To Make Men Free: A Novel of the Battle of Antietam

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Overview

It was the battle that altered the tides of war ... and the fate of a nation.

On September 17, 1862, in Sharpsburg, Maryland, more than 23,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed or wounded, making the Battle of Antietam the bloodiest day in American history.

Robert E. Lee must act as a general when his youngest son pleads not to be sent "back in there." Confederate General A. P. Hill arrives on the field at the last possible moment with...

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Overview

It was the battle that altered the tides of war ... and the fate of a nation.

On September 17, 1862, in Sharpsburg, Maryland, more than 23,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed or wounded, making the Battle of Antietam the bloodiest day in American history.

Robert E. Lee must act as a general when his youngest son pleads not to be sent "back in there." Confederate General A. P. Hill arrives on the field at the last possible moment with something to prove to his former West Point roommate, Union General George McClellan, while Abraham Lincoln desperately struggles with the issue of emancipation of the slaves. Much of the battle is seen through the eyes of Stonewall Jackson's young adjutant, Kyd Douglas, and a little-known reporter named George Smalley, who scoops the competition with his vivid account of the battle.

From the White House to the battlefield, this immaculately researched novel masterfully re-creates the day that dashed Southern hopes for a quick victory and paved the way for Lincoln's most enduring legacy — the Emancipation Proclamation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The bloodiest day of the Civil War, a Union victory that crushed Lee's first invasion of the North and gave Lincoln a triumphal pretext for the Emancipation Proclamation, is the subject of this rousing, panoramic debut historical. Documentary filmmaker Croker skillfully fictionalizes a meticulously researched account-of the battle, the campaign that preceded it and its momentous political fallout-that is more comprehensive than many nonfiction treatments. In vivid, punchy scenes, occasionally illustrated with maps, readers follow the strategic maneuvers of the Union and Confederate armies, learn how to operate a cannon and amputate a leg, and get swept up in the panic and pathos of combat. Croker fleshes out the gore and gallantry on the battlefield with a sprawling cast of well-drawn characters, from Lincoln and his cabinet down to lowly privates. Particularly interesting is his portrait of Union General-in-chief George McClellan, one of the more fascinating psyches in American history, whose mixture of insufferable vainglory and paralyzing insecurity constituted a major obstacle to a Northern victory. Croker's didactic impulses occasionally get the better of him-one scene is inserted mainly to correct a common mispronunciation of a general's name-and his determination to convey the entire range of perspectives on Antietam sometimes clutters the stage with incidental figures. But his combination of period detail, gripping battle scenes and psychological insight bring the epic to life. (On sale Mar. 2) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A capable imagining of American history's bloodiest battle, punctuated by whizzing Minie balls, howling legions, and gloomy pronouncements by Lincoln and Lee. Documentary filmmaker Croker-a son of the South, where traditionalists still call the horrible fight at Antietam Creek, Maryland, the Battle of Sharpsburg-strikes a fine balance between genre conventions ("he moved inexorably against the badly outnumbered but greatly determined Rebs") and modern touches meant to humanize players since engraved and enshrined (George McClellan suffers from neuralgia, Clara Barton braves riding on a man's saddle). Occasionally he channels a little overwritten period prose: "His face, already red from Virginia's summer sun, now glowed with blood as he finally surrendered to his rage." And, strange to say, he even surrenders himself to the Great Man school of history, such that his main characters rarely rank below field grade, while common soldiers largely serve as extras meant to be slain or at least mauled. Still, for the most part, Croker delivers a tale that would do a Bruce Catton or Shelby Steele proud. He is conscious of the myriad historical accidents that went into two great armies' not-so-chance encounter not so far from Washington, conscious of the shades of meaning over which contemporary historians are now arguing. On the latter score, Croker does a credible job of exploring the depths of Northern resistance to Lincoln's call for the emancipation of Southern slaves; late in the narrative, Lincoln-who is as besieged as any general in the field-quashes a small rebellion in the making after hearing two midlevel officers discuss the wisdom of negotiating a peace by allowing slavery to endure,even as poor headache-plagued George McClellan threatens mutiny before a much larger audience. ("I wish to make an example," Lincoln intones, and so he does.) For all the political intrigue and human-interest background, however, there's plenty of mayhem for those who like their historical fiction awash in blood, as Croker's surely is. A solid debut, well researched and delivered. Agent: John Silbersack/Trident Media Group
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060559083
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/2/2004
  • Pages: 448

Meet the Author

Richard Croker is an independent documentary filmmaker whose work has appeared on TBS, The Learning Channel, and the Discovery Digital Networks. A native of the South whose great-grandfathers fought for the Confederacy, Croker lives in Marietta, Georgia.

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Read an Excerpt

To Make Men Free

A Novel of the Battle of Antietam
By Richard Croker

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Richard Croker
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060858362

Chapter One

"Flat Treason, By God"

July 23rd
New York City

George Smalley stood on the aft deck of the ferry and looked back at the most beautiful sight in the world: New York City growing continually smaller. He imagined that the city was leaving him instead of the other way around.

