Read Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam: The Battle that Changed the Course of the Civil War by James M. McPherson Online


The Battle of Antietam, fought on September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest single day in American history, with more than 6,000 soldiers killed--four times the number lost on D-Day, and twice the number killed in the September 11th terrorist attacks. In Crossroads of Freedom, America's most eminent Civil War historian, James M. McPherson, paints a masterful account of this piThe Battle of Antietam, fought on September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest single day in American history, with more than 6,000 soldiers killed--four times the number lost on D-Day, and twice the number killed in the September 11th terrorist attacks. In Crossroads of Freedom, America's most eminent Civil War historian, James M. McPherson, paints a masterful account of this pivotal battle, the events that led up to it, and its aftermath.As McPherson shows, by September 1862 the survival of the United States was in doubt. The Union had suffered a string of defeats, and Robert E. Lee's army was in Maryland, poised to threaten Washington. The British government was openly talking of recognizing the Confederacy and brokering a peace between North and South. Northern armies and voters were demoralized. And Lincoln had shelved his proposed edict of emancipation months before, waiting for a victory that had not come--that some thought would never come.Both Confederate and Union troops knew the war was at a crossroads, that they were marching toward a decisive battle. It came along the ridges and in the woods and cornfields between Antietam Creek and the Potomac River. Valor, misjudgment, and astonishing coincidence all played a role in the outcome. McPherson vividly describes a day of savage fighting in locales that became forever famous--The Cornfield, the Dunkard Church, the West Woods, and Bloody Lane. Lee's battered army escaped to fight another day, but Antietam was a critical victory for the Union. It restored morale in the North and kept Lincoln's party in control of Congress. It crushed Confederate hopes of British intervention. And it freed Lincoln to deliver the Emancipation Proclamation, which instantly changed the character of the war.McPherson brilliantly weaves these strands of diplomatic, political, and military history into a compact, swift-moving narrative that shows why America's bloodiest day is, indeed, a turning point in our history....

Title : Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam: The Battle that Changed the Course of the Civil War
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ISBN : 9780195173307
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 224 Pages
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Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam: The Battle that Changed the Course of the Civil War Reviews

  • Susan
    2019-06-15 11:57

    Enjoyed this a lot. Had read his main Civil War book but quite a long time ago. Two main thoughts, one controversial and one not. 1. McClellan was a thorn in Lincoln's side with his constant excuses. It to attack or even to move. No wonder his men loved him—he kept them away from the war. 2. In the eyes of contemporaries Lincoln was naive, foolish and not up to guiding his country at war. Now we dote on his every word. My guess that history will treat Obama similarly, recognizing in retrospect how good a president he was.

  • Steve
    2019-06-05 06:44

    Earlier in the book, I was tempted to give this 4 stars, but as the book raced (as in whoosh) to an end, I simply felt way too much ground was being covered in too short a space (156 pages, excluding endnotes, etc.). On the good side, Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam is a marvel of economy. McPherson knows his subject inside and out. I've read a great number of books on the War, but McPherson's take is never stale or old, and his abiity to find (for me at least) new letters and quotes from that time, is nothing short of wonderful. That said, the battle of Antietam only covers about 25 or 30 pages. Instead, McPherson concentrates on creating a context for Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, and by doing so he makes Antietam the most important battle of the War. I'm not sure I buy that. The Southern invasion of Maryland was a long shot anyway, with the Army of Northern Virginia pretty much worn to a frazzle when it crossed the Potomac. A much larger Southern army would invade in 1863 (Gettysburg), and that was a very close thing. In either case, a Southern victory would of rocked the house and complicated things considerably, without necessarily ending in a Southen victory in the War itself. Whatever. I hate getting into what-ifs when it comes to history, but McPherson's connect-the-dots approach invites such a response. There's no denying that the Emancipation Proclamation was a huge event, but it would still have to be fought for on many battlefields yet to come. Circling one battle as THE event that would determine what would follow seems a Burnside's bridge too far.

  • Jessika
    2019-06-06 06:52

    James McPherson's Antietam is so incredibly readable, it really makes a great book for both Civil War scholar and novice. If you're looking for a read about the events leading up to Antietam and its significance to the rest of the war, this is definitely a great book to check out.

