How the Civil War Became a Revolution
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Abraham Lincoln only really had one good summer during the Civil War, and that was 1863. General U.S. Grant took Vicksburg, Baton Rouge fell a few days later, and the two completed the Union’s conquest of the entire length of the Mississippi River. That split the Confederacy in half and greatly accelerated the process of squeezing it into submission. At almost the same time, General George G. Meade abruptly stopped Robert E. Lee’s invasion of the North at Gettysburg in the bloodiest battle of the war. Granted, Meade let Lee slip away to the safety of Virginia, which frustrated Lincoln beyond words, but still it was a good summer for the Union cause.
The other summers seemed unrelentingly bleak. In 1861, war came in earnest and Union arms were humiliated at the first Battle of Bull Run. In 1864, with the war seemingly dragging on endlessly, Lincoln feared that he would not be reelected and his successor might well halt the war short of reunion.
Then there was 1862. Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson had battered and humiliated Lincoln’s armies in Virginia that spring and summer. In the western theater, Union generals were faring much better and actually winning the war, but few in the East or the broader world seemed to be paying attention. And then, at the end of August, the Confederacy launched simultaneous invasions of Kentucky and Maryland, sending a fresh shockwave through the North. Lincoln faced a Confederate commander who seemed invincible and had, in George B. McClellan, a general who seemed reluctant to fight, and insubordinate to the point of mutiny.
If Lincoln was to turn around that dreadful summer of 1862, he had to take drastic action—and that is what he did. In The Long Road to Antietam: How the Civil War Became a Revolution, veteran historian Richard Slotkin demonstrates how Lincoln made a radical departure from his strategy of the first year of the war, only to come up against recalcitrant generals who resisted change, while General Lee, famed for his audacity, came close to destroying his army by being reckless and overconfident beyond good judgment. Against any other opponent than McClellan, Lee at Antietam ought by rights to have seen his army virtually erased from the landscape. The climactic Battle of Antietam, so storied as a turning point in the war, was about as indecisive as a major battle can be, writes Slotkin. Nothing changed in the tactical situation in the East; within weeks, Lee was a strong as ever, and McClellan no closer to a real victory. But then Lincoln revolutionized the war by redirecting it into a social and political contest over the end of slavery.
We have had many good books on the Antietam Campaign, and this one stands well beside them. But it is in his thoughtful reconsideration of old truisms about the campaign and its consequences, and especially on subtle aspects of the background and impact of emancipation, that The Long Road to Antietam stands above and apart.
Hardcover Book : 496 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co. Inc. ( July 01, 2012 )
Item #: 13-596658
Product Dimensions: 6.125 x 9.25 inches
Product Weight: 30.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
I have read many books about Civil War campaigns and battles and this is one of the best. Especially interesting is the section about how McClellan intrigued and maneuvered to keep his role as head of the Army of the Potomac. Very well-written and worth reading.
Reviewer: Frank K
A good engrossing read about the balance of power between the President and his Generals, this book dealing mainly with the troublesome relationship Lincoln had with General McClellan and that General's reluctance to carry on an aggressive war against the Confederate forces in Virginia and about how is performance at Antietam allowed Lee to escape what could have been a fatal blow to his Army, this book doesn't get that much into the ground level fighting but it does get a lot into the fighting done behind the scenes by Lincoln and his administration and a General who disagreed with most of his policies against the South.
Reviewer: Steve M