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The Long Road To Antietam: How the Civil War Became a Revolution 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0871404114
ISBN-10: 0871404117
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Editorial Reviews


“Starred review. Historian Slotkin 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… Grounding military operations in political calculation and personal character, Slotkin gives us perhaps the richest interpretation yet of this epic of regenerative violence.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Throughout the book, the author exhibits his vast knowledge of the numerous generals involved in both sides of the conflict. Slotkin’s comprehensive descriptions of the battles of 1862 show his deep understanding of the terrain, the difficulties of communication, the impossible logistics and the characters that influenced the outcome. The author deftly exposes his egocentric, messianic tendencies as he purposely prolonged the beginning of the conflict.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Slotkin has produced an absorbing revisionist history of what could be called the second American Revolution.” (Newsweek)

“Slotkin does an excellent job of tracing the strategies used by both sides.” (Military Heritage)

“Slotkin tells a great story and for those interested in battle narratives, I have little doubt that you will enjoy his narration of Antietam.... Slotkin does a great job laying out this conflict and how Lincoln managed to rid himself of the McClellan problem, issue the Emancipation Proclamation, and turn the Civil War into a holy war that ended slavery. Notably, Slotkin notes that the alleged international reasons for the Emancipation Proclamation are vastly overrated and it had little to no effect on British or French policy toward the conflict.... The Long Road to Antietam will change how I teach the first two years of the war. In my world, that’s a pretty high compliment.” (Erik Loomis - Lawyers, Guns and Money)

“A remarkable piece of work, an eye-opening double history of a battle and a war.” (Randy Dotinga - Christian Science Monitor)

“A riveting, perceptive analysis of the Civil War campaigns of 1862, of the reasoning behind the Emancipation Proclamation and of the complex power struggle between President Abraham Lincoln and the 35-year-old Union Commander of the Army of the Potomac, Gen. George B. McClellan… This is one of the most moving and incisive books on the Civil War that I have ever read.” (Chris Patsilelis - Tampa Bay Times)

“Richard Slotkin has added significantly to the literature… Slotkin evokes drama and, where appropriate, dark humor in recalling what became an extraordinary test of civilian authority over the military… Slotkin is an accomplished social historian (and novelist) with a focus on war and race, and he brings all his considerable skills to bear in this book. What makes even his unsurprising conclusions unfold at such a gripping pace is his great gift for narrative. It is as if Carl Sandburg were writing again―but with footnotes―for the author is a master at telling a story, capturing a mood, bringing characters to life, and making substantive and well-documented historical points in the bargain.” (Harold Holzer - Military History Quarterly)

“An absorbing account… Slotkin paints a detailed portrait of the talented but flawed general who helped Lincoln bring about his revolution, if ever so unwillingly… Slotkin’s description of the battle is essential to completing his meticulous, maddening portrait of McClellan.” (John Swansburg - Slate.com)

“This is much more than another treatise on the battle itself. Yes, the movements and countermovements on the battlefield are there, but this sprawling book has multi-faceted tentacles which Slotkin, an award winning author and former university professor, skillfully weaves into a cohesive narrative… This is a thought-provoking book which goes well beyond the standard battle narratives and places Antietam in its full context as a significant point of change in U.S. domestic policy, a shift with far-reaching ramifications for the next century.” (Scott Mingus - Cannonball)

“In this engrossing book Richard Slotkin looks beyond that blood-drenched battlefield to explore how President Abraham Lincoln linked victory at Antietam to his decision to free slaves and declare that they could join the Union Army.” (Thomas B. Allen - HistoryNet.com)

“Provide[s] detailed and careful renderings of these events and of Lincoln’s intellectual journey.” (James M. McPherson - New York Review of Books)

“One of the best new books to examine the fateful day of 17 September 1862…. Slotkin has expanded much on the meaning of this battle, but also casts a new interpretation as to what the battle meant for the administration of President Abraham Lincoln and the nation.” (James A. Percoco - On Point: The Journal of Army History)

