19 thoughts on “Antietam Assessment

  1. wgdavis October 30, 2011 / 12:23 pm

    So, we finally see some things about Lincoln that are close to revealing a side to his persona that has not been talked about much publicly.

    Lincoln was indeed a radical liberal who affected more social change in this country than any other president [perhaps since Washington though it is an arguable point, I think].

    This also seems to add a dimension to the preliminary EP that I have not heard articulated, that it effectively stopped England and France from backing the Confederacy. [This may not be ‘new’, but it is to me.] This simply adds another layer to the EP that expands the greatness of that document.

    What went unsaid in the clip was the sheer political genius of Lincoln to craft a document that accomplished so many aims, and changed the political and military, and diplomatic climate so drastically in one master stroke. Perhaps this wasn’t part of the goals of the clip, but it should have been. Everything they said about Lincoln pointed to his mastery of Military objectives by the time Antietam rolled around, and he certainly seems to have mastered the rest of the presidency as well by then.

    I do think that Ms. Glymph contradicted herself about the EP stating that it didn’t free any slaves. Indeed it did. It freed those in territory currently controlled by the CSA. Every mile of ground gained by advancing Union troops freed slaves.

    Essentially, the EP was very full of wisdom on so many levels, and was very unconventional.

    That said, I am not sure the Gettysburg Address was intended to include Antietam.

    Lincoln spoke:

    “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”

    He uses the word “here” four times in that passage. Clearly that refers only to the men who fell at Gettysburg. Indeed, the word “here” is used eight times in the whole speech. That’s pretty specific.

    • wgdavis November 1, 2011 / 2:31 pm

      My bad. The word ‘here’ appears 5 times in that passage.

  2. pete October 30, 2011 / 2:01 pm

    Interesting and maybe the conventional wisdom in this case is correct, but what about Stones River? I always felt that the impact of Stones River may have had more of an impact on the Proclamation and the possible involvement of the Europeans. Was it after Stones River that at least in the minds of the Northern press that federal troops were seen as liberators? I don’t know, but to me Stones River always got short shrift in regards to its possible ideological impact.

    • wgdavis October 30, 2011 / 9:05 pm

      Interesting thought. Lincoln, at least, appreciated the narrow, but hard fought victory by Rosecrans. But the timing of Stones River actually post-dates the final release of the EP. It also marked another state from which Braxton Bragg had been driven. But it also was another victory in the Union’s win column, and deep in the Confederacy. Coming only four months after Antietam, that may have cemented earlier reluctance in Britain and France to back away from backing the CSA. Equally as important to the outcome of the battle was what Rosie did afterwards, in fortifying and strengthening his position at Murfreesboro.

      • pete October 31, 2011 / 7:03 pm

        Thanks for the reply – I forgot about Rosecran’s fortifying of Murfreesboro afterward. I know Cozzens touches upon this a bit in his book as does McDonough but I always thought this battle deserved a larger study in regards to some of the thoughts mentioned above.

        • wgdavis November 1, 2011 / 1:07 pm

          I agree that the battle is under-valued by the historians. Also undervalued is the remarkable maneuvering of Old Rosie in the summer of 1863 as he worked Bragg out of Tennessee…until Chickamauga. The only thing that devalues his performance is the fact that he was confronted by Bragg [second only to Joe “never met a retreat I didn’t love!” Johnston]. Rosie’s only blunder was creating the great hole that Longstreet exploited at Chickamauga, but his bacon [and the bulk of his army] was saved by Thomas and Granger.

          All of this, along with Meade’s failure to nab Lee after Gettysburg, and Grant’s taking of Vicksburg lead to Grant [and Sherman] coming east.

          • pete November 2, 2011 / 4:11 am

            Very true – the march through the Cumberland’s and his approach to Chattanooga is masterful. One other guy to mention when talk turns to saving Rosey’s bacon was John Wilder and his guys.

  3. Bryn Monnery October 30, 2011 / 5:09 pm

    The notion that the preliminary emancipation proclamation prevented the British Empire from intervening is conventional wisdom. It is also false. The British perceived it as a cynical attempt to ferment a slave revolt – an event that would require intervention on humanitarian grounds. (see Jones,Union in Peril chapters 8-10)

  4. Ned Baldwin October 30, 2011 / 8:58 pm

    Its bothersome to see historians declare that the EP only applied to slaves in territory not controlled by the US. There were significant locations controlled by the US on January 1, 1863 where the EP did apply.

    There also seems to be little attention paid to the fact that in the preliminary proclamation Lincoln gave the rebels a way out — if your area stops being in rebellion (or at least make the appearance of stopping) by the end of the year, then that area might be exempted from the proclamation and you can keep your slaves.

    • wgdavis October 31, 2011 / 11:45 am

      I’m not so sure those areas are significant.

      I agree, the preliminary carried an implied deadline of 100 days, and the penalty for failure was the loss of slaves.

      Regardless, it put the Confederacy on notice that the longtime original offer of reconciliation with slavery was no longer on the table.

  5. Bob Huddleston October 31, 2011 / 9:18 am

    The idea, used then as well as now, that the EP did not free any slaves is as valid as saying that the Declaration of Independence created the USA. Nonsense! The US did not become a reality for seven more years, until the Treaty of Paris. Had the American Revolution failed then the DoI would be a historical curiosity.

    It only took 2 1/2 years for the vast majority of the slaves to be free and 3 years for the 13th Amendment to liberate the rest.

