To start with, I’d like to mention that the Battle of Antietam (also called the Battle of Sharpsburg) is considered to be the bloodiest one in the whole American history. It is a day no one would ever forget.
It was vividly described by the most famous Civil War historian James M. McPherson. The Battle opened at dawn of September 17th, 1862. McClellan’s Union army successfully halted the attack on Lee’s Confederates. The number of casualties during the battle is twice more significant than on the 11th of September during terrorist attacks. Losses for both sides were hefty. All in all, there were over 6000 soldiers perished. McPherson shows that before the battle the destiny of the USA was doubted. That is why this fight was of great importance.
McPherson’s ‘Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam 1862’ is a short description of the turning point of the War.
It’s not just a volume of tactics and statistics of casualties. It is a captivating research of the Battle.
Owing Lee’s talent as a commander, self-control, and ability to remain calm, Confederation became a real threat to the Union. His skills in military operations helped him to defeat even more powerful armies.
Despite the fact that Northern army won, Lee remains one of the greatest commanders. During the Civil War, Lee has shown amazing abilities to feel enemy’s weak points. But Lee’s first attempt to intrude into the Northern territory didn’t succeed. Though the most savage battle (in Maryland) ended with 17000 casualties of Northern army and 12000 of Southern soldiers, Lee decided to retreat to Virginia not to lose more soldiers. President Lincoln handed control of the Congress and got a chance to issue Emancipation Proclamation. This single day of fierce battle became a decisive fighting between withstanding sides.
President Lincoln considered slavery an evil. It was highly non-humanistic. But he thought that government had no constitutional rights to intervene. The question whether to keep slaves or not was a problem of each state and its local authorities. However Lincoln was against the spread of slavery in the new territories. Lincoln wanted to gain freedom for slaves gradually. But later he concluded that there wasn’t much time, and slavery must die for the nation to live. Because of his attempts to release slaves, the business of slave-owners suffered greatly. Before ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ (September 30, 1862) was adopted Lincoln declared that from that time and forever slaves would be free. But slaves gained absolute freedom only in 1865 when the Union successfully defeated the Confederation.
It is considered that during the battle of Antietam there were more wounded and killed Americans than during the War of 1812, Revolutionary and Mexican Wars. There are lots of sources, describing this battle and its consequences. ‘Crossroads of Freedom’ a small survey of the battle. Its author James McPherson is a professor of history, researcher of the Civil war. Owing illustrations and vivid descriptions and analyses, readers of ‘Crossroads of Freedom’ can easily imagine what happened on the 17th of September.
For the majority of people, the battle gives two impressions. Firstly many people know it just as the bloodiest day for Americans. Secondly, from the description of this fight, people learn about two commanders: Lee’s success to hold off superior forces, and tactics of George McClellan. But for James McPherson, this battle means much more. It was ‘the first turning point of the war.’ The book gives a comprehensive narration of politics, military strategies. It has plenty of quotations from primary sources, which make readers think over national moods at those times and intro-national confrontation.
Concerning George McClellan (who was the Commander of the Union) the author writes that ‘he would take no initiative without absolute assurance of success.’ But his strategy and plans were ill-coordinated. It McPherson emphasizes that there wasn’t much profit for the Union in Confederation’s losses (which were much lower than anticipated). Lincoln accused McClellan in hesitance during the battle and relieved him of being a Commander on the 7th of November. That was the end of his military career. The author argues that Emancipation Proclamation followed more decisively due to policy in favor of it – particularly the engagement of African-American troops in battle.
McPherson’s Antietam will impress readers of all kinds. Only 150 pages provide information about the battle, national opinion of various sorts. Some people may say that there are too many quotes from letters and magazines of that time, and less information about the details of the battle itself. But anyway the book would be valuable for both severe researchers and ordinary readers. McPherson describes events that led to the battle and that occurred aftermath. On the one hand, the book is highly readable, and at the same time, it is a gem for professional researchers.
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