Antietam: historic site in northwestern Maryland, known as Antietam Creek, the scene of a major Civil War battle in September of 1862.
It was a lost cause.
Unless you’re a careful student of history, you may fail to realize that Abraham Lincoln was probably the most hated man in America.
Not only had he been elected President, causing the South to secede from the Union, but he had also made a decision to surround himself, in his cabinet, with competitors and critics.
When the war began, it was a fiasco. At the First Battle of Bull Run, the South nearly ended the entire conflict with one day’s murder and mayhem. But Lincoln continued, searching for a means to keep the country together, and possibly in the process, heal some old wounds and atone for the sins of slavery.
The problem was, the North couldn’t win a battle. Not even close.
So rather than being considered a great leader or a man of vision, he was viewed by his contemporaries as a clumsy goofball, ill-prepared for the challenge of repairing the breach.
He kept replacing generals in charge of the Army of the Potomac, hoping that someone might grow a backbone or at least field an army.
Lincoln had two goals:
Primary was to keep the Union together, for a reason which he almost singularly held within his breast. Everyone else had varying degrees of indifference on the issue.
But secondly, he realized that emancipating the slaves was not only an important step of contrition, but also would keep England and France out of the war,siding with the Confederacy. But it was certainly difficult to issue any kind of Proclamation in the midst of defeat.
The Battle of Antietam was a standoff, with more soldiers killed on the field than in any war in history, and Lincoln seized on that result, deeming it a moral victory, and set in motion to free the slaves.
Even though the Union became more proficient at war and eventually wore down their Southern brothers, it was the Battle of Antietam that gave Lincoln the doorway to make the Civil War about something other than states’ rights. In doing so, he robbed the countrymen clad in gray of the possibility of gaining international acceptance, therefore stifling their resources to those found within their own borders.
It was enough.
It’s why we still honor Abraham Lincoln today instead of shaking our heads in sadness over another failed Presidency.
Antietam was a bloodbath which ended with no conclusion–except permission for a President to change the rules and certainly, change the world.
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