  • Dale
    2019-05-28 04:55

    Does a brilliant job of looking at the "meaning" of the battle of AntietamI have nearly 90 books that cover the Civil War on my bookshelf. Most books that cover the Civil War compartmentalize the battles into little chapters with titles like "Chancellorsville", "Antietam" and "Shiloh". The battles are thoroughly covered but the feel for the larger flow of the war is sacrificed.In Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam 1862, McPherson dramatically sweeps the reader along and I was left with a renewed sense of amazement and respect for the fact that Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was able to fight, let alone go on the offensive against two seperate armies and fight multiple, large battles from June through September of 1862.McPherson does an extraordinary job of tying in many of the political and military threads of this war to demonstrate that Antietam was the day that determined the outcome of the war, and not the more popular belief that it was July 4, 1863 with the dual losses for the Confederacy at Vicksburg and Gettysburg...Read more at:

  • John Maag
    2019-06-02 13:00

    I just flew through this book. A very quick informative read. Really enjoyed it.

  • Kevin
    2019-06-16 10:41

    McPherson sets out to demonstrate that the battle at Antietam in 1862 marked a pivotal moment during the American Civil War, and in this he is correct. However, while the battle itself is not the main focus of the book very few pages are devoted to the actual events. McPherson spends almost the first two-thirds of the book building up to Antietam and the last, and relatively short, last chapter quickly examines the results of the Union "victory".McPherson makes liberal use of eyewitness accounts and primary sources but for some reason fails to include any thoughts from the commanding Confederate general at Antietam, Robert E. Lee, on why the Confederate army retreated. The Union did not win an overwhelming victory and based on McPherson's narrative, the battle at Antietam comes across as less important than the effect of Union General McClellan's overly-inflated account of the Federals success to President Lincoln. In fact, the way McPherson tells the story, Antietam comes across as a Union victory more from Lee's withdrawal from Maryland than from anything the Northern forces did.

  • Dan
    2019-06-20 08:36

    solid general history covering the military, political and social implications of the bloody battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and the subsequent issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.This book makes me want to read Battle Cry of Freedom, Macpherson's general history of hte Civil War. He's highly accessible.

  • Samantha
    2019-06-18 10:01

    a little over my head at times because it's bursting with military strategy, mcpherson's main point is how the battle of antietam in the fall of 1862 prompted lincoln to follow through with his initial emancipation strategy postulated on september 22, and really, for serious this time, no fucking around, emancipate the slaves come january 1, 1863.

  • Kyle
    2019-06-20 06:43

    It's the first Civil War book I've read that I can remember, but it was very interesting. It provided a lot of insight into the battle it focused on, but also into the surrounding elements (both political and social) that made this battle so important.

  • Rae
    2019-06-12 11:56

    A concise account of the momentous Civil War battle as well as the smaller conflicts that led up to it. It is clear that either side could have changed the outcome of the war. History is made up of individual decisions. Fascinating.

  • Carol
    2019-06-10 10:00

    This book is part of a series, “Pivotal Moments In American History” edited by David Hackett Fischer and James M. McPerson. Their series works from a slant on writing history considering “problems of historical contingency.” As I understand this, the narrative in each history carries us through the social and personal events in the lives of the people playing out their daily circumstances, and how history in fact does pivot on these factors.The Battle of Antietam was not in all truth a resounding victory for the Union. McClellan was a fairly impotent leader for the Union Army and was hesitant to move decisively to actually end the war. Between his reticence and Lee’s determination, the war lasted way too long and a tragic thousands of lives were lost. [Ahem! MY opinion.]Still, taking into consideration the “Pivotal Moments”, it was in this battle where the Union managed to turn Lee’s Army away, that history changed. First of all, while France and England were on the brink of throwing in with the Confederates by recognizing them as sovereign and thus proffering the Confederates their aid, the results of Antietam dashed that alliance once and for all.Secondly, because of this urgently needed victory for the Union, Lincoln was at last able to issue forth The Emancipation Proclamation which brought the war into a whole new dynamic giving it impetus and moral rectitude.I think most real scholars really like to read details about battles. I don’t. This book didn’t give blow by blow accounts, but rather carefully laid ground work up to and beyond the battle itself. Here we see Lee’s lost orders being found by a Union soldier in the most improbably way, making a drastic change of events.Again, pressing upon Lincoln the weight of The Emancipation Proclamation, and the timing that his decision required, reveals how American History might have been very different had not Antietam been considered a Union victory.

