Cover image for The long road to Antietam : how the Civil War became a revolution
The long road to Antietam : how the Civil War became a revolution
Slotkin, Richard, 1942-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2013.

Physical Description:
xxxii, 478 pages : illustrations, maps ; 21 cm
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.
Turning point : military stalemate and strategic initiatives : July 1862 -- The Confederate offensive : August 1862 -- The invasion of Maryland : September 2-15, 1862 -- The Battle of Antietam : September 16-18, 1862 -- The revolutionary crisis : September 22-November 7, 1862.

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E474.65 .S57 2013 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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.

Author Notes

Richar Slotkin is the Olin Professor of American Studies at Wesleyan University. He is the author of Gunfighter Nation and Regeneration Through Violence, both National Book Award Finalists, and The Crater.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

The September 1862 battle at Antietam Creek included the single bloodiest day in American history (approximately 23,000 casualties). The Union victory encouraged President Lincoln to implement the Emancipation Proclamation, which, while he framed it as a military measure, inevitably changed the purpose and character of the Civil War. Slotkin describes the shifting flow and carnage of the battle effectively, but his primary focus is on political and military maneuvers in the months preceding Antietam. In particular, he emphasizes the deteriorating relationship between Lincoln and the commander of the Army of the Potomac, George McClellan. Other historians have seen this as a dysfunctional marriage, but Slotkin goes much further. McClellan, styled the young Napoleon, was insufferably arrogant, narcissistic, and desperately afraid of failure. Slotkin asserts that McClellan's reluctance to take aggressive action was also motivated by his disdain for abolitionism and his goal of usurping Lincoln's power as commander-in-chief. This controversial but well-argued work is likely to engender considerable debate among historians and Civil War buffs.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2010 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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[ed] 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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Slotkin (English, emeritus, Wesleyan Univ.; No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864) presents a panorama of challenging topography, questionable strategy, bloody close-quarter combat, and uneven generalship, culminating in the battle at Antietam Creek, September 16-18, 1862. The battle is but the denouement of the author's thorough analysis. The Civil War, he insists, took a savage turn toward political radicalism and massive battlefield casualties, as exemplified at Antietam. Slotkin trails the protracted struggle before then between Union general George B. McClellan and an exasperated President Lincoln: McClellan, a Democrat, hoped to replace Lincoln in office and public favor. Slotkin successfully documents "Little Mac's" tolerance of slavery and Southern demands for independence, his wavering campaign offensives, his delaying tactics, his insubordination of orders, and his rumored involvement in a possible military coup. In contrast, the reader comes to appreciate Lincoln's central understanding that without an immediate and permanent resolution of the slavery question through the waging of total war and the Emancipation Proclamation, short-term sectional appeasement would only guarantee a costlier struggle down the road. Verdict Slotkin offers both the best historical account of the McClellan-Lincoln standoff yet and a persuasive indictment of "Little Mac's" self-serving plans to prolong the struggle and delay Northern victories. Highly recommended.-John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

With the arrival of the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Antietam, books on the important battle appear regularly. Adding to the historiography is this study of the political ramifications of the crucial military clash. Slotkin (Wesleyan Univ.) examines the personalities associated with this phase of the Civil War, especially how President Abraham Lincoln made the conflict a revolution by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation in the battle's aftermath. Before the battle, however, Lincoln had to deal with enemy armies under the command of Robert Lee, and his own forces under George McClellan. Depicted as vain in nature and hostile to Lincoln's policies, McClellan gained victory at Antietam, but seemingly in spite of himself, due to a series of miscalculations and overcautious moves. As histories of Antietam go, this one is well done, but is often overly dramatic. Slotkin overemphasizes personality clashes in his attempt to demonize McClellan, while he judges the Lincoln administration's actions as always correct. A good account of the battle, but the drama is laid on a bit thick. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. S. J. Ramold Eastern Michigan University

Table of Contents

List of Mapsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
A Note on Military Terminologyp. xxix
Part 1 Turning Point: Military Stalemate and Strategic Initiatives July 1862
Chapter 1 Lincoln's Strategy: Emancipation and the McClellan Problemp. 3
Chapter 2 McClellan's Strategy: Irresistible Forcep. 40
Chapter 3 President Davis's Strategic Offensivep. 62
Part 2 The Confederate Offensive August 1862
Chapter 4 Self-inflicted Wounds: The Union High Commandp. 85
Chapter 5 Both Ends Against the Middle: The Campaign of Second Bull Runp. 108
Chapter 6 McClellan's Victoryp. 128
Part 3 The Invasion of Maryland September 2-15 1862
Chapter 7 Lee Decides on Invasionp. 141
Chapter 8 McClellan Takes the Offensivep. 170
Chapter 9 The Battles of South Mountainp. 193
Chapter 10 The Forces Gatherp. 209
Part 4 The Battle of Antietam September 16-18, 1862
Chapter 11 Preparation for Battlep. 231
Chapter 12 The Battle of Antietam: Hooker's Fight, 6:00-9:00 AMp. 253
Chapter 13 The Battle of Antietam: Sumner's Fight, 9:00 AM-Noonp. 283
Chapter 14 The Battle of Antietam: The Edge of Disaster, Noon to Eveningp. 311
Chapter 15 The Day When Nothing Happenedp. 339
Part 5 The Revolutionary Crisis September 22-November 7, 1862
Chapter 16 Lincoln's Revolutionp. 357
Chapter 17 The General and the Presidentp. 379
Chapter 18 Dubious Battle: Everything Changed, Nothing Settledp. 393
Chronologyp. 415
Antietam Order of Battlep. 429
Notesp. 435
Selected Bibliographyp. 455
Indexp. 463