  6. John Foskett October 31, 2011 / 9:24 am

    I’ve never bought into the notion that historians (at least qualified Civil War historians) have failed to point out the geographical limits of the EP. Anybody with more than a casual interest is well aware of that fact. I do think that some folks ignore Lincoln’s big dilemma of keeping the so-called Border States, if not happy, at least uninterested in aiding the Rebellion while also doing what was possible to get rid of slavery under a “war measure”. I believe much – but not all – of what Lincoln wrote to Greely in August, 1862. He’d been tinkering behind the scenes with various options for going after slavery in the Border States and elsewhere, but had run into opposition. All things considered there is little doubt that the EP was a radical step. I also think, however, that the impact on Great Britain and France has been overstated – the impact was probably incremental. Neither had much incentive by this point to gedt directly involved with the Confederate effort. .

  7. Bob Huddleston October 31, 2011 / 9:24 am

    The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in areas considered to be in rebellion, many of which were controlled by the United States on January 1, 1863.

    All of the slaves in the areas delineated were free de facto with thirty months of the Emancipation Proclamation and a large number were freed immediately. The Emancipation Proclamation was prospective, i.e., it would free slaves as the United States Army marched south, and they were on the advance.

    Reading the Emancipation Proclamation, and comparing the areas included and excluded, shows that the immediate effect of the Emancipation Proclamation was to free a large number of slaves, in areas under United States’ control, but still considered to be in rebellion. The Emancipation Proclamation preserved slavery only those areas *not in rebellion,* not those areas under United States’ control on January 1, 1863. And that is a huge difference.

    Note that in Louisiana the excluded areas are New Orleans, the Mississippi Delta and the area immediately west of the Delta (county lines were a little different in 1863 than now, but close enough to use Rand-McNally). However, the US Army had occupied more of the state to the North, heading, as they were, towards Port Hudson. So all of those slaves were freed.

    The excluded areas of Virginia included West Virginia (small slave population anyway), and Berkeley County, which is the start of the strip of West Virginia which today takes in both Berkeley and Jefferson (Harpers Ferry) counties. But Jefferson County was not excluded. (Trivia point: obviously the boundaries of the new state of West Virginia were still in a bit of a state of flux. I believe [which means I do not know enough West Virginia history to say one way or another] the inclusion of the lower Shenandoah Valley into West Virginia was a political stroke to make certain that if there was a peace treaty between the US and the CS, the B&O Railroad would all be in the United States).

    The only other parts of Virginia excluded were the Eastern Shore (the peninsula that stretches South from Eastern Maryland towards Cape Charles), and the area around Norfolk-Hampton-Fortress Monroe.

    However, the United States controlled *all* of Virginia north of the Rappahannock, including, obviously, Alexandria County, which then consisted of Arlington and Alexandria. They also had a presence in the Shenandoah. Now “control” is a relative word: John Mosby would have disputed the above paragraph! But, nevertheless, the Confederacy did not control most of Northern Virginia. So there are two big areas, and, in the case of Virginia, important areas, where the slaves *were* freed on January 1, 1863.

    In addition, the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Arkansas, Georgia and the Carolinas. On Emancipation Day, the United States controlled much of tidewater and the barrier islands of Georgia and North and South Carolina. The Union also controlled the Ozarks of Arkansas (not many slaves) but also the heavily slave areas of the extreme northeastern counties of Arkansas. The blue coats were in possession of major portions of North Mississippi and Alabama, and they would, within a few months, liberate the densely slave occupied areas of the Mississippi black belt between the Mississippi and the Yazoo.

    Quite a large number – probably hundreds of thousands, maybe even a million or more, of the slaves *were* freed – and freed immediately – by the Emancipation Proclamation.

    And the balance of the four million would be de facto free within thirty months.

  8. Ned Baldwin October 31, 2011 / 12:47 pm

    Bob, is there some source that give you the idea that “the inclusion of the lower Shenandoah Valley into West Virginia was a political stroke to make certain that if there was a peace treaty between the US and the CS, the B&O Railroad would all be in the United States”?

    • Bob Huddleston October 31, 2011 / 6:15 pm

      Not that I know about! It is strictly a supposition on my part. An attempt to guess why the Lower Valley ended in WV. Any ideas?

      • Ned Baldwin November 1, 2011 / 5:19 am

        Bob, I really have no idea. Keeping that stretch of the B&O in one state seems sensible. I just am surprised by the idea that in 1863 whoever was making the boundary decision was anticipating the US would lose and that in the resulting peace treaty between the US and the CS the boundary of West Virginia would be respected by the CS.

  9. Bob Huddleston November 1, 2011 / 9:46 am

    You may be right. Any ideas on a good book or article about creating the boundaries of WV?

    • wgdavis November 1, 2011 / 5:16 pm

      For what it is worth:

      “On October 24, 1861, residents of thirty-nine counties in western Virginia approved the formation of a new Unionist state. The accuracy of these election results have been questioned, since Union troops were stationed at many of the polls to prevent Confederate sympathizers from voting. At the Constitutional Convention, which met in Wheeling from November 1861 to February 1862, delegates selected the counties for inclusion in the new state of West Virginia. From the initial list, most of the counties in the Shenandoah Valley were excluded due to their control by Confederate troops and a large number of local Confederate sympathizers. In the end, fifty counties were selected (all of present-day West Virginia’s counties except Mineral, Grant, Lincoln, Summers, and Mingo, which were formed after statehood). Most of the eastern and southern counties did not support statehood, but were included for political, economic, and military purposes. The mountain range west of the Blue Ridge became the eastern border of West Virginia to provide a defense against Confederate invasion. One of the most controversial decisions involved the Eastern Panhandle counties, which supported the Confederacy. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which ran through the Eastern Panhandle, was extremely important for the economy and troop movements. Inclusion of these counties removed all of the railroad from the Confederacy.”


      West Virginia Division of Culture and History
      West Virginia Archives and History

      • wgdavis November 1, 2011 / 5:17 pm

        I guess you’d have to check the archives there to see the source of that.

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