  • Doninaz
    2019-05-31 10:33

    As author of Battle Cry of Freedom, a Pulitzer Prize account of the complete Civil War and its related events, James McPherson is well-qualified to write about individual Civil War battles. But, McPherson makes it clear that Antietam is about more than a battlefield. He frames the battle, not just in its horrendous scope, but in the perspective of its importance.Lee believed that he needed early dominance, because the Union’s depth of resources would eventually turn the tide. So, when the Union suffered a series of losses and Lincoln shifted troops away from McClellan resulting in general demoralization, Lee took the opportunity to act. In September 1862, he crossed the Potomac with intentions to invade the North. But, Lincoln had reinstated McClellan, and his popularity with the troops boosted morale on the eve of battle. Then, the improbable happens: two Union soldiers discover a misplaced copy of Lee’s “Special Orders 191” containing details of the Confederate Army’s troop movements, including the timing and roads to be taken. This event played a role in the Antietam outcome. But even with this foreknowledge, the results were offset by McClellan’s bias toward caution and his tendency to overestimate Lee’s strength. The result, historically bloody but not decisive, was “good enough.” As a consequence:1. Lincoln had his “victory” with the military support needed to proceed with the emancipation proclamation, making slavery a major war issue.2. Congressional pressure subsided to sue for peace.3. European governments shrunk from their inclinations to support the Confederacy. In this concise book, McPherson presents a comprehensive picture of both this battle and its effects, which make the Battle of Antietam a turning point in the war.

  • Nicholas
    2019-05-31 07:34

    When I read the historical nonfiction book Antietam written by William McPherson, I felt the history behind its events. It is written in 3rd person point of view because the author is not speaking himself but only what the characters in the book said. This book follows the historical event of the American Civil War that led to what America is like today. The author uses a lot of dialogue and word choice to express how devastating some of the battles in the Civil War were. The book transfers throughout many characters perspectives but mainly General McClellan is the character that leads the North into victories and what his strategies are. In the perspective of General McClellan, we read about what he does as a general, what he does to be victorious or survive with minimal costs, and how he reacts to others within the army. We learn about the major turning points in the Civil War and how they affected the morale of one side or the other. The North and South went to war because the North was controlling the South’s way of life and soon the effort for the abolition of slavery was added to the list of causes. This book reminds me of Enemy At The Gates because it is about two sides that were formally friends but then because of the power that Russia had and they sided with the Allied powers, Germany believed they had to be destroyed. This compares to Antietam because the South’s way of life included racism and no central government. The North believed this was politically incorrect so they sent in troops to conquer the revolt(Southern states seceding from the Union). This is what led to the American Civil War. This is a great books for readers who are entertained with informational history and politics.

  • Jerome
    2019-06-09 12:31

    A well-written, well-researched and graphic history of the battle of Antietam and its impact (although more focused on the latter)McPherson covers the battle, its political and diplomatic context, the bleak situation before it took place and how its outcome gave Lincoln the leverage to issue the Emancipation Proclamation and remove McClellan. The narrative is compelling and very readable, although the coverage of the battle itself is very brief, if vivid. McPherson, however, explains the delay between the discovery of Lee’s orders and McClellan’s marching of his forces as evidence of the general’s caution (even writing that a Confederate commander would have acted more quickly), but does not mention that he ordered movement within hours of discovering the papers (and after checking the information via cavalry) When covering John Pope’s campaign, McPherson writes that “all evidence” indicates that McClellan wanted Pope to fail, although it still seems more likely that McClellan simply thought Pope would be, and deserved to be, defeated.A strong, concise and nuanced work.

  • Matt
    2019-06-08 08:50

    A battle I learned little about in school is brought to life by McPherson. He makes the assertion that the battle of Antietam was the turning point in the war--a full year+ before Gettysburg. He evidence, analysis, and research is sound and accessible to the novice researcher as well as the seasoned. I am seeing the war--in its totality--differently now because of the edifying effect of this premier work.

  • John
    2019-05-30 06:54

    McPherson is a great civil war historian. This was a well done short history of the major civil war items up to, and through, this historic battle.

  • Steve Nichols
    2019-06-05 06:38

    If you're like me and you thought Gettysburg was the turning point of the war, this book offers an interesting, alternate perspective.

