Slotkin’s Long Road to Antietam: An Update

I’m still slugging my way through Richard Slotkin’s The Long Road to Antietam:  How the Civil War Became a Revolution.  I thought I’d give an update on the book.  I’m very happy with his descriptions of the confederate plans and actions.  They are well grounded in reality.  He depends heavily on Joe Harsh’s books, not primary sources, but at least he chose well on which secondary sources on which to depend.  Where he’s speculating, he clearly shows us he’s speculating.  I really enjoyed his description of the confederate defensive line at Antietam.  On the other side, though, he very clearly believes McClellan isn’t just bad but evil, malevolent, and downright despicable.  He goes beyond what his sources support and he still depends on mind reading.  I can’t count how many times I’ve written “Evidence?” in the margins or pointed out contradictory statements, such as on page 242 where he accuses McClellan of lying regarding his estimates of enemy strength, but in his footnote says the evidence suggested that McClellan sincerely believed his estimates.  So which is it?  Did he sincerely believe his estimates or was he “deliberately exaggerating” them, requiring us to apply a “mendacity factor” to his estimates?  So when he’s talking about the confederates, the book is pretty solid.  When he’s talking about the Federals, the book is very frustrating.  More to come.

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