April 1865: The Month That Saved America
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April 1865 was a month that could have unraveled the nation. Instead, it saved it. Here Jay Winik offers a brilliant new look at the Civil War's final days that will forever change the way we see the war's end and the nation's new beginning. Uniquely set within the larger sweep of history, filled with rich profiles of outsize figures, fresh iconoclastic scholarship, and a gripping narrative, this is a masterful account of the thirty most pivotal days in the life of the United States.
It was not inevitable that the Civil War would end as it did, or that it would end at all well. Indeed, it almost didn't. Time and again, critical moments could have plunged the nation back into war or fashioned a far harsher, more violent, and volatile peace. Now, in a superbly told story, Winik captures the epic images and extraordinary history as never before. This one month witnessed the frenzied fall of Richmond; a daring last-ditch Southern plan for guerrilla warfare; Lee's harrowing retreat; and then Appomattox. It saw Lincoln's assassination just five days later, and a near-successful plot to decapitate the Union government, followed by chaos and coup fears in the North, collapsed negotiations and continued bloodshed in the South, and finally, the start of national reconciliation. In the end, April 1865 emerges as not just the tale of the war's denouement, but the story of the making of our nation.
Provocative, bold, exquisitely rendered, and stunningly original, April 1865 is the first major reassessment of the Civil War's close and is destined to become one of the great stories of American history.
at any rate, it could be. He suggested that the Confederate secretary of war, John Breckinridge, be brought into the mix. The rest of the Confederate armies would then follow: Taylor, Forrest, even Kirby Smith, each would, to a man, obey his orders. Sherman brightened. This was, of course, attractive to him, and how couldn’t it be? Every one of these Confederate generals was keeping his murderous gun barrels hot to the bitter end; if they could be subdued in one fell swoop, it would be a godsend
protect their masters’ families, homes and their own …” Of the seventy-two polled, sixty volunteered to fight the Yankees, “to the bitter end,” Jordan, Black Confederates and Afro Yankees in Civil War Virginia, 245. Horace Greeley’s: Durden, Gray and the Black, 228–29. rarest sights in all the South: Furgurson, Ashes, 313; Jordan, Black Confederates and Afro Yankees in Civil War Virginia, 247; Richmond Examiner, March 15, 18, 20, 1865, Library of Congress. Actually, there were other rare sights.
structure, see Power, Lee’s Miserables, 297, and Gallagher, “The Army of Northern Virginia in May 1864,” 108. a dreadful siege: Freeman, vol. 3, 434–514, 528–38: technically, it can be pointed out, it wasn’t a siege—the Confederates were never wholly surrounded; on the siege, see Richard Sommets, Richmond Redeemed: The Siege of Petersburg (Doubleday, 1981). Sommers concludes that Lee was “reduced” to “counterpunching, striking back, looking—hoping—for an opening and all the while trying to fend
cover while again halving his army and thoroughly baffling the enemy, as he did at Second Manassas, achieving another decisive victory. It also led to his boldest risk of all, his desire to fight one great and grand climatic battle on Northern soil, which produced the disappointment at Antietam, the bloodiest day in American history, and culminated in an even greater disappointment, Gettysburg. Was Lee a born warrior? It is certain that his faith in gallantry ran deep. It is not without
burning, destroying, tapping and tearing down telegraph wires, and then retreating back into the mountains. As Sherman observed, “every house is a nest of secret… enemies.” Later, Morgan was captured and imprisoned in an Ohio penitentiary, only to make a spectacular tunnel escape. Eventually, he was killed in 1864, but this hardly ended the North’s woes. By 1865, partisans swarmed across the Confederacy like locusts in ancient Egypt. But if ever there was a question about the Confederacy’s