  • Robin Friedman
    2019-06-16 05:54

    On September 17, 1862, the Army of the Potomac commanded by General George B. McClellan met the Army of Northern Virginia commanded by Robert E. Lee in the fields near Sharpsburg, Maryland. The result was the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in American History and a pivotal moment of the Civil War. The battle ended the Confederacy's first invasion of the North and gave President Lincoln the opportunity to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.In his short study, "Crossroads of Freedom" Professor McPherson weaves together many strands in discussing the significance of the battle. First, he places the battle against the backdrop of the prior military course of the war, both in the Eastern and the Western Theatres. He points out how Union successes in the early part of 1862 were followed by serious defeats in the Seven Days Battle and Second Manassas with the tide of the war turning to the Confederacy. Although the South would again invade the North culminating in the Battle of Gettysburg, Antietam was a clear check to Southern momentum. It gave the Union the courage, will and political force to fight on.Second, Professor McPherson emphasizes the role of the European powers -- England and France -- in the Civil War. These nations followed events in America closely and were economically at risk from the loss of Southern cotton for their textile mills. They likely would have recognized the Confederacy if the results of the first invasion of the North had favored the Confederacy.Third, and probably most importantly to his theme, Professor McPherson discusses the role of Antietam in the changing character of the Civil War. President Lincoln was opposed to slavery, but his initial war aims did not include freeing the slaves. Rather he wished to hold the Union together. As the War continued, Lincoln became convinced of the necessity of issuing an Emancipation Proclamation but believed that he needed a military success to give the Proclamation force and credibility. The victory at Antietam, narrow as it was, and tremendous as was its human cost, gave him that opportunity.Emancipation was indeed a new birth of freedom. It also, as Professor McPherson points out, changed the character of the War from one with the aim of trying to persuade the South to come back to a state of total War -- which changed the character of a culture and redefined the nature of freedom in the United States.Professor McPherson's book is part of a series called "Pivotal Moments in American History" whose aim is "to encourage interest in problems of historical contingency." There was a great deal of chance involved in the Battle of Antietam, more so than in most military campaigns. (There were also military blunders on both sides.) During the course of the southern invasion the Union discovered by chance a copy of General Lee's "Special Order No. 179" which had been dropped in a field. Special Order No. 179 detailed Lee's disposition of his troops and gave General McClellan the opportunity to attack in series each detachment of Lee's divided army. This was crucial to the result at Antietam. But McClellan missed the opportunity to win a decisive victory and bring an end to the War. Human error and chance play a great role in human events. But Professor McPherson might have done well to refer to Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address and compared Lincoln's reflections on the role of providence with the blind chance that led to the Union finding of Special Order No. 179.There is only a short description of the battle of Antietam itself. The focus of the study is putting the Battle in its historical and political context rather than in a detailed analysis of military moves. Nevertheless, I found Professor McPhersons' description of the battle (as well as his descriptions of the Seven Days Battle and Second Manassas) easier to follow than more detailed studies I have read. Professor McPherson gives a good annotated bibliography which refers the reader interested in a military study of the battle to more detailed accounts.This is an excellent study of the Battle of Antietam which places it well in the context of the Civil War and which encourages the reader to reflect on the meaning of the War and of the nature of American freedom.Robin Friedman

