Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam

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Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam

Author: James M. McPherson
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Copyright: 2004
Pages: 224
Cover Price: $ 15.95

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The bloodiest day in United States history was September 17, 1862, when, during the Civil War battle at Antietam, close to 6,500 soldiers were killed or mortally wounded and another 15,000 were seriously wounded. Moreover, James M. McPherson states in his concise chronicle of the event Crossroads of Freedom, it may well have been the pivotal moment of the war and possibly of the young republic itself. The South, after a series of setbacks in the spring of 1862, had reversed the war's momentum during the summer, and was on not only on the "brink of military victory" but about to achieve diplomatic recognition by European nations, most notably England and France. Though the bulk of his book concerns itself with the details--and incredible carnage--of the battle itself, McPherson raises it above typical military histories by placing it in its socio-political context: The victory prodded Abraham Lincoln to announce his "preliminary" Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves. England and France deferred their economic alliance with the battered secessionists. Most importantly, it kept Lincoln's party, the Republicans, in control of Congress. McPherson's account is accessible, elegant, and economical. --H. O'Billovich

Background Information

The Battle of Antietam was fought near Sharpsburg MD in 1862 and represented the bloodiest single day in American military history. The Emancipation Proclamation declared an end to slavery in the rebellious states in 1863. Secessionis the reverse of union, and involves the separation of a part of a unified country into political independence.