American Civil War holds in it many events that turned around the futures of Americans and the states in United States of America. An event of the American civil war was the battle of Antietam. In this battle Potomac River became the bloody river and across it situated Maryland became the valley of death in 1862. The reasons behind were the foreign pressures, President Abraham Lincoln’s war aims and the aim to free all the slaves. His movement was known as Proclamation of emancipation.
The factors that became the reasons for the war were the Union army’s disobedience to the President and their lack of interest in liberating the slaves. The state of Virginia was a crucial are at that time. There was a Confederate army which was being headed by General Robert E. Lee; he was the Commander of the Northern Virginia Army. The victorious Union whose head was an energetic and ambitious army general George McClellan, the Chief Field General to the President of United States. Several books were written on this event of the war but James M. McPherson being a scholar on Civil War and a great historian engraved the event on paper so fabulously that establishes interest of the reader to read it till the end. Other big literary figures also appreciate this great pen craft by McPherson (2002).
McPherson has put into light the darkest moments of the day that is supposed to be the longest day in American history. The civil war went on for long but there are such moments that become the decisive point of the war’s future. Battle of Antietam was that moment when United States had determined what her future is going to be after the war. It was freedom that became the cause of American Civil war.
Interestingly, in America the meanings of freedom were being defined in ways different from one another. McPherson quotes that there were five definitions of freedom at the time of American Civil War. All it took was the ascendancy of a single one. President Abraham Lincoln used to say that we all declare for liberty, Neither Confederates not the Union kept the liberation of 4 million slaves in their freedom definition. Confederacy’s opinion was different (p.XIV – p.XVI).
Lincoln tried to value and work for all the opinions to keep the peace and integrity. People were fighting for their political rights, the freedom in their definition, autonomous rights and sovereignty of states, and equality. Lincoln’s opinion about Confederates was that their rule would obliterate the nation probably. Lincoln wanted to settle all the questions and wanted the honesty of his dominions so as to get on with the situation. His strategies went in vein because of the difference of opinions which led the breakout of the American civil war (p.XIV – p.XVI).
Battle of Antietam is probably the best rendezvous of the American civil war and is supposed to be as turning point in the war. This was the blood-spattered day ever happened in the history. McPherson quotes the idea of some soldiers in his chronicles that outcome of battle of Antietam had already decided the ultimate destiny of American Civil War. America and confederated nations of America depended on the fortune of this war.
The future of racial discrimination was also affected by the battle of Antietam (p. 8). The civil war went on for almost a couple of years but the fate had decided by this battle only and no single battle after that. There were situations that seemed to be overturning but the effects of Antietam were left intact (p.9).
Battle of Antietam broke out due to occurrences of few events which lit the fire. Union used to be a winning side and was having several triumphs. Union had some artillery victories as well in terms of naval and the remaining military. This success and army of the South overpowered the Confederates extremely. Confederacy countered the situation and fought back. This fight back gave them an unending series of triumphs. This was a year of 1862 and month of September the place of Maryland across the Potomac River where the Northern Virginia came to be on the verge of Confederacy victories (p-9).
Basically the main flaw that McClellan did was not to deploy his army on time. For him it was not prepared to be placed strategically for war purpose. Being a perfectionist, he wanted to train his army even more. He was afraid to lose and wherever he used to find any risk, he would rather leave the task. The fact that Lincoln had sent the war orders before an ample time he became late because of his own issues which included some disdain for Lincoln as well. McPherson mentions in his book about this that the Unions had been doing well for quite a time.
They had been getting maximum triumphs. Their navy had the credit of incarcerating many convoys alongside South Carolina and North Carolina besides having defeated in a couple of wars; they had the maximum critical states under their invasion. They had flocked out confederacy troops from West Virginia. McClellan was also named as ‘Young Napoleon’ and he almost proved to be his replica at many places. This is the mistrust between him and his army that also caused them to fail (p.12- p.15).
