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

By Richard Slotkin

In the summertime of 1862, after a yr of protracted combating, Abraham Lincoln selected an intensive swap of strategy—one that deserted wish for a compromise peace and dedicated the kingdom to all-out warfare. the center piece of that new technique used to be the Emancipation Proclamation: an exceptional use of federal strength that may revolutionize Southern society. In The lengthy highway to Antietam, Richard Slotkin, a popular cultural historian, reexamines the demanding situations that Lincoln encountered in the course of that anguished summer time a hundred and fifty years in the past. In an unique and incisive learn of personality, Slotkin re-creates the showdown among Lincoln and common George McClellan, the “Young Napoleon” whose competition to Lincoln incorporated obsessive fantasies of dictatorship and an army coup. He brings to 3-dimensional existence their ruinous clash, demonstrating how their political fight supplied accomplice basic Robert E. Lee along with his most sensible chance to win the battle, within the grand offensive that resulted in September of 1862 on the bloody conflict of Antietam.

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If he saved his forces good centred and correctly located they can repel any assault Lee may possibly make and impose losses critical sufficient to strength a accomplice withdrawal, whereas now not risking a decisive conflict. Even a crusade of maneuver could set off Lee to retire with no fight—he couldn't remain indefinitely north of the Potomac with a targeted military of the Potomac dogging his heels. So regardless of the weak spot of his strength, of which he was once painfully acutely aware, and Lee’s energy (which he grossly overrated), McClellan was once greater than keen to “act with all attainable energy. ”19 whereas Lee remained at Frederick, McClellan used to be doubtful even if to arrange for an opportunistic enhance or a determined security. whilst he realized (on September 10) that Lee’s forces had pulled out of Frederick, and that a part of Lee’s military (Walker’s department) had back to Virginia, McClellan ordered his complete strength to strengthen and known as for reinforcements that will let him to pursue and strike an enemy that may be at the retreat. On September eleven, he wrote Halleck that he used to be adversarial by means of a “gigantic insurgent military” of 120,000 males, and even though he used to be keen to confront that military together with his personal inferior strength he was once uncertain of the end result and feared that “if we must always be defeated the results to the rustic will be disastrous within the severe. ” He hence renewed his request for the Harpers Ferry garrison and at the least one of many 3 military corps at present reorganizing in Washington. 20 The accomplice military was once relocating west and clear of Washington, basically designing to select off the garrison at Harpers Ferry. this sort of flow might both point out a normal withdrawal into Virginia through the upstream fords of the Potomac or be a trifling initial to the renewal of offensive motion out of western Maryland. As he complex towards Frederick, McClellan used to be nonetheless waiting for Lee to show and assault him. He instructed his spouse that he anticipated “to struggle an exceptional battle,” however it will be a shielding one: “I don't imagine the secesh will seize me very badly. ” To Halleck he wrote that he concept himself secure except attacked through “overwhelming” strength; and whilst Halleck advised him to watch out for an assault on Washington, McClellan responded defeat to his military will be way more harmful to the kingdom than the lack of the capital. apart from exposing the truth that McClellan nonetheless pointed out the nationwide reason solely together with his personal destiny and that of his military, those dispatches point out that, as past due as September eleven, McClellan suggestion protecting operations much more likely than an offensive. 21 even if, on that almost all eventful day McClellan acquired be aware that Lincoln had acceded to his requests: Harpers Ferry was once now less than his command (too overdue for that to do any good), and divisions of V Corps led through the unswerving Fitz-John Porter have been marching to hitch him at Frederick. No different reinforcement might have been so pleasant to McClellan. Porter was once his staunchest best friend, and in sending him ahead Halleck was once additionally atmosphere apart the costs that have been filed opposed to Porter by means of John Pope.

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