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

Richard Slotkin. Norton/Liveright, $32.95 (496p) ISBN 978-0-871-40411-4
Historian Slotkin (Regeneration Through Violence) moves from his path-breaking studies of America’s cultural mythology of violence to a set piece of real-life carnage in this gripping, multifaceted history of the Civil War’s bloodiest day. The author pens a fine narrative of the Battle of Antietam, balancing a lucid overview of strategy and maneuver with subtle, novelistic evocations of the chaos of combat as men “edg[ed] forward step-by-step each time they loaded and aimed, trying to get out of the smoke so they could see better how to shoot.” It’s a dramatic saga, full of coups and blunders, but it’s just the capstone of Slotkin’s searching analysis of the campaigns of 1862, when the conflict, he contends, took a “revolutionary” turn toward intense bloodshed and radicalism. (Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation immediately after Antietam.) At the center is his vivid rendition of the power struggle between Lincoln and Union generalissimo George McClellan, one of history’s great neurotics, who combined paralyzing timidity on the battlefield with grandiose ambition to become a virtual dictator and reverse the abolitionist thrust of Lincoln’s policies. Grounding military operations in political calculation and personal character, Slotkin gives us perhaps the richest interpretation yet of this epic of regenerative violence. 10 illus., 8 maps. Agent: Carl Brandt, Brandt and Hochman. (July)
Reviewed on: 04/09/2012
Release date: 07/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 512 pages - 978-0-393-08442-9
Paperback - 478 pages - 978-0-87140-665-1
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