  • Nathan Albright
    2019-06-22 07:45

    Readers familiar with James McPherson as a military historian [1] are aware of the fact that there are at least two different sorts of works that he delivers as a historian--either short and incisive essays based largely on his prolific reading or longer narrative works. This book is of the length of his short books, with about 150 pages or so of material and a lot of endnotes and a lengthy bibliography, and it demonstrates how McPherson is a compelling narrative historian even where he is writing what amounts to an extended essay. I have yet to read a book by this historian that I have failed to enjoy and appreciate, and this book is no exception to the rule. To be sure, viewing the battle of Antietam as a turning point in the Civil War is no great and daring claim to make, but the historian not only makes a familiar claim but manages to do a good job of supporting it with context that makes sense of his claims and that puts the events on the battlefield in a broader picture that includes political and diplomatic concerns.The roughly 150 pages of this short book are taken up in just five chapters. After introducing in media res, or even towards the end with a discussion of the immense death toll as a result of the battle of Antietam, and then looks at the course of the war during 1861 and the early part of 1862. After this there is a chapter on the efforts by Union leaders (including Lincoln) to take the kid gloves off while other generals like McClellan and his coterie continued to be "soft" on the rebels. The third chapter examines the turn of the tide towards the rebels with the twin invasions of Kentucky and Maryland and the stalling of Union efforts against Vicksburg. The fourth chapter examines the battle itself, taking roughly 35 pages to do so, and then the final chapter looks at Antietam as the beginning of the end largely because of two reasons: the continued Republican majority in the House of Representatives and the dampening of European interest in recognizing the Confederacy. And it was those two factors that ultimately led to Yankee victory, since the rebels could not win so long as the political will of the North, expressed through Republican leadership, and the lack of interest among European powers in provoking war with the Union to support treacherous losers in the South, combined to force the South to fight from its own limited logistical base.To be sure, this book is not earth-shattering, but not every book needs to be. This book puts a sound discussion of military history into a perspective that looks at the political and diplomatic ramifications of actions, and that alone makes it a worthwhile military history as it answers larger questions about the interaction between military tactics and strategy and the larger aims for which wars are fought. Given that the consequences of Antietam included the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the death sentence of slavery in the United States, Antietam deserves to be viewed as an immensely important battle, perhaps the most important single battle of the Civil War and certainly one of a few vital pivot points on which Northern victory ultimately depended. This book is, moreover, not merely a standalone book but part of a series published by Oxford University Press on pivotal moments in American History as a whole, a worthy subject for a series of books. This book is short enough, pointed enough, and deep enough that it certainly makes the rest of the series worth checking out should the occasion arise. Any book that makes me want to read more books is good enough for my approval.[1] See, for example:

  • Sara Marks
    2019-05-28 12:49

    This book is part of the Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War. I am a few sessions ahead on the readings, but that is not stopping me. This book will be part of session 4 (we just ran session 2). I am not very knowledgeable about the Civil War. Let’s face it: I grew up in Miami. Miami has no deep cultural connection because Miami did not really exist in the middle of the 19th century. It was incorporated a few decades after the Civil War. There were no battle grounds to go visit on field trips, no local history to focus on, and no heroes to celebrate. While part of my father’s family has been in this country for generations, the majority of my family has come so recently that I am third/fourth generation American. My own family doesn’t have much of a connection to the Civil War so we never glorified or celebrated our own involvement.All this has changed since I moved to Massachusetts. This is a state rich in history, especially Civil War era history. Living in Lowell specifically has opened me up to so much interesting history that I am now more interested in the Civil War than I have ever been. It is difficult though as I know so little about the Civil War. As I do the readings for this series I struggle to keep up with locations, historical figures, and who won a battle. Crossroads to Freedom was amazing at helping me understand all these ideas, places and people I am struggling with. McPherson does an amazing job of explaining what led up to Antietam. He was delightfully critical of McClellan, but also fair to his strengths as a leader. He did an amazing job explaining the frustrations the Confederacy was feeling about being recognized by Europe. He gave me new insight into Lincoln and his struggle to go forward with the Emancipation Proclamation. The maps were detailed and helped me understand troop movements. The writing style was simple and easy to understand.What is my criticism? There isn’t any really. This book was selected because many, including McPherson, argue that Antietam was the turning point for the war. Even though it wasn’t a well fought victory (McClellan allowed Lee to just retreat without being followed – among other things McClellan failed to do) it was a much needed victory for them. It was after Antietam that Lincoln put forward the Emancipation Proclamation and it was after Antietam that Europe decided not to recognize the Confederacy as its own nation. McPherson recognized that, obviously, it was not the end of the war, but he makes the case that this battle is the deciding point.The question is: did he make his case? Did he convince me that this was the deciding point? Not entirely. I agree this was a huge turning point. This is when the war stops being about just reuniting the country and becomes about ending slavery as well. McClellan’s choice to not follow Lee and continue fighting makes me feel like this was a minor victory after a bloody battle. McClellan seems to be the one who thinks his victory was more important than it was. To me it seemed like a de facto victory. He didn’t really beat Lee. McClellan just stood his ground long enough.Should you read this book? Of course you should!