About the Author

The author of the award-winning American history trilogy Regeneration Through Violence, The Fatal Environment, and Gunfighter Nation, Richard Slotkin, an emeritus professor at Wesleyan University, won the Shaara Award for Civil War fiction for Abe. He lives in Middletown, Connecticut.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (July 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871404117
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871404114
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,042,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lawrence Meyer on July 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Long Road to Antietam takes a very close look at an episode usually understated in histories of the Civil War: George McClellan's flirtation with a coup in 1862. For this reason he adds depth and drama to the familiar story that makes his a first-rate book and an exceptionally important contribution to Civil War literature. He makes a persuasive case that no small part of McClellan's reluctance to commit his Army to battle was that his political agenda was to conserve the Army for his purposes. McClellan's inclination to plot against Lincoln makes Lincoln's position even more poignant and his handling of it even more admirable. Of all the crises Lincoln had to contend with, this one with McClellan had to have been one of his most stressful. Lincoln's long road was by no means over when, with the Emancipation Proclamation, he deftly converted the scant military capital McClellan's tied battle at Antietam gave the Union to his (Lincoln's) political purposes.
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The reader's drawn though a compelling narrative of Union military failures, social unrest, political divisions, and diplomatic crises during the Civil War's second year. Especially convincing is the author's account of Gen. McClellan's behavior. New (to me) information explains many of his actions, and illustrates the toxic effect he had on the Federal war effort.

Noteworthy are the descriptions of McClellan's entourage: A Snake Pit of fawning opportunists whose disloyalty to the civilian government was exceeded only by their military incompetence. If you've been perplexed about how a Union army twice the size of its adversary's, better equipped and fed, could be serially whipped by Lee & Co., go no further. You'd probably have to reference the French army in 1940 for something comparable. And, oh, yes, the price was paid by thousands of northern killed and wounded. It's more than likely that the McClellan animus remained after his dismissal: Genls. Burnside, Hooker, and a couple of other criminally negligent officers insured further (costly) Federal reverses and prolonged the war.

With all due respect to the reputations of the Confederacy's legendary commanders, after reading this book one is less impressed with their achievements, because the competition was so pathetically inept. I'd recommend savoring the passages in which the author depicts McClellan's glee when a rival officer is defeated at Bull Run II. Never mind that the dead and wounded were men of McClellan's own command.

Then somehow the coach turns into a pumpkin. The deft analysis is abandoned for a slogging blow-by-blow of the campaign and battle of Antietam. Even die-hard war buffs may just yawn their way through this. I can't imagine why the author felt compelled to include it.
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Richard Slotkin has provided a very comprehensive work on the battle and politics of Antietam and it offers up several good points and important considerations, even for those of us who are familiar with the battle and the American civil war.

Having read in other works McClellan's disrespect and hostility to Lincoln, this work takes it more than a step further. McClellan for a while had designs on being made a dictator of all military operations, and through his power initiating talks with the generals of the Confederacy in an effort to bring them back into the Union and allow slavery to prosper. I suppose he had little regard for Lincoln's firm belief stated in 1858 that a house divided could not stand. McClellan is the only general in my belief that had a bigger ego than Douglas MacArthur.
He surrounded himself with his favorites, entertained no difference of opinion and was a dangerous man.

It was obvious that he had great plans but was not a great general. His strength was in building the army and his soldiers loved him for it, but his weakness was his constant fear of defeat. He proved that during the Seven Days when it appeared the Union was well on the way to Richmond. When Lee assumed command and began viciously stiking at the Army of the Potomac, Mac could not handle it and the operation was a failure. His later and deliberate "slows" in reinforcing John Pope at Second Bull Run was on the border of treason and Salmon P. Chase wanted him shot, but Lincoln went back to him once again to engage Lee, who had moved into Maryland.

The contrast between the Davis/Lee combo and the Lincoln/McClellan effort is staggering.
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I read the lowest ranked reviews for this book before writing a review to determine what objections other readers had to this book. Both 2 * reviews were unhappy with the amount of battle detail and/or the confusion of keeping track of what was going on during battle and those are legitimate complaints. The battle (and a description of battle in some detail seems to be an issue of establishing bona fides with the very intense Civil War aficionados for any writer who discusses the war and who wants to sell books) is covered extensively- difficult in itself since it lasted only one day and not much really happened except that a lot of soldiers on both sides were killed. Taking the other perspective however the battle itself is integral to one of the author's main themes-McClellan's personality. The manner in which he fought the battle gives insight into McClellan's fascinating psyche no mere words can otherwise accomplish.

The episode of Antietam provides an up close view of one of the most dramatic side bars to the Civil War- how Lincoln dealt with the very popular paradoxically insecure megalomaniac McClellan- the darling of the northern war Democrats who hoped to beguile the south back into the union by a combination of war victories that never shattered the southern army or southern pride and promises that they could keep slavery as it was after reconciliation. Slotkin also contrasts Lincoln's subtle political strategy with Lee's subtle military strategy- both needing to take big risks for big rewards. Lee was fully backed by Davis in his endeavor; Lincoln's general McClellan fought Lincoln at every turn.
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