April 1865: The Month That Saved America

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9780060930882: April 1865: The Month That Saved America
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The New York Times bestselling chronicle of the Civil War's final days that will forever change the way we see the war's end and the nation's new beginning.

It was a month that could have unravelled the American nation. Instead, it saved it. In April 1865, Jay Winik masterfully breathes new life into the end of a war and the events we only thought we knew. This gripping, panoramic narrative takes readers on a breathless ride through these tumultuous thirty days, showing that the nation's future rested on a few crucial decisions and twists of fate. Here is Richmond's dramatic fall, Lee's harrowing retreat, and the intense debate in Confederate circles over unleashing guerrilla warfare. Here, too, is the rebel surrender at Appomattox, Lincoln's assassination five days later, and the ensuing fears of chaos and a coup, the shaky transfer of presidential power, and finally the start of national reconciliation. Outsized characters stalk through sweeping events in Winik's brilliant narrative, transforming a seeming epilogue to a great war into a central栮d saving欯ment in American history, firmly placing April 1865 in the same pantheon as 1492 and 1776.

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Review:

There are a few books that belong on the shelf of every Civil War buff: James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom, one of the better Abraham Lincoln biographies, something on Robert E. Lee, perhaps Shelby Foote's massive trilogy The Civil War. Add Jay Winik's wonderful April 1865 to the list. This is one of those rare, shining books that takes a new look at an old subject and changes the way we think about it. Winik shows that there was nothing inevitable about the end of the Civil War, from the fall of Richmond to the surrender at Appomattox to the murder of Lincoln. It all happened so quickly, in what "proved to be perhaps the most moving and decisive month not simply of the Civil War, but indeed, quite likely, in the life of the United States."

Things might have been rather different, too. "What emerges from the panorama of April 1865 is that the whole of our national history could have been altered but for a few decisions, a quirk of fate, a sudden shift in luck." When Lee abandoned Richmond, for instance, his soldiers rendezvoused at a nearby town called Amelia Court House. There, the general expected to find boxcars full of food for his hungry troops. But "a mere administrative mix-up" left his army empty-handed and may have limited Lee's options in the days to come. Or what if Lee had decided not to surrender at all, but to turn his resourceful army into an outfit of guerrilla fighters who would harass federal officials? National reconciliation might have become impossible as the whole South turned into a region plagued with violence and terrorism. For the Union, "there would be no real rest, no real respite, no true amity, nor, for that matter, any real sense of victory--only an amorphous state of neither war nor peace, raging like a low-level fever." One of Lee's officers actually proposed this scenario to his commander in those final hours; America is fortunate Lee didn't choose this path.

Winik is an exceptionally good storyteller. April 1865 is full of memorable images and you-are-there writing. Readers will come away with a new appreciation for that momentous month and a sharpened understanding of why and how the Civil War was fought. Let it be said plainly: April 1865 is a magnificent work, surely the best book on the Civil War to be published in some time. --John J. Miller

About the Author:

Jay Winik is the author of the New York Times bestseller April 1865. He is a senior scholar of history and public policy at the University of Maryland and a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780060899684: April 1865: The Month That Saved America (P.S.)

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0060899689 ISBN 13:  9780060899684
Publisher: Harper Perennial, 2006
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9780060187231: April 1865: The Month That Saved America

Harper, 2001
Hardcover

9780783895819: April 1865: The Month That Saved America

G K Ha..., 2001
Hardcover

9780641979378: April 1865: The Month That Saved America (P.S.)

Harper..., 2006
Softcover

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