America's Bloodiest Day: It Made the South's Defeat Possible. (History Now)

Article excerpt

JAMES M. McPHERSON IS known as the author of Battle Cry of Freedom, the best-selling one-volume history of the Civil War. Now he has written an absorbing short book, Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam, the Battle That Changed the Course of the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 224 pages, $26.00), which focuses on the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in American history. More than twice as many people were killed on September 17, 1862, as on September 11, 2001, but that is not his point. Rather, he shows that when the battle began, the Confederacy was probably closer to victory than it ever would be again. The first part of the book follows the war through the string of Union victories along the Mississippi and elsewhere in early 1862 and then the reverses that followed that summer, leaving the South looking more powerful than ever by fall. The account of the battle itself takes only 13 pages to move swiftly from the morning slaughter in the Cornfield to the midday horror of the Bloody Lane, the unnecessary Union bottleneck at Burnside Bridge, the dramatic late arrival of A. …