A Fierce Glory: Antietam-The Desperate Battle That Saved Lincoln and Doomed Slavery by Justin Martin


Almost every angle imaginable on the Civil War has been studied and yet authors continue to bring forth different perspectives. This is the case with Justin Martin’s A Fierce Glory.

I have read many accounts of the Battle of Antietam – most focus solely on either side or give a balanced view of the battle. Martin gives a balanced account of the battle, but he adds a new element by looking at Abraham Lincoln during the battle. Lincoln was waiting to hear about the results of the battle before he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln was anxious to issue it, but he did not want to issue it after a loss – better effect if it was issued after a victory.

Martin’s descriptions of the fighting are not too detailed, but they are enough to give the reader a decent picture of how the battle unfolded and why it ended the way it did. Its greatest strength is not in the battle descriptions, but in explaining the relationship between the battle and Lincoln’s decision to issue the Proclamation. Martin discusses Lincoln’s thought process in coming to the conclusion for issuing the Proclamation rather than choosing another course like the federal government paying for the freedom of the slaves and sending them back to Africa.

Another part I enjoyed was Martin’s discussion on the unique relationship between Lincoln and Union general George McClellan. They were polar opposites in many ways: Lincoln was humble, McClellan was a braggart; Lincoln was aggressive in wanting the Union to attack, McClellan was cautious to a fault; Lincoln was a Republican, McClellan was a Democrat who eventually ran for President against Lincoln. Throughout the battle, Lincoln was desperate for news and McClellan knew it and yet he refused to inform Lincoln on the battle except in the vaguest of terms.

Finally, it includes several pages of photographs from the battlefield and major characters covered in the book. It also includes three good maps of the Battle and of Lincoln’s daily commute to work.

Excellent book that looks at the Battle of Antietam from a different angle.

A Fierce Glory Book Cover A Fierce Glory
Justin Martin
Da Capo Press
September 11, 2018

From an acclaimed author and historian, the dramatic, character-rich story of Antietam--the high-stakes battle Lincoln needed to win to save the Union and free the slaves September 17, 1862, was America's bloodiest day. When it ended, 3,654 soldiers lay dead on the land surrounding Antietam Creek in Western Maryland. The battle fought there was as deadly as the stakes were high. For the first time, the Rebels had taken the war into Union territory. A Southern victory would have ended the war and split the nation in two. Instead, the North managed to drive the Confederate army back into Virginia. Emboldened by victory, albeit by the thinnest of margins, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves and investing the war with a new, higher purpose. In this vivid, character-rich narrative, acclaimed author Justin Martin reveals why this battle was the Civil War's tipping point. The battle featured an unusually rich cast of characters and witnessed important advances in medicine and communications. But the impact of the battle on politics and society was its most important legacy. Had the outcome been different, Martin argues, critical might-have-beens would have rippled forward to the present, creating a different society and two nations. A Fierce Glory is an engaging account of the Civil War's most important battle.

About the author

Jeff Grim

Jeff Grim has been a reader all of his life. He has had a particular interest in military history, any war at any time. His fascination with military history has brought him to an interest in historical fiction where the history comes alive with fictitious heroes and villains. Recently, Jeff has become interested in historical mysteries set in various time periods.

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