recalling what became an extraordinary test of civilian authority over the military… Slotkin is an accomplished social historian (and novelist) with a focus on war and race, and he brings all his considerable skills to bear in this book. What makes even his unsurprising conclusions unfold at such a gripping pace is his great gift for narrative. It is as if Carl Sandburg were writing again—but with footnotes—for the author is a master at telling a story, capturing a mood, bringing characters to life, and making substantive and well-documented historical points in the bargain.”
John Swansburg - Slate.com
“An absorbing account… Slotkin paints a detailed portrait of the talented but flawed general who helped Lincoln bring about his revolution, if ever so unwillingly… Slotkin’s description of the battle is essential to completing his meticulous, maddening portrait of McClellan.”
Scott Mingus - Cannonball
“This is much more than another treatise on the battle itself. Yes, the movements and countermovements on the battlefield are there, but this sprawling book has multi-faceted tentacles which Slotkin, an award winning author and former university professor, skillfully weaves into a cohesive narrative… This is a thought-provoking book which goes well beyond the standard battle narratives and places Antietam in its full context as a significant point of change in U.S. domestic policy, a shift with far-reaching ramifications for the next century.”
Library Journal
As Slotkin tells it, the Civil War became a revolution in summer 1862, when Lincoln acknowledged that peaceful compromise was at that point impossible and thoroughly committed himself to war. First up in this new strategy: the Emancipation Proclamation. As Lincoln clashed with ambitious general George McClellan, the country started on the bloody road to Antietam. Cultural critic Slotkin, author of Regeneration Through Violence, likes to bust myths and look at our dark side.
Kirkus Reviews
Slotkin (No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864, 2009, etc.) painstakingly enumerates the instances of Gen. George McClellan's wavering, delaying and outright disobedience of orders. Throughout the book, the author exhibits his vast knowledge of the numerous generals involved in both sides of the conflict. McClellan was strongly in the camp of those who felt maintaining slavery in the South would end the war and, more importantly, leave him as the true savior and leader of the nation. Lincoln knew that compromise would only leave the country to fight another day. The general's letters to his wife clearly outlined his megalomania, his delusional rages and his insistence that he was the only possible savior of the country. He even insulted the cabinet and the president by refusing to divulge his military plans. Known as the "Virginia Creeper," McClellan knew that an early victory would allow the "radicals" to take over the war and insist on subduing the South. His outright blackmail in refusing to move his army until he received full command will make readers question why Lincoln put up with the man. Lincoln claimed he was the only capable general available. While the devotion of McClellan's troops encouraged him as they parroted his opinions and grievances against Lincoln and others, that intense loyalty effectively barred any attempt to remove him. Slotkin's comprehensive descriptions of the battles of 1862 show his deep understanding of the terrain, the difficulties of communication, the impossible logistics and the characters that influenced the outcome. The author includes a detailed, helpful chronology of the events of that fateful year. If this seems much more a book about General McClellan, there's good reason. The author deftly exposes his egocentric, messianic tendencies as he purposely prolonged the beginning of the conflict.
John Swansburg - Slate.com
“An absorbing account… Slotkin paints a detailed portrait of the talented but flawed general who helped Lincoln bring about his revolution, if ever so unwillingly… Slotkin’s description of the battle is essential to completing his meticulous, maddening portrait of McClellan.”
Harold Holzer - Military History Quarterly
“Richard Slotkin has added significantly to the literature… Slotkin evokes drama and, where appropriate, dark humor in recalling what became an extraordinary test of civilian authority over the military… Slotkin is an accomplished social historian (and novelist) with a focus on war and race, and he brings all his considerable skills to bear in this book. What makes even his unsurprising conclusions unfold at such a gripping pace is his great gift for narrative. It is as if Carl Sandburg were writing again—but with footnotes—for the author is a master at telling a story, capturing a mood, bringing characters to life, and making substantive and well-documented historical points in the bargain.”
Randy Dotinga - Christian Science Monitor
“A remarkable piece of work, an eye-opening double history of a battle and a war.”
Chris Patsilelis - Tampa Bay Times
“A riveting, perceptive analysis of the Civil War campaigns of 1862, of the reasoning behind the Emancipation Proclamation and of the complex power struggle between President Abraham Lincoln and the 35-year-old Union Commander of the Army of the Potomac, Gen. George B. McClellan… This is one of the most moving and incisive books on the Civil War that I have ever read.”
Scott Mingus - Cannonball
“This is much more than another treatise on the battle itself. Yes, the movements and countermovements on the battlefield are there, but this sprawling book has multi-faceted tentacles which Slotkin, an award winning author and former university professor, skillfully weaves into a cohesive narrative… This is a thought-provoking book which goes well beyond the standard battle narratives and places Antietam in its full context as a significant point of change in U.S. domestic policy, a shift with far-reaching ramifications for the next century.”
Thomas B. Allen - HistoryNet.com
“In this engrossing book Richard Slotkin looks beyond that blood-drenched battlefield to explore how President Abraham Lincoln linked victory at Antietam to his decision to free slaves and declare that they could join the Union Army.”
Stephanie McCurry - Times Literary Supplement
“Slotkin thus reminds us that the social violence of civil wars always create the potential for the overthrow of civil authority by a military dictatorship… An arresting account of a particular moment in the war: of a Washington atmosphere ‘thick with treason.'”
Erik Loomis - Lawyers
“Slotkin tells a great story and for those interested in battle narratives, I have little doubt that you will enjoy his narration of Antietam.... Slotkin does a great job laying out this conflict and how Lincoln managed to rid himself of the McClellan problem, issue the Emancipation Proclamation, and turn the Civil War into a holy war that ended slavery. Notably, Slotkin notes that the alleged international reasons for the Emancipation Proclamation are vastly overrated and it had little to no effect on British or French policy toward the conflict.... The Long Road to Antietam will change how I teach the first two years of the war. In my world, that’s a pretty high compliment.”
Newsweek
“Slotkin has produced an absorbing revisionist history of what could be called the second American Revolution.”
Military Heritage
“Slotkin does an excellent job of tracing the strategies used by both sides.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871404114
  • Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 7/16/2012
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 907,539
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

