'Antietam' Dissects Strategies Of North And South | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

'Antietam' Dissects Strategies Of North And South

Play associated audio

In the earliest days of the Civil War, the Union Army focused on cutting off key supply lines on the periphery of the South. The approach was designed to hurt the South's economy and convince its citizens to return to the Union.

Even though President Lincoln said slavery was unjust, in the earliest days of the war he told the Southern states that he wouldn't interfere with slavery as an institution.

"He believed that with ... leaving slavery alone, that he could convince the Southern majority — Southern moderates — to come back," says Wesleyan professor and historian Richard Slotkin. "It took a year of conflict for him to realize that Southerners were really committed to the Confederacy."

Slotkin's latest book about the Civil War, The Long Road to Antietam, traces how both Northern and Southern strategies changed in the summer of 1862, when both sides committed to an all-out total war and Lincoln squared off against Gen. George McClellan, an ardent Democrat who held fantasies of both a dictatorship and a military coup against the Union.

After a battle in Virginia, McClellan, who briefly served as the chief general of the Union Army and organized the Army of the Potomac, demanded that Lincoln reject any move against slavery, stop treating Southerners as rebels and give up his own political power.

"Within a week, Lincoln rejected those demands and told [another general] that he was going to issue an Emancipation Proclamation, which was opposed to everything McClellan had just said to him," Slotkin tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "The decision to issue an Emancipation Proclamation meant [he was] throwing out any hope of compromise with the South."

In making that decision, Slotkin says Lincoln knew he was turning the Civil War into a much bigger conflict. "The South would not quit until beaten, and that means total war."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Oh, 'Boyhood!' Linklater's Cinematic Stunt Pays Off

Richard Linklater's new film took 12 years to make and tracks the actual youth and adolescence of its lead actor. Critic Bob Mondello says Boyhood is a rich and resonant portrait of real life.
NPR

If Exercise Is Work, Mindless Snacking May Follow

The idea that sacrificing at the gym entitles us to a reward seems to be embedded in our collective thinking. Researchers set out to test how this affects how we eat after a workout.
NPR

Week In Politics: Israel And Immigration

Regular political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and David Brooks of The New York Times, discuss the conflict in the Gaza Strip and President Obama's request of emergency immigration funds.
NPR

Friday Feline Fun: A Ranking Of The Most Famous Internet Cats

Forget the Forbes Celebrity 100. This is the Friskies 50 — the new definitive guide of the most influential cats on the Internet. The list is based on a measure of the cats' social media reach.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.