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Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam (Pivotal Moments in American History)

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,413 Ratings  ·  105 Reviews
The Battle of Antietam, fought on September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest single day in American history, with more than 6,000 soldiers killed--four times the number lost on D-Day, and twice the number killed in the September 11th terrorist attacks. In Crossroads of Freedom, America's most eminent Civil War historian, James M. McPherson, paints a masterful account of this pi ...more
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Published July 9th 2002 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 2002)
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Aug 01, 2015 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this a lot. Had read his main Civil War book but quite a long time ago. Two main thoughts, one controversial and one not. 1. McClellan was a thorn in Lincoln's side with his constant excuses. It to attack or even to move. No wonder his men loved him—he kept them away from the war. 2. In the eyes of contemporaries Lincoln was naive, foolish and not up to guiding his country at war. Now we dote on his every word. My guess that history will treat Obama similarly, recognizing in retrospect h ...more
Jan 10, 2009 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history, war
Earlier in the book, I was tempted to give this 4 stars, but as the book raced (as in whoosh) to an end, I simply felt way too much ground was being covered in too short a space (156 pages, excluding endnotes, etc.). On the good side, Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam is a marvel of economy. McPherson knows his subject inside and out. I've read a great number of books on the War, but McPherson's take is never stale or old, and his abiity to find (for me at least) new letters and quotes from that t ...more
Sep 12, 2012 Jessika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
James McPherson's Antietam is so incredibly readable, it really makes a great book for both Civil War scholar and novice. If you're looking for a read about the events leading up to Antietam and its significance to the rest of the war, this is definitely a great book to check out.
May 22, 2012 Dale rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Does a brilliant job of looking at the "meaning" of the battle of Antietam

I have nearly 90 books that cover the Civil War on my bookshelf. Most books that cover the Civil War compartmentalize the battles into little chapters with titles like "Chancellorsville", "Antietam" and "Shiloh". The battles are thoroughly covered but the feel for the larger flow of the war is sacrificed.

In Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam 1862 , McPherson dramatically sweeps the reader along and I was left with a renewed
Jul 01, 2010 Kevin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
McPherson sets out to demonstrate that the battle at Antietam in 1862 marked a pivotal moment during the American Civil War, and in this he is correct. However, while the battle itself is not the main focus of the book very few pages are devoted to the actual events. McPherson spends almost the first two-thirds of the book building up to Antietam and the last, and relatively short, last chapter quickly examines the results of the Union "victory".

McPherson makes liberal use of eyewitness accounts
Feb 18, 2016 Dave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam" is a well-done piece of Civil War history by noted historian James McPherson. However, the title is somewhat misleading; while it would seem that the battle of Antietam is the book's main subject, it instead takes a broad look at the events leading up to the battle and its immediate aftermath. The actual battle itself receives roughly a half-dozen pages of coverage, which presents the general flow of the event without getting into the finer details of that blood ...more
Robin Friedman
Mar 07, 2015 Robin Friedman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On September 17, 1862, the Army of the Potomac commanded by General George B. McClellan met the Army of Northern Virginia commanded by Robert E. Lee in the fields near Sharpsburg, Maryland. The result was the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in American History and a pivotal moment of the Civil War. The battle ended the Confederacy's first invasion of the North and gave President Lincoln the opportunity to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

In his short study, "Crossroads of Freedom" Profe
Carol Moffat
Jun 25, 2014 Carol Moffat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is part of a series, “Pivotal Moments In American History” edited by David Hackett Fischer and James M. McPerson. Their series works from a slant on writing history considering “problems of historical contingency.” As I understand this, the narrative in each history carries us through the social and personal events in the lives of the people playing out their daily circumstances, and how history in fact does pivot on these factors.

The Battle of Antietam was not, in fact, a resounding
Sean Chick
Jul 19, 2015 Sean Chick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a bit divided on this one. McPherson is a solid writer who skillfully imparts the importance of the campaign. My issue is the same I have with many Cold War neo-aboltionists: Lincoln is the hero and McClellan is the villain, although here he is a bit more sympathetic than other portrayals. McPherson makes no indication that Lincoln made strategic errors (which he did) or that a "decisive battle" such as Lincoln wanted was a near impossibility during the war. Antietam was the exception; a de ...more
Jul 01, 2015 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this too brief overview of a key moment in the Civil War, purchased as part of a visit to the Antietam battlefield and tour through rural western Maryland.