This town gives me the hives, he thought. He remembered his lawyer days and thanked God that he had found his calling. Horace Greeley was a pain to work for, but all in all the New York Tribune was a fine place.

He found a rear-facing seat and unfolded the latest copy of the paper. They say that only cub reporters lovingly read their own work in its finished form, but George loved his words. After years of reading and writing legal documents, fighting off the muses in favor of legalese, it was a joy for him at last to set them free. Of course his New York readers cared little about the war. The rich looked for society news, financial data and the like. Only the poor rushed out to pore over the latest casualty lists. It was their sons who were dying. Agate type. Alphabetical. Black on white. Careless columns of names in neat, even lines, like a banker's ledger, under the headings of "Killed" and "Wounded."

The question of the day in Smalley's report was, "Where is Stonewall?" Here was a question that enticed even the rich, and for very good reason. Jackson's reputation by now was so grand that his movements were charted not only on Pennsylvania Avenue but on Wall Street as well. Each day that passed without action brought rumors and uncertainty. As anxiety rose the stock market fell.

As the ferry docked in New Jersey, Smalley glanced back up at The City and smiled. Off to answer my own question. "Where is Stonewall?" Off at last to cover the war from the battlefield. To do the work that real reporters do.

Where is Stonewall? Greeley wanted George to find him where the entire Grande Armee of the Republic could not.

The long train ride gave Smalley his first opportunity to think it all the way through. Stonewall Jackson had been hugely successful in the valley, constantly threatening the capital and keeping "Old Abe" as nervous as a fawn in a forest fire. Jackson had been called south only when McClellan's army had clawed its way to within sight of Richmond. Seven consecutive days of horrendous fighting had followed and Jackson was involved. There were too many sightings and reports in the Rebel papers to doubt it. But now McClellan's been whipped, Smalley thought. He's licking his wounds and waiting for reinforcements. If you're Bobby Lee, what do you do now? You would try to make certain that those reinforcements are not forthcoming, and the only way to do that is to send Stonewall back north to rattle his saber at Washington. In this way a couple of thousand men can keep hundreds of thousands of men at bay. Stonewall is headed back north.

Smalley nodded his head as though agreeing with himself. His first stop in Washington would have to be at the War Department and a meeting with Secretary Stanton, but his next stop would be at John Pope's door. Northern Virginia is where the next action will be.

Washington

A single carriage moved against the flow of wounded men, headed toward the docks on the Potomac. The day was oppressively hot even for Washington, making the ride as uncomfortable as it was awkward. Henry Halleck wiped the sweat from his balding head and complained about the heat before broaching the subject.

"I need your help, General Burnside, more than I can say."

You need someone's help, Ambrose Burnside thought, and more help than I can give you. General in Chief will look nice on the door, but Edwin Stanton's Errand Boy might be more accurate. Burnside nodded and said nothing.

"I arrived in Washington this morning from the West. I have not so much as unpacked my bags and now it's off to the Peninsula for what I am certain will be a very pleasant meeting with your old friend George McClellan." Both men smiled. Both knew the meeting would be anything but pleasant. "So I appreciate you accompanying me on such short notice."

"You are the General in Chief, General Halleck, and I am only a soldier."

"General in Chief, indeed. It is my job to stop our generals from fighting each other and try to make them fight the enemy!"

Burnside thought of McClellan and Pope, both brilliant, at least in their own minds. Each disdainful of the other. Nice choice of words, Burn. They hate each other. The difference is McClellan is brilliant and Pope is nothing more than a pompous ...

"What will I get from George?"

"Resentment. A demand for more men."

"Lincoln and Stanton have already told me that."

"You'll get the same from Pope."

"Wonderful. Simply wonderful."

Headquarters,
Army of Northern Virginia
Outside Richmond

General James Longstreet visibly shivered in the wet heat as he walked slowly toward General Lee's tent. Moxley Sorrel noticed but said nothing. Longstreet was a different man since the winter. Not a family in Richmond had been untouched by the winter's plague, but my God ... how did he endure it? His children. Every one of them, one at a time lowered into the grave. He is a different man now. Who wouldn't be?

Another breath. Another shiver.

"You all right, General?"

"Yes, Moxley," he said to his Chief of Staff, "I'm only a little worried about what might come next."

"Beg your pardon, sir?"

Longstreet considered whether he should reveal his concerns to his friend or be a good soldier and keep them to himself. Lee was well on his way to becoming a national hero and no good could possibly come from a public debate with the man on strategy, but Longstreet's cautious demons demanded to be heard ...

Continues...


Excerpted from To Make Men Free by Richard Croker Copyright © 2005 by Richard Croker. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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First Chapter

To Make Men Free
A Novel of the Battle of Antietam

Chapter One

"Flat Treason, By God"

July 23rd
New York City

George Smalley stood on the aft deck of the ferry and looked back at the most beautiful sight in the world: New York City growing continually smaller. He imagined that the city was leaving him instead of the other way around.

