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Lincoln and Lee at Antietam: The Cost of Freedom
IMDB Rating: 6.2/10 from N/A votes
Release: 31 Jan 2006 /

Lincoln and Lee at Antietam: The Cost of Freedom

Genre: Documentary
Director: Robert Child,
Stars:
Synopsis: The Single Bloodiest Day in American History It's September 17, 1862 and President Abraham Lincoln needs a victory in order to issue the Emancipation Proclamation and end slavery in the ...

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Critic Reviews


When Robert E. Lee pressed so hard to invade the North, it was not only to feed his starving men from the rich provender of farms untouched by combat. It was also to give the Northern public the despairing feel of enemy occupation, and get them voting for peace in the upcoming mid-term elections.

Yet not even he could have foreseen that a cornfield at Antietam Creek, beside Sharpsburg, Maryland, would soon be so littered with bodies that a man could walk across it without ever touching the ground. A Confederate win here might have ended the war.

Meanwhile those recent victories of Lee's had demoralised the Army of the Potomac so much that Union officers were starting to write defeatist letters home. Only one general could restore the men's fighting spirit, and that was George McClellan, implacably distrusted by Lincoln, who appointed him with deep reluctance.

The story of Lee's battle-plan falling into McClellan's hands is well-known, even though we still don't know how it happened, or why McClellan delayed a fatal twelve hours before taking-up what would have been an impregnable position. Instead the two armies locked into a fight that inflicted more casualties in one day than any other battle fought on American soil. And after a glorious summer of victories, Lee found himself leading his bedraggled army back to Virginia.

'Decisive' can mean two things. As a contest, the Battle of Antietam had no clear winner, and was thus indecisive. As an event, it changed human history, and proved more decisive than any battle of the war. For this longed-for Union win, however narrow, had given Lincoln the credibility to issue his Emancipation Proclamation (notionally freeing all Southern slaves), without making it sound like a counsel of despair. From here on, it was an abolitionist war, and any hope of Britain and France aiding the South was gone with the wind. This political slant may explain the rather odd title 'Lincoln and Lee at Antietam'.

The story is vividly presented here, along with well-informed commentators, one of them a Princeton scholar, another the long-serving local battlefield tour-guide. The huge cast of actors look realistic enough (no textile-firm is ever going to go bust making Civil War uniforms!) and the two generals are suitably cast, as is Lincoln. The mention of field-hospital manager Clara Barton is so brief that it can sound a bit token-female, though we do also hear some of the outspoken remarks of the local townswomen on the arrival of the armies. I never knew that Lee was recovering from injuries to both his hands, and could neither write orders nor hold the reins of his horse. Finally, it's good to hear a defence of poor old Burnside, ridiculed up hill and down dale by historians, yet who can be shown as the only Union general at Antietam who secured the objective that he was ordered to - still known as Burnside Bridge.

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