President Abraham Lincoln’s war objectives were to see United States as a single nation i.e. all the states united as a nation preserving their autonomous rights. Lincoln’s goal needed an army that could capture the Confederates, overpower its armies, triumph all over the confederacy invasions and ultimately to overcome its rule. Until 1861, this seemed impossible (p.11).
The ambassadorial crisis and prospective war broke out quietly with Great Britain when Union warship incarcerated emissaries of Confederates, i.e. Mason and Slidell. This was taken action by President Lincoln immediately and he liberated both Mason and Slidell.
This stopped the forth-coming war but the grudges left the thing unpleasant. Abraham Lincoln got into serious trouble because the British and French upper hand had vanished due to Confederates conquests. Now until the Confederates do not guarantee cotton heave, intimidation risks will keep being there on Lincoln’s head. Dangers of suing were pretty much possible if the foreign involvement to these issues continues (p.12).
Lincoln’s war aims were disturbed when the banks of Bull Run were conquered in July 1861. Another blow to Union force was the Potomac River’ Balls Bluff catastrophe, situated at Leesburg, Virginia in October of same year. Union had no more marine barricades. Even then Union had the grip over the situation by having the rule of Kentucky and Missouri. In 1862, when Union had started losing battles again, these failures had reversed all the Lincoln’s other war policies. He desperately called for some triumphs otherwise foreign involvement would just destroy his goals of emancipation proclamation which is to liberate the slaves and slavery standards (p.12).
Lincoln’s armies had let him down who were not very sensitive about the issue of emancipation proclamation. They were also not very loyal to Abraham Lincoln. Above all, in the case of Antietam McClellan ignored that almost every time and when Lincoln sent strict orders for the defense only then he started off with his army but he did not have much ample time on the other hand Confederacy had strategies and already they were working on them (p.14).
Battle of Antietam created a lot of resentment between the people and government, people and army, army and government, and within the army. A kind of distrust established between the army men and their chief McClellan. A great carnage took place after the battle of Antietam. In a small field the count of those Union soldiers would be probably 200 and it was a big place. The way these dead bodies were pictured in different newspapers was even more terrible (p.4 - p.7).
The sunken farm road had a horrible sight because this was the place where the bloodshed had occurred big time. Valley of Deaths should be the name given to the place that time. The road and the ground were covered by the bodies and their parts. After the victory when the victorious confederacy army got the orders of burials, then it seemed a difficult task.
They were not able to count the dead. Bodies and body parts were scattered in the area of more than 55 yards. Along with soldiers there were the bodies of hundreds of horses also. All they assorted with one another in that bloody environment. Battlefield looked hell from the day of the battle and after the soldiers’ bodies were buried and horses’ bodies were burnt, it was still depicting a horrific panorama (p.4 – p.7).
McPherson is describing all this in his book as words of an official who belonged to United States Sanitary Commission who came to treat those soldiers medically. After many days the newspapers were still announcing about the unending smell of blood and bodies. Wounded soldiers were almost in every house. This is what it takes to fight a battle. Whatever the reasons may be, be it political, be it social, or be it defensive it has a great bloodshed hidden in itself. War should not be the thing to do not even the last option (p-4 – p.7).
General Robert E. Lee had made a strong wall of his army across the Pennsylvania after the battle of Antietam so that nobody dares to have that place and conflict with the Confederacies. This was a great win over southern armies. But the facts of holding battles should be unveiled. The army of the Northern Virginia rode across the river Potomac and reached Maryland. Confederates were on the verge of victory. This brought an end to the South’s victorious past. The war remained to be continued for a couple of years and a bit more but the decisive factor of the war was decided in the battle of Antietam which was the liberation of the slaves.
The foremost goal of Abraham Lincoln was to free the slaveries and to bring success to his Proclamation of Emancipation. He issued emancipation proclamation just five days after the war of Antietam. The foreign relations improved to greater extent after Antietam battle. African-Americans got liberation after years. The concerns of Europe i.e. France and Europe again came to United States. This was the war that gave United States of America a strength and confidence that they can achieve things (p.4 – p.11).
References McPherson, J. M. (2002). Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam. New York: Oxford University Press US.