Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book Review: A Savage Thunder: Antietam and the Bloody Road to Freedom

Jim Murphy, two-time winner of the Newbury Award wrote this book.  It is very engaging.  Murphy studied numerous accounts of the battle, and puts together this hour by hour history of the battle.  He starts with events happening the days before, the Confederate attack of Harper's Ferry, the Union finding of the Confederate plans, and the rush to a defensible position, before the Union Army can take advantage of the plans.  The narrative is peppered with first person accounts of the battle.  He makes it a point to talk about the involvement of women in the battle, as well as African American involvement.
The most fascinating part is the narrative.  The author has a way to draw you into the history.  And even though he doesn't hold back talking about the blood and the loss of life and limbs, his storytelling is superb, and the story is not overwhelmed by this, the bloodiest day in American history.  There are maps to help with the story telling.  I would have liked one more map of the Burnside attack of the bridge. 
The other goal of the author was to tell of the relationship between this battle and the Emancipation Proclamation.  President Lincoln had already written the proclamation, but was waiting for the right opportunity to release it.  He found in this battle that opportunity, and changed the leanings of most of the European Nations as a result, which were leaning towards recognizing the Confederacy but after could not bring themselves to support slavery, which is the difference the proclamation made.
I very much enjoyed this book.  Great narrative, great pictures, and great maps.  The author also peppers the story with poetry from the era, and this also adds to the character of the book.

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