'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

Far From 'Infinitesimal': A Mathematical Paradox's Role In History

It seems like a simple question: How many parts can you divide a line into? The troublesome answer was square at the root of two of Europe's greatest social crises.
NPR

Soup to Nuts, Restaurants Smoke It All

While you won't find cigarettes in restaurants anymore, some smoking isn't banned. It's not just meat, either; it's hot to smoke just about anything edible.
NPR

In Asian-Majority District, House Race Divides Calif. Voters

The U.S. mainland's only Asian-majority congressional district sits in California's Silicon Valley, where two Indian-American candidates are trying to oust Japanese-American Congressman Mike Honda.
NPR

Who Should Pay To Keep The Internet's Locks Secure?

Fortune 1000 companies rely on the open source software OpenSSL for their core business. Two-thirds of websites use it. But no one pays for it and it's never had a complete security audit.

Leave a Comment

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