Antietam 1862: Gateway to Emancipation

Antietam 1862: Gateway to Emancipation

Antietam 1862: Gateway to Emancipation

Antietam 1862: Gateway to Emancipation

Synopsis

This book explains how the Battle of Antietam-a conflict that changed nothing militarily-still played a pivotal role in the Civil War by affording Abraham Lincoln an opportunity to announce the emancipation of slaves in states in rebellion.

Excerpt

Just south of Gettysburg is a small grove of trees, surrounded by Union battle monuments. General Pickett’s division charged at this clump of trees on July 3, 1863. One can look west to a bronze equestrian monument of Robert E. Lee and imagine the moment. As an historian teaching the American Civil War, I often arrived here on a battlefield tour. A student might give an inspired talk on Pickett’s Charge, perhaps a better one than I could offer. The speaker might refer to a monument denoting the greatest advance by any of Pickett’s men and say: “This was the high-water mark of the Confederacy” (i.e., the best chance for Confederate victory and independence). Later, I would ask whether Gettysburg was the turning point of the war. What about Sherman’s taking of Atlanta and its impact on the 1864 presidential election? Or what about Antietam and its connection to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation? Students’ thoughts varied. For me, as for many historians, 1862 was the crucial year and Lee’s defeat in his Maryland campaign was the crucial event. Antietam’s outcome reshaped both the politics of slavery and emancipation and the dynamics of European diplomacy regarding the Civil War.

By September 1, 1862, Lee had pushed McClellan back from Richmond and then driven Pope from Virginia at Second Manassas. He could have resumed the defensive in northern Virginia, but chose instead to invade Maryland. The mere presence of Union armies in Virginia in 1862 had prompted thousands of black people to take their freedom by crossing into Union-controlled territory. Thousands more in Confederate-controlled . . .

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