  • Nathaniel
    2019-05-26 09:41

    This is a book about the pivotal role that the Battle of Antietam played in American history. Like anything else about the Civil War written by McPherson, the research is excellent and the subject presented engagingly. However, there were several issues in the presentation that kept me from rating it higher. The first and most obvious is that the publisher erroneously markets this book as being about the Battle of Antietam, when most of it is an extended essay detailing events leading up to the battle; the battle itself only gets 2 chapters near the end. It's also somewhat redundant for anyone who has already read McPherson's much longer Battle Cry of Freedom, especially the first half; the events leading up to Antietam are covered very similarly in both works, and it's really only the more detailed part concerning the battle itself that is new. But really what kept me from rating this more highly is the fact that the whole book is severely abbreviated. This is the sort of story that really requires a 900-page book to tell, yet it reads as though McPherson is being constantly hassled by the publisher to hurry up. The introduction by the usually brilliant David Hackett Fischer, really just a commercial for the rest of the series, is another low point, made worse by the fact that because this was the work of a mainstream publisher released in 2002, invariably there's an exasperatingly inappropriate comparison of 9/11 to the Civil War by one of the most eminent historians of our time that just feels absurd. It's things like this that really feel imposed by a publisher who wanted to "jazz up" "boring" history that make the work lose a lot of its appeal for me. Overall, this book has some interesting information about the Battle of Antietam specifically that isn't in McPherson's longer book and the essay itself has high production values, but I found the publisher's obvious meddling in the presentation to be a major turn-off. You're not really missing much if you just read Battle Cry of Freedom and skip this one.

  • Caleb
    2019-06-08 06:51

    A concise overview of the significance of the battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg in the South). Only one chapter is dedicated to detailing the battle (and it doesn't go into hardly any details). If you want to read a book about the combat, tactics, and events of the battle, you need to find another book (Like "Landscape Turned Red" by Stephen W. Sears). Here, McPherson deals with the lead-up to battle in 1862. He describes the ups and downs of momentum from the viewpoint of the North, the South, and Europe. He also does a nice job in describing the ineptitude of General George McClellan, and how many opportunities were lost because of McClellan's paranoia earlier in 1862 on the Virginia Peninsula as well as at Antietam.In all, the book does a nice job of summarizing the importance of the battle of Antietam, and makes a very strong case that no other battle was as significant in terms of results regarding which side won. Had the Confederates won at Sharpsburg, peace was very much on the table in part because of European support and success on Northern territory. In the end, the battle itself was a draw after the 12 bloodiest hours in American history. Yet, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia ended its invasion of Maryland; an obvious Union triumph. This discouraged Europe from recognizing the Confederate States of America and let Lincoln issue the Emancipation Proclamation. McPherson does an excellent job of explaining the impacts each of those things had on civilians, soldiers, and politicians on both sides, and across the Atlantic.

  • Michael
    2019-06-16 09:38

    Overall I was disappointed by Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam. This is the second book I have read by James M. McPherson, the first being What They Fought For 1861-1865. I enjoyed the previous book considerably more. Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam, while accurate, was really quite boring. A book that, from the cover and description, appeared to be about the Battle of Sharpsburg (known as Antietam in the North) was in actuality a broad, generalized summary of the first two years of The War Between The States. While Mr. McPherson devotes nearly seventy-five percent of the book to the events leading up to the Battle of Sharpsburg, he devotes only twenty-five percent to the actual battle and its aftermath. One aspect of Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam that I did enjoy was the bibliographical essay in the back of the book. I discovered many books that I had never heard of before finding them in Mr. McPherson's essay, books that I would very much like to read. If you are looking for a detailed account of the Battle of Sharpsburg, Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam is not it.

  • Dave
    2019-06-17 08:40

    "Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam" is a well-done piece of Civil War history by noted historian James McPherson. However, the title is somewhat misleading; while it would seem that the battle of Antietam is the book's main subject, it instead takes a broad look at the events leading up to the battle and its immediate aftermath. The actual battle itself receives roughly a half-dozen pages of coverage, which presents the general flow of the event without getting into the finer details of that bloody day. While I was a bit disappointed the battle didn't receive a more detailed look, the book as a whole was very good, both in showing how the events leading up to the engagement at Sharpsburg took place, and revealing the impact it had on the events that followed (particularly the Emancipation Proclamation and possible foreign recognition of the Confederacy). Overall this is a great book for those new to the subject and looking for a clear presentation of the story (McPherson is a top Civil War scholar, so the text flows so well you'll finish the book in no time). Just don't expect an in-depth look at the actual battle of Antietam itself.