The author of the award-winning American history trilogy Regeneration Through Violence, The Fatal Environment, and Gunfighter Nation, Richard Slotkin, an emeritus professor at Wesleyan University, won the Shaara Award for Civil War fiction for Abe. He lives in Middletown, Connecticut.
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Table of Contents

List of Maps xi

Introduction xiii

A Note on Military Terminology xxix

Part 1 Turning Point: Military Stalemate and Strategic Initiatives July 1862

Chapter 1 Lincoln's Strategy: Emancipation and the McClellan Problem 3

Chapter 2 McClellan's Strategy: Irresistible Force 40

Chapter 3 President Davis's Strategic Offensive 62

Part 2 The Confederate Offensive August 1862

Chapter 4 Self-inflicted Wounds: The Union High Command 85

Chapter 5 Both Ends Against the Middle: The Campaign of Second Bull Run 108

Chapter 6 McClellan's Victory 128

Part 3 The Invasion of Maryland September 2-15, 1862

Chapter 7 Lee Decides on Invasion 141

Chapter 8 McClellan Takes the Offensive 170

Chapter 9 The Battles of South Mountain 193

Chapter 10 The Forces Gather 209

Part 4 The Battle of Antietam September 16-18, 1862

Chapter 11 Preparation for Battle 231

Chapter 12 The Battle of Antietam: Hooker's Fight, 6:00-9:00 AM 253

Chapter 13 The Battle of Antietam: Sumner's Fight, 9:00 AM-Noon 283

Chapter 14 The Battle of Antietam: The Edge of Disaster, Noon to Evening 311

Chapter 15 The Day When Nothing Happened 339

Part 5 The Revolutionary Crisis September 22-November 7, 1862

Chapter 16 Lincoln's Revolution 357

Chapter 17 The General and the President 379

Chapter 18 Dubious Battle: Everything Changed, Nothing Settled 393

Chronology 415

Antietam Order of Battle 429

Notes 435

Selected Bibliography 455

Index 463

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 19, 2012

    This is the best book I have read on the battle of Antietam and

    This is the best book I have read on the battle of Antietam and the
    surrounding political issues. Slotkin's writing style is very fluid and
    easy to follow. If you enjoy history that connects events in the past
    with the long-run of social change, you will enjoy this book. Highly
    recommend.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2013

    Road to Anteham gives some new instight

    There is some new insight in "The Road to Antetum" like several Generals wanted General McClellan to over throw the goverment. Although McClellan had the opertunaty he never hsd the guts to do it. His men supported him and would have done what ever McClellan wanted them to do. True to form McClellan couldn't act on it, even with over whelming odds.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2012

    Excellent read

    This is an excellent book, very well researched, and a very good read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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