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Crossroads of Freedom


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About the Author

James M. McPherson is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor of History at Princeton University. America's leading historian of the Civil War, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Battle Cry of Freedom, which was a New York Times best seller, and he won the Lincoln Prize for For Cause and Comrades.


An appropriate selection for the publisher's "Pivotal Moments in American History" series, this pithy monograph by McPherson (history, Princeton; Battle Cry of Freedom) argues that the bloody clash at Antietam on September 17, 1862, in which over 6000 Union and Rebel troops perished, would ultimately determine the outcome of the Civil War. Earlier in the year, Lincoln's armies appeared near victory with such successful western campaigns as Shiloh and Forts Henry and Donelson and the surrender of New Orleans and Memphis. However, during the summer months, the pendulum of battle swung toward the Confederacy, culminating in the Army of the Potomac's drubbing in the Seven Days Battles and the enemy's drive into Maryland. McPherson brings alive Gen. George McClellan's overtaking of "Bobby" Lee near the village of Sharpsburg, thereby checking his invasion of the North. The Federal victory at Antietam, limited as McPherson concedes it was, blunted Lee's momentum, eclipsed the likelihood that foreign countries would recognize the Confederacy, reversed a disastrous plunge in the morale of Northern troops and civilians, and afforded Lincoln the chance to issue his long-awaited proclamation of emancipation. A fine study; recommended for the classroom and all libraries. John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"A graceful and engaging blend of McPherson's scholarship and stylish writing....McPherson's admirers know he amply demonstrated his talent for this style of writing on an epic scale in his Pulitzer Prize-winning 'Battle Cry of Freedom, ' which covered the entire war....'Crossroads of Freedom' is a small but valuable gem that similarly teaches and entertains."--Michael J. Larkin, Boston Globe
"Haunting....In some of the letters of surviving soldiers, there is a sense that the horror would forever escape the capabilities of their language and remain lodged only in their nightmares."--David Remnick, The New Yorker
"In McPherson's hands, the Battle of Antietam gains an urgent immediacy...[H]is brief narrative is driven by an awareness of the element of contingency, the 'what if' of history. By showing how Antietam changed the course of the Civil War, 'Crossroads of Freedom' suggests how the outcome may have shaped world history."--Los Angeles Times Book Review
"McPherson is the preeminent historian of the Civil War....His mastery extends from military affairs to politics to diplomacy, and he never loses sight of the human beings, both great and small, caught up in the war's vortex....McPherson is a master of the miniature as well as the panorama, as he made plain in his two previous books about the loyalties and issues that inspired men on both sides of the Civil War. Indeed, by contrast with the earnest, step-by-step and shot-by-shot accounts of Gettysburg now being inflicted upon those of us who simply cannot read enough about the Civil War, 'Crossroads of Freedom' is a model of economy."--Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post
"A wonderful new book....In this slim volume, he skillfully weaves military, diplomatic, and political history into a seamless, highly readable narrative. This effort is intended for the general reader, not the academic expert, but the scholar's attention to precision and detail is evident on every page. Books that deal with seminal events in American history while remaining faithful to historical scholarship and readable by laymen do not come along very oftern. But when they do, they should be read. History doesn't get any better than this."--Terry W. Hartle, Christian Science Monitor
"Today, the Antietam battleground is a place of death, sadness and too many monuments. Unlike Gettysburg, there was no brilliant presidential address afterward to give Antietam a wider meaning. Fortunately, readers can turn to 'Crossroads of Freedom' to gain historical perspective about the larger aims of the war."--Herbert Mitgant, Chicago Tribune
"Crossroads of Freedom is what we have come to expect of James McPherson--a compelling account that displays his command of that Civil War era's military and political history. It vividly illuminates a critical turning point in the transformation of the war for the Union into a crusade for emancipation."--Eric Foner, author of Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877
"Historian James McPherson is a national treasure, and Crossroads of Freedom is his latest gem. Vivid, elegantly written, and superbly rendered, this slender volume brings the momentous events surrounding the fateful battle of Antietam to life as never before. I loved this splendid book!"--Jay Winik, author of April 1865: The Month That Saved America
"The battle of Antietam wielded enormous influence over the course of the Civil War. Although not a decisive tactical victory, it boosted the Union cause in profoundly important ways. James M. McPherson's engaging and perceptive narrative places Antietam within the broader context of the war, assessing major commanders, evaluating strategic decisions and movements, and explaining the battle's background as well as its seismic political and diplomatic consequences. Anyone interested in learning about Antietam should begin by reading this book."--Gary W. Gallagher author of The Confederate War
"The story and all the points he brings forth are impressive enough in themselves, captured with admirable precision and succinctness. And what a rarity this is. During the past decade, anyone with a passing interest in the Civil War could lose himself, if he chose to, in a vast tomb of works on the subject, lined with dusty shelves groaning under the weight of overstuffed volumes and overwritten prose. Mr. McPherson's books will never belong among them. His latest work is further evidence that he continues to be the most reliable, insightful, and readable Civil War historian of our time."--Jeff Shaara, Wall Street Journal
"A short but eloquent history lesson....[McPherson] does a superb job of re-creating a moment when the war, and all of American history that followed, might have gone altogether differently....McPherson reminds us that history is full of small events and accidents that become pivotal moments in a nation's history. Then, as now, nothing is inevitable."--Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
"The illustrious author makes good on his reputation. Indeed, this deceptively slim volume emphasizes why fine history is always worth reading. Don't fear an arid chronicle of charging regiments. 'Crossroads of Freedom' is not specifically a work of military history. Rather, it meticulously, seemingly effortlessly, constructs a context through which the reader can clearly see the pivotal nature of the battle by witnessing its consequences. It delivers the 'what if' mode of historical writing, but always sticks to the facts. This is a great achievement....Arrive at the end of this remarkable book, and the meaning of McPherson's title--'Crossroads of Freedom'--becomes all the more profound. Antietam was the fulcrum of freedom."--Katharine Whittemore,
"Impeccably researched, superbly illustrated, and compellingly written...[A]n indispensable addition to the libraries of Civil War historians and enthusiasts."--Military Heritage
"McPherson convincingly establishes the Battle of Antietam as the conflict's pivotal moment militarily, politically, and morally."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"This pithy monograph by McPherson argues that the bloody clash at Antietam on September 17, 1862, in which over 6000 Union and Rebel troops perished, would ultimately determine the outcome of the Civil War."--Library Journal

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