Cover image for Crossroads of freedom : Antietam
Title:
Crossroads of freedom : Antietam
Author:
McPherson, James M.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
xvi, 203 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780195135213
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

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.


Author Notes

James M. McPherson is the author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, which won a Pulitzer Prize in history, and For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, a Lincoln Prize winner. He is the George Henry Davis Professor of American History at Princeton University in New Jersey, where he also lives.

His newest book, entitled Abraham Lincoln, celebrates the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth with a short, but detailed look at this president's life. (Bowker Author Biography) James M. McPherson, McPherson was born in 1936 and received a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1963. He began teaching at Princeton University in the mid 1960's and is the author of several articles, reviews and essays on the Civil War, specifically focusing on the role of slaves in their own liberation and the activities of the abolitionists.

His earliest work, "The Struggle for Equality," studied the activities of the Abolitionist movement following the Emancipation Proclamation. "Battle Cry of Freedom" won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1989. "Drawn With the Sword" (1996) is a collection of essays, with one entitled "The War that Never Goes Away," that is introduced by a passage from Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address on March 4, 1865 from which its title came: "Fondly do we hope - and fervently do we pray - that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, 'the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.'"

"From Limited to Total War: 1861-1865" shows the depth of the political and social transformation brought about during the Civil War. It told how the human cost of the Civil War exceeded that of any country during World War I and explains the background to Lincoln's announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation, in 1862. The book also recounts the exploits of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first black regiments organized in the Civil War, and their attack on Fort Wagner in July 1863. It pays tribute to Robert Gould Shaw, the white commanding officer of the regiment, who died in the attack and was buried in a mass grave with many of his men.

Professor McPherson's writings are not just about the middle decades of the nineteenth century but are also about the last decades of the twentieth century. The political turmoil prior to the Civil War, the violence of the war, Lincoln's legacy and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson shed some light on contemporary events.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Contributing significantly to Oxford's new academic series Pivotal Moments in American History and to the literature on the Civil War, McPherson convincingly establishes the Battle of Antietam as the conflict's pivotal moment militarily, politically and morally. His depiction of the spring 1862 Confederacy shows it reeling under blockade while the North was learning how to practice "hard war." Yet McPherson tracks Robert E. Lee in the Seven Days' Battles and the Second Manassas campaign, placing him, by September, in Maryland and threatening Washington. Foreign nations were poised to recognize the Confederacy, and Lincoln had postponed his plans to liberate its slaves. With an election coming in November, demoralized Northern voters were in position to give control of Congress to a Democratic party with a vocal peace wing. The Union general George B. McClellan never took a risk he could avoid; on September 17, at Antietam, he failed to commit his full force, yet managed to get a defeated, demoralized army to the field at the end of the single bloodiest day in American history: over 6,000 men from both sides dead. Before the battle, McPherson carefully demonstrates (with the aid of 30 duotones and seven maps), the Civil War's outcome had been disputable. In Antietam's aftermath, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. France and Britain discreetly backed away from recognition. The Republicans kept control of Congress and of most state governments. The war was now the Union's to lose. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

An appropriate selection for the publisher's "Pivotal Moments in American History" series, this pithy monograph by McPherson (history, Princeton; Battle Cry of Freedom) argues that the bloody clash at Antietam on September 17, 1862, in which over 6000 Union and Rebel troops perished, would ultimately determine the outcome of the Civil War. Earlier in the year, Lincoln's armies appeared near victory with such successful western campaigns as Shiloh and Forts Henry and Donelson and the surrender of New Orleans and Memphis. However, during the summer months, the pendulum of battle swung toward the Confederacy, culminating in the Army of the Potomac's drubbing in the Seven Days Battles and the enemy's drive into Maryland. McPherson brings alive Gen. George McClellan's overtaking of "Bobby" Lee near the village of Sharpsburg, thereby checking his invasion of the North. The Federal victory at Antietam, limited as McPherson concedes it was, blunted Lee's momentum, eclipsed the likelihood that foreign countries would recognize the Confederacy, reversed a disastrous plunge in the morale of Northern troops and civilians, and afforded Lincoln the chance to issue his long-awaited proclamation of emancipation. A fine study; recommended for the classroom and all libraries. John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Mapsp. xi
Editor's Notep. xiii
Prefacep. xv
Introduction Death in Septemberp. 3
1 The Pendulum of War 1861-1862p. 11
2 Taking off the Kid Gloves June-july 1862p. 41
3 "the Federals Got a Very Complete Smashing" August-september 1862p. 73
4 Showdown at Sharpsburgp. 97
5 The Beginning of the Endp. 133
Notesp. 157
Bibliographical Essayp. 185
Acknowledgmentsp. 191
Indexp. 193