Synopses & Reviews
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 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.
"[F]irst of all, the author of Crossroads of Freedom is James McPherson, Davis Professor of History at Princeton, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the magnificent Civil War survey Battle Cry of Freedom
. If McPherson thinks he knows something worth sharing about the Civil War, I'm inclined to hear him out. And within a few pages, the illustrious author makes good on his reputation. Indeed, this deceptively slim volume emphasizes why fine history is always worth reading." Katharine Whittemore, Salon.com
(read the entire Salon review
About the Author
"[Mcpherson's] latest work is further evidence that he continues to be the most reliable, insightful, and readable Civil War historian of our time."--The Wall Street Journal
"McPherson is the preeminent historian of the Civil War.... His mastery extends from military affairs to politics to diplomacy, and he never loses sight of the human beings, both great and small, caught up in the war's vortex."--The Washington Post
"McPherson skillfully, succinctly, recounts the political, social, and military events leading up to the battle, as well as the battle itself and the aftermath."--Forbes
"[McPherson] does a superb job of re-creating a moment when the war, and all of American history that followed, might have gone altogether differently."--USA Today
"Haunting.... In some of the letters of surviving soldiers, there is a sense that the horror would forever escape the capabilities of their language and remain lodged only in their nightmares."--The New Yorker
"In McPherson's hands, the Battle of Antietam gains an urgent immediacy...his brief narrative is driven by an awareness of the element of contingency, the 'what if' of history."--Los Angeles Times Book Review
"All [the] grand elements and the personalities of the key participants are explained in clear and compelling detail...a graceful and engaging blend of McPherson's scholarship and stylish writing.... A small but valuable gem that...teaches and entertains."--The Boston Globe
"History doesn't get any better."--The Christian Science Monitor