The book, however, should either have been much longer or a bit shorter. While it did a nice job of providing the context for Robert E. Lee's 1862 invasion into Maryland, that context took up more than half the book. If McPherson had devoted as much effort to September 1862 and the Maryland invasion itself, it would have be
Jun 15, 2007 Samantha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
a little over my head at times because it's bursting with military strategy, mcpherson's main point is how the battle of antietam in the fall of 1862 prompted lincoln to follow through with his initial emancipation strategy postulated on september 22, and really, for serious this time, no fucking around, emancipate the slaves come january 1, 1863.
Aug 30, 2008 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
solid general history covering the military, political and social implications of the bloody battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and the subsequent issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.
This book makes me want to read Battle Cry of Freedom, Macpherson's general history of hte Civil War. He's highly accessible.
Sep 01, 2014 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read quite a few books on the Civil War. This one was easily one of the most helpful in understanding the war. Choosing to treat Antietam as a 'Crossroad' or pivot allows McPherson to use the first two thirds of this short [150 pages] book to show how the progress of the war made Antietam so important. In much that I have read on this war I have found myself getting lost in details and never feeling that I had a sense of the 'shape' of the war. After reading this book I feel better prepared ...more
Jan 10, 2008 Kyle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's the first Civil War book I've read that I can remember, but it was very interesting. It provided a lot of insight into the battle it focused on, but also into the surrounding elements (both political and social) that made this battle so important.
May 22, 2008 Rae rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A concise account of the momentous Civil War battle as well as the smaller conflicts that led up to it. It is clear that either side could have changed the outcome of the war. History is made up of individual decisions. Fascinating.
A very simple overview of 1862 up to and including the battle of Antietam. There was nothing truly groundbreaking about this book, and it had a simple thesis that Antietam was the true turning point of the Civil War. The author makes the case that European countries, especially France and England, were very close to recognizing the Confederacy because the war was going so well for the Confederacy in 1862 (among other reasons). The loss at Antietam, while certainly not as bad as it could have bee ...more
Jeni Enjaian
The number one complaint I have about this book is the narrator. I know I would have liked this book much more than I do. I assumed, based on the introduction, that more of the book would be devoted to Antietam. In fact, I actually looked forward to that. Instead, the author devoted barely a few pages to the actual battle. If one looks at the book as one defining the battle as the key turning point in the war, then the narrative makes sense. However, the author's proposed outline (given in the i ...more
Mark Valentine
Mar 06, 2016 Mark Valentine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McPherson quotes slaves and senators and generals and grunts to present a complete picture of a pivotal event in U. S. history. The combined events of the 'victory' at Antietam for the Union and Lincoln's presentation of the Emancipation Proclamation (to take effect January 1, 1863) made it clear for insiders and outsiders that the beginning of the end of the war was at hand.