  • David
    2019-06-08 11:00

    Initially, I was surprised that the book didn't spend much time on the battle of Antietam itself, only about a third of the book. Then, I realized that the author's point was not to recount the battle, but to place the battle in the context of everything else and to make the case that this battle was a turning point in the war. Just prior to this battle, forces were moving against the Union - the Confederacy had begun invading the northern states and winning those battles, public opinion was turning against a war that seemed to have no end and European powers seemed ready to formally recognize the Confederacy.Then the Battle of Antietam.While McClellan didn't go far enough to completely wipe out Lee's Confederate army (and he could have), it was a success for the Union nonetheless. This victory drove the Confederates back across the border to the South, changed European opinion of the inevitability of the North's defeat and brought about a new wave of patriotism in the North. McPherson's case is compelling - this was indeed a pivotal battle.

  • Michael
    2019-06-23 10:37

    A clear and concise account of the Civil War with a focus on why the Battle of Antietam (also known as Sharpsburg) was a true turning point in the war. Though the slaughter in this rural area of Maryland in September 1862 led to the death of nearly equal numbers on both sides (about 6,500 total), it led to retreat of Lee's army from the North, effectively ended the potential of England and France to recognize the Confederacy as a legitimate nation, and provided an opportunity for Lincoln to proceed with the Emancipation Proclamation. McPherson is masterful in mashalling his narrative to include the background of the key political, economic, and social factors as a complement to the military events. Because of the compressed format of 160 pages, he is not able to linger on the personalities and strategy details of the commanders or the experience of individual soldiers. Thus, it is to be expected that the reader suffers some from limitations in emotional engagement in this account. �

  • Sean Chick
    2019-06-01 09:52

    I am a bit divided on this one. McPherson is a solid writer who skillfully imparts the importance of the campaign. My issue is the same I have with many Cold War neo-aboltionists: Lincoln is the hero and McClellan is the villain, although here he is a bit more sympathetic than other portrayals. McPherson makes no indication that Lincoln made strategic errors (which he did) or that a "decisive battle" such as Lincoln wanted was a near impossibility during the war. Antietam was the exception; a decisive victory like Blenheim or Austerlitz was possible. However, McClellan was in command. As a general he was brilliant at everything save battle. He could conceive good tactical plans but lacked the guts to stick with it. The book is too short to explain these bitter ironies. Even an additional twenty pages would have gone far. But this is meant as introductory work and in that regard it is admirable.

  • Nick
    2019-06-25 05:34

    I found this book to be slightly frustrating, due to its format. Roughly half of the book was actually a summary of the events of the Civil War from April of 1861 until the fall of 1862, setting the stage for the battle of Antietam.For students of the Civil War, this wasn't helpful. For absolute beginners, jumping from that into a rush of information about the battle was a little odd. Much of the book was actually about the political and diplomatic maneuverings which got altered by the battle, rather than the battle itself.Each half of the book was actually pretty good, but not aimed at the same audience, and not a perfect fit for any one reader. Thus, the book was not as good as most of McPherson's other works.Still, it's McPherson, which means that the writing and the research were both excellent, so it is possible to get good information from this book, even with those limitations.

  • Eric
    2019-06-10 09:00

    I enjoyed reading this too brief overview of a key moment in the Civil War, purchased as part of a visit to the Antietam battlefield and tour through rural western Maryland.The book, however, should either have been much longer or a bit shorter. While it did a nice job of providing the context for Robert E. Lee's 1862 invasion into Maryland, that context took up more than half the book. If McPherson had devoted as much effort to September 1862 and the Maryland invasion itself, it would have been a stronger and much longer book. There were places where I really wanted that additional detail - to the point where I might pick up a different book and the same topic. and the role that played in changing the momentum on the war.I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed McPherson's treatment of General McClelland. An intriguing mix of strengths and weaknesses in one leader.

  • Phil Deschler
    2019-06-05 10:54

    Excellent book not only about the battle of Antietam it also gives a strong background of history leading up to the battle. The ups and downs for both sides in the war and the political battle for recognition of the Confederacy in Europe. England and France were on the verge of recognizing the Confederacy and demanding mediation. This battle stopped Europe's involvement in the war. Antietam also gave Lincoln the platform for the Emancipation Proclamation. This historical work gives you the emotional ups and downs on both sides of the war. It shows how a single battle or a number of battles raised feelings to elation or depression.The main purpose was to show not only the unbelievable loss of human life but that this battle was a major turning point in the war if not the major turning point of the war.