Antietam: Essays on the 1862 Maryland Campaign

Antietam: Essays on the 1862 Maryland Campaign

Antietam: Essays on the 1862 Maryland Campaign

Antietam: Essays on the 1862 Maryland Campaign

Excerpt

Students of the Civil War have long debated the relative importance of various military campaigns. Most attention has focused on the early summer of 1863, when Union armies won spectacular victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, and the fall of 1862, when Southern armies mounted simultaneous offensives into Maryland and Kentucky. Gettysburg achieved early and enduring popular acclaim as the single decisive moment. A range of factors explains Gettysburg's primacy, among them its sheer magnitude, the fact that the battle occurred on Northern soil, the importance of the climactic assault on July 3 as a symbolic "High Water Mark of the Confederacy," and Abraham Lincoln's eloquent benediction over the graves of Union dead. The number of monuments at Gettysburg, as well as the crush of tourists at the battlefield park, testify to the battle's hold on the American imagination.

Others have argued that Antietam rather than Gettysburg deserves recognition as the dividing line where Confederate fortunes shifted irrevocably toward defeat. Advocates of this view insist that never were so many political, diplomatic, and military elements aligned so favorably for the Confederacy. A victory in the hills of western Maryland or in southern Pennsylvania might well have propelled the South toward independence, but Lee's retreat after the ferocious bloodletting at Antietam changed everything, causing Europe to back away from recognition and opening the door for emancipation and its vast consequences. Certainly no other battle exceeded the drama and tragedy of Antietam. Across more than two centuries of the nation's involvement in wars of all kinds, Antietam remains the worst one-day slaughter in American history. The ghastly losses in the Cornfield, the West Woods, and the Sunken Road, the specter of the Confederacy's premier army courting absolute disaster while pinned against the Potomac River, and the inexplicable refusal of the Federal commander to press his advantage supply powerfully haunting images.

Central to the campaign was a memorable military and psychological . . .

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.