It must have been an amazing age to live in; reading McPhearson brings experiencing that age (via reading) that much clos
This is a book about the pivotal role that the Battle of Antietam played in American history. Like anything else about the Civil War written by McPherson, the research is excellent and the subject presented engagingly. However, there were several issues in the presentation that kept me from rating it higher. The first and most obvious is that the publisher erroneously markets this book as being about the Battle of Antietam, when most of it is an extended essay detailing events leading up to the ...more
Sara M.
Apr 01, 2012 Sara M. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is part of the Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War. I am a few sessions ahead on the readings, but that is not stopping me. This book will be part of session 4 (we just ran session 2). I am not very knowledgeable about the Civil War. Let’s face it: I grew up in Miami. Miami has no deep cultural connection because Miami did not really exist in the middle of the 19th century. It was incorporated a few decades after the Civil War. There were no battle grounds to go ...more
Jun 01, 2013 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Initially, I was surprised that the book didn't spend much time on the battle of Antietam itself, only about a third of the book. Then, I realized that the author's point was not to recount the battle, but to place the battle in the context of everything else and to make the case that this battle was a turning point in the war. Just prior to this battle, forces were moving against the Union - the Confederacy had begun invading the northern states and winning those battles, public opinion was tur ...more
Nov 07, 2012 Caleb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: antietam
A concise overview of the significance of the battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg in the South). Only one chapter is dedicated to detailing the battle (and it doesn't go into hardly any details). If you want to read a book about the combat, tactics, and events of the battle, you need to find another book (Like "Landscape Turned Red" by Stephen W. Sears). Here, McPherson deals with the lead-up to battle in 1862. He describes the ups and downs of momentum from the viewpoint of the North, the South, and ...more
Overall I was disappointed by Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam. This is the second book I have read by James M. McPherson, the first being What They Fought For 1861-1865. I enjoyed the previous book considerably more. Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam, while accurate, was really quite boring. A book that, from the cover and description, appeared to be about the Battle of Sharpsburg (known as Antietam in the North) was in actuality a broad, generalized summary of the first two years of The War Betwe ...more
Sep 12, 2014 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was a good read. Pretty good ballance and does an excellent job of setting the battle in the context of the war. May even do too much there.

The right ballance of detail, and personal stories around the heavyweights in the Civil War.

I tend to gravitate to the smaller stories around individual battles versus the large volumes on thgis incredible period of US History.

This is a soilid, smaller book with the right amount of detail.

I would say 3.5 stars.
A clear and concise account of the Civil War with a focus on why the Battle of Antietam (also known as Sharpsburg) was a true turning point in the war. Though the slaughter in this rural area of Maryland in September 1862 led to the death of nearly equal numbers on both sides (about 6,500 total), it led to retreat of Lee's army from the North, effectively ended the potential of England and France to recognize the Confederacy as a legitimate nation, and provided an opportunity for Lincoln to proc ...more
Greg Western
May 16, 2014 Greg Western rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent history of the events in September 1862, and the implications of those events. I was again reminded of my dislike of General McClellan, especially as he waits 18 hours to send out troops after one of his soldiers finds Lee's plans wrapped around 3 cigars, in a field. It was a brutal battle, with no clear victory, but it hurt the South as they needed an offensive win. McPherson is so clear and complete, and his writing is top notch. Highly recommended.
Rachael Lind
It wasn't a great book, but it wasn't a bad book. It gave a very detailed review of the occurrences before, during, and after Antietam and their importance of the war. This isn't my personal favorite subject. Though I find it interesting in small doses, it was a bit too much in a book like this. For anyone passionate about the subject though, I think they would enjoy it.
Dec 08, 2014 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really like the writing style of McPherson. Its hard to put down his books. I read this in about 4 days, checked out from library. It is only about 150 pages so it was a quick over read. There was not a lot of detail about Antietam. Over half of it was an overview of the war leading up to the battle. Great read for someone that wants an overview of the civil war.
Phil Deschler
Jan 02, 2012 Phil Deschler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Phil by: Self
Excellent book not only about the battle of Antietam it also gives a strong background of history leading up to the battle. The ups and downs for both sides in the war and the political battle for recognition of the Confederacy in Europe. England and France were on the verge of recognizing the Confederacy and demanding mediation. This battle stopped Europe's involvement in the war. Antietam also gave Lincoln the platform for the Emancipation Proclamation.

This historical work gives you the emoti
Paul Kinzer
Substantially less detail and analysis than Sears' book, yet more readable, and a good proportion of maps to text. Includes a sufficient overview of events leading up to the battle, and a brief analysis of the effect it had on the outcome. If you're looking for a quick read on Antietam, I'd recommend this.
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James M. McPherson (born October 11, 1936) is an American Civil War historian, and is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor Emeritus of United States History at Princeton University. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Battle Cry of Freedom, his most famous book. He was the president of the American Historical Association in 2003, and is a member of the editorial board of Encyclopædia Britannica.

More about James M. McPherson...

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