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.
intimidation that seemed to flourish every election season. All this was, of course, everything that Lincoln would have deplored. So, too, the fact that it would not be until 1870 that Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas rejoined the Union—five long years after Appomattox, Durham Station, and the Grand Review of the Armies. But where Lincoln’s absent hand was felt most keenly was in race relations. Black codes were passed in state after state across the South—as restrictive as the
slipping into the western mountains to wage a prolonged campaign of harassment. As much as any other scenario, this was now his greatest fear. The glory of a restored Union, he believed, must be built on more than butchery, revenge, and retribution. So in the spring of 1865, this, then, was his dilemma: the exigencies of the total war that he was waging against the requirements of reunification and the peace that he hoped to make. Never were two goals more incompatible. Lincoln was so exhausted
and killed him because of “disrespectful language” about Lincoln ¿n his paper, Turner, Beware the People Weeping, 50–51; his press was also destroyed by mob action. In another instance, at the Mission Church in the First Ward, a preacher made some insulting comments about Lincoln in the course of a Sunday sermon; he was dragged from the pulpit, assaulted, then arrested, Leech, 369. Instances like this, of assault, mob rule, or murder, were commonplace in the days that followed. On this also see
well do the same to his foe. Anything could still happen: given time and “the worst possible” roads, Grant could stumble, or get overconfident, or succumb to sloppiness. Or like A. P. Hill, he could suddenly fall prey to an errant bullet; or like Stonewall Jackson, he could fall victim to friendly fire in the heat and smoke of a skirmish. But now, Lees first priority was his army. The general wasted little time, quickly giving the bad news to his division commanders and then writing out an
buy it. But for all Grant’s confidence, and for the vast disparity between the two armies, one well-fed and abundantly armed, the other malnourished and its numbers pitifully whittled down, Grant clearly could not shake his own doubts about the ever-elusive Lee. At the day’s end, with no response from Lee, he collapsed with a severe migraine. By the time Grant received Lee’s second dispatch, he had been trying to soothe himself with mustard plasters on his wrists and neck and with hot