This town gives me the hives, he thought. He remembered his lawyer days and thanked God that he had found his calling. Horace Greeley was a pain to work for, but all in all the New York Tribune was a fine place.

He found a rear-facing seat and unfolded the latest copy of the paper. They say that only cub reporters lovingly read their own work in its finished form, but George loved his words. After years of reading and writing legal documents, fighting off the muses in favor of legalese, it was a joy for him at last to set them free. Of course his New York readers cared little about the war. The rich looked for society news, financial data and the like. Only the poor rushed out to pore over the latest casualty lists. It was their sons who were dying. Agate type. Alphabetical. Black on white. Careless columns of names in neat, even lines, like a banker's ledger, under the headings of "Killed" and "Wounded."

The question of the day in Smalley's report was, "Where is Stonewall?" Here was a question that enticed even the rich, and for very good reason. Jackson's reputation by now was so grand that his movements were charted not only on Pennsylvania Avenue but on Wall Street as well. Each day that passed without action brought rumors and uncertainty. As anxiety rose the stock market fell.

As the ferry docked in New Jersey, Smalley glanced back up at The City and smiled. Off to answer my own question. "Where is Stonewall?" Off at last to cover the war from the battlefield. To do the work that real reporters do.

Where is Stonewall? Greeley wanted George to find him where the entire Grande Armée of the Republic could not.

The long train ride gave Smalley his first opportunity to think it all the way through. Stonewall Jackson had been hugely successful in the valley, constantly threatening the capital and keeping "Old Abe" as nervous as a fawn in a forest fire. Jackson had been called south only when McClellan's army had clawed its way to within sight of Richmond. Seven consecutive days of horrendous fighting had followed and Jackson was involved. There were too many sightings and reports in the Rebel papers to doubt it. But now McClellan's been whipped, Smalley thought. He's licking his wounds and waiting for reinforcements. If you're Bobby Lee, what do you do now? You would try to make certain that those reinforcements are not forthcoming, and the only way to do that is to send Stonewall back north to rattle his saber at Washington. In this way a couple of thousand men can keep hundreds of thousands of men at bay. Stonewall is headed back north.

Smalley nodded his head as though agreeing with himself. His first stop in Washington would have to be at the War Department and a meeting with Secretary Stanton, but his next stop would be at John Pope's door. Northern Virginia is where the next action will be.

Washington

A single carriage moved against the flow of wounded men, headed toward the docks on the Potomac. The day was oppressively hot even for Washington, making the ride as uncomfortable as it was awkward. Henry Halleck wiped the sweat from his balding head and complained about the heat before broaching the subject.

"I need your help, General Burnside, more than I can say."

You need someone's help, Ambrose Burnside thought, and more help than I can give you. General in Chief will look nice on the door, but Edwin Stanton's Errand Boy might be more accurate. Burnside nodded and said nothing.

"I arrived in Washington this morning from the West. I have not so much as unpacked my bags and now it's off to the Peninsula for what I am certain will be a very pleasant meeting with your old friend George McClellan." Both men smiled. Both knew the meeting would be anything but pleasant. "So I appreciate you accompanying me on such short notice."

"You are the General in Chief, General Halleck, and I am only a soldier."

"General in Chief, indeed. It is my job to stop our generals from fighting each other and try to make them fight the enemy!"

Burnside thought of McClellan and Pope, both brilliant, at least in their own minds. Each disdainful of the other. Nice choice of words, Burn. They hate each other. The difference is McClellan is brilliant and Pope is nothing more than a pompous ...

"What will I get from George?"

"Resentment. A demand for more men."

"Lincoln and Stanton have already told me that."

"You'll get the same from Pope."

"Wonderful. Simply wonderful."

Headquarters,
Army of Northern Virginia
Outside Richmond

General James Longstreet visibly shivered in the wet heat as he walked slowly toward General Lee's tent. Moxley Sorrel noticed but said nothing. Longstreet was a different man since the winter. Not a family in Richmond had been untouched by the winter's plague, but my God ... how did he endure it? His children. Every one of them, one at a time lowered into the grave. He is a different man now. Who wouldn't be?

Another breath. Another shiver.

"You all right, General?"

"Yes, Moxley," he said to his Chief of Staff, "I'm only a little worried about what might come next."

"Beg your pardon, sir?"

Longstreet considered whether he should reveal his concerns to his friend or be a good soldier and keep them to himself. Lee was well on his way to becoming a national hero and no good could possibly come from a public debate with the man on strategy, but Longstreet's cautious demons demanded to be heard ...

To Make Men Free
A Novel of the Battle of Antietam
. Copyright © by Richard Croker. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2004

    Awesome!

    A Civil War novel for Civil War buffs who don't usually read fiction. This is great stuff -- every bit as good as 'The Killer Angels.'

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