Tuesday, March 12, 2013

[Book Review] CROSSROADS OF FREEDOM by James M. McPherson


Marilyn reviews CROSS ROADS OF FREEDOM: ANTIETAM: THE BATTLE THAT CHANGED THE COURSE OF THE CIVIL WAR by James M. McPherson (Oxford University Press, 2002).

Freedom. Who has freedom? Who does not?  What does the Constitution of the United States say about freedom?  

What did the North and the South believe the Constitution says about freedom? Why did the North's purpose for the Civil War change at Antietam?  Did everyone in the Union Army and political parties of the North believe in emancipation before Antietam? Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam: The Battle that Changed the Course of the Civil War by James M. McPherson explores those questions and other causes of the Civil War, the battle of Antietam, and the aftermath--the defeat of the South.

The Civil War was a war also fought in the press between the Union and Confederacy. James M. McPherson recounts the newspapers' opinions in the North, South, and also Great Britain--(Great Britain was divided over whether to aid the Confederacy). Before the battle, the North was divided over the issue of emancipation in the Congress, newspapers, public opinion, and among troops. Crossroads of Freedom traces the course of the war and issues that lead to Abraham Lincoln's decision to write the Emancipation Proclamation.

President Lincoln's decision to write the Proclamation of Emancipation was not his purpose for the war when he took office in 1862. His policy was for restoration of the Union, not ending slavery. James M. McPherson takes the reader into Lincoln's mind and world as he struggled with the indecisiveness of  George McClellan--General of the Army of the Potomac, Confederate General Robert E. Lee's winning invasion campaign, and the issue of slavery which was being debated in Congress. The physical conditions of the troops, their camps, marches, and horrors of the aftermath of battles with the dead, dying, and wounded are vividly written as are the campaigns of General Lee of the Confederacy and McClellan of the Union before and during Antietam.

The change of the purpose of the war along with author's writing style made Crossroads of Freedom a very interesting read.
Marilyn Umfress, Central Library

*Crossroads of Freedom is one of the book selections for the "The Shape of War," the March 14th session of Making Sense of the American Civil War at the Central Library. Click here for details.

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