Antietam

Lately, I’ve been reading The Long road to Antietam: How the Civil War became a Revolution by Richard Slotkin. Now you might ask what’s a nice gal like me doing reading a war history.

I blame my father for my interest in the Civil War.

Dad made many business trips in his line of work and often brought me along for company on his journeys across the South. Whenever we were near a Civil War battlefield, he always stopped to visit. Today where the Park Service has set up dioramas to describe battles that took place during the Civil War, in 1950s, the South was still in a Depression, and the battlefields were mostly abandoned, the exception being Gettysburg which was “under construction,” i.e. the States were finally putting up monuments to their dead.

I’ve written elsewhere how Dad had thought he would go to West Point, but failed the physical. Dad’s family had a proud heritage, and he, being the only boy, was supposed to carry on the family tradition. I believe he regretted his failure to do so the rest of his life.

Although, I know war is often the only way to settle a dispute, it is not glamorous. And total war is awful.

Slotkin’s book does not pull any punches, it is REAL history, not a Romantic tale. For example, the Rebel soldiers were so sick with dysentery the Federals could track them by following their bloody feces.

Several chapters are dedicated to the actual battle along the Antetam Creek (to Sharpsburg MD) which Lee lost.  However, McClellan, with many more troops and access to supply line, claimed Antietam as a great victory, although he remained on the East side of the Creek, watching the battle through a telescope. The battle was fought on the West side of the creek with both Lee, with his arms in splints, and Jackson in the middle of it.

Mostly a political history, in the remaining chapters Slotkin covers the struggle between McClellan and his superiors in Washington.

Because I am reading biographies and histories about US presidents and the context of their times, I found this book especially fascinating.  I have read four other books about Lincoln, and the more I read, the more I am convinced he was one of our greatest presidents.

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Lorenzo Adley, his eyes were blue.  He was a very young soldier who wore a beard and mustache to look older.

The third reason I m interested in Antietam is because Great Uncle Lorenzo (1) Adley was with the Fifth New Hampshire at Antietam. His sister, Ellen, my second great-grandmother (paternal grandmother’s grandmother) was so proud of him, she named her youngest son Lorenzo (2).  I’ve written elsewhere about Uncle Lorenzo (1) who served from 1861-1865, was wounded four times, commissioned, and led a USCT, as depicted in the film Glory.

 

 

16 thoughts on “Antietam

  1. Lorenzo was a handsome man wasn’t he. Reading several books on one person will likely give you more insight into that person than you could get from one author. I am not that much of a history buff but I do believe we need to keep expanding our knowledge and interest. Glad you have great memories with your Dad and the battle sites.

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    • The Civil War made me sad for many years. Then I read books about WWI and WWII.

      FDR is my hero. He had the courage to declare war against the Axis countries which made all the difference to the rest of the world.

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    • Dad had so much invested in becoming a member of the military that losing that life plan seemed to disorient him for a long time. He took me to all kinds of war movies in the 1950s, so I don’t know that he ever understood how bad war was, not that I did, even as a military wife.

      He voted for McGovern, however, so maybe he changed his opinion as he grew older.

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    • Most of those who died from dysentery in the Civil War were Confederates. Yanks were better supplied. Nevertheless, when they gathered together in large numbers, various ailments like cholera spread badly.

      The Revolutionary War soldiers also suffered with Small pox.

      And many soldiers in WWI contracted and spread Influenza.

      In WWII it was VD.

      And of course malnutrition was always an issue.
      War is hell. But the manufacturers of war games and Films will never show kids this stuff.

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  2. I only became interested in history when I married a history buff. You and Gregg would have made great teachers. Re your comment on my blog recently, I am happy to say we were not bothered by mosquitoes, which is unusual because they love me and leave Gregg alone.

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  3. I was interested in Civil War history as well..but more the human side of it. One of my favorite books was “A Stillness at Appomattox ” by Bruce Catton. He had a gift for writing that I found profound. He made you feel like you were there. This book is part of a trilogy..written in th 50’s, I think.

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    • If you still like that kind of book, you will like this book. I never knew so much about the suffering of these men. Meanwhile the pols back in Washington DC were fighting with each other and the officers leading the Fedrals were a mixed bag.

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  4. I was born and have lived my entire life in the south. I have read a considerable amount about the Civil War but I never discuss anything about it with friends or family because I simply loathe everything about the Confederacy. I, too, think Lincoln was one of our greatest presidents.

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