A Ruined Land: The End of the Civil War

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9780471183679: A Ruined Land: The End of the Civil War

"This fascinating social history, through Golay's expert use of sources, brings to life a time in America's past that promised so much but delivered so little, expecially to former slaves."-Publishers Weekly

"A tautly woven narrative history..Lively and readable."-Kirkus Reviews

In a fascinating approach that allows the voices of those touched by the Civil War to speak for themselves, gifted writer Michael Golay shows the impact of victory and defeat on the ordinary Americans who both influenced events and were caught up in them. Using illuminating new material, much of it previously unpublished, Golay takes a unique perspective by interweaving personal histories of soldiers and civilians with the larger events of the Civil War. Among the events of this bitter conflict, Golay illuminates the impact of Sherman's march through Georgia and the Carolinas, the despair caused by the assassination of Lincoln, the first bitter weeks of armistice, the immediate postwar life in a devastated, chaotic South, and the promise of freedom for African American slaves. Through the letters, diaries, and other literary remains of those who experienced the war, we gain a vivid, panoramic look at the effects of a bitter struggle and at the efforts of both sides to work toward a solution to problems where effective answers were elusive.

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From the Inside Flap:

A Ruined Land As the Civil War drew to a close, its final battles and unsolved issues left a complex legacy of pain. Southern plantation owners stripped of their land struggled to find a way to survive amid shortages, and watched the growing changes around them with resentment and fear. Newly freed slaves searched for a way to make a home in a land that had viewed them as chattel. Northern reformers struggled to educate an enormous population of former slaves to prepare them for a new life. In a fascinating approach that allows the voices of those who were there to speak to the reader, gifted writer Michael Golay shows the impact of victory and defeat on the ordinary Americans who both influenced events and were caught up in them. Through careful research coupled with compassion, Golay takes a unique perspective by interweaving personal histories of soldiers and civilians with the larger events of the Civil War. Among the events of this bitter conflict, Golay illuminates the impact of Sherman’s march through Georgia and the Carolinas, and the brutal conditions of the infamous Confederate prison at Andersonville—the struggle of its inmates to survive and the shock it created throughout the land once its crimes were made public. He goes on to describe the despair caused by the assassination of Lincoln, the first bitter weeks of armistice, the immediate postwar life in a devastated, chaotic South, and the promise of freedom for African American slaves. Based in large part on illuminating new material, much of it previously unpublished, Golay uses the letters, diaries, and other literary remains from those who experienced the war. Some of the chief characters whose stories unfold include Oliver Otis Howard, one of Sherman’s generals and commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau; Lew Wallace, an amateur soldier, author, and member of the courts martial for the Lincoln conspirators and the Andersonville commandant; Laura Towne, a northern volunteer teacher in the reformist community on the Sea Islands; George Julian, a Radical Republican congressman from Indiana and bitter opponent of President Andrew Johnson; and Emily LeConte, the teenage daughter of a slaveholding southern family. Through their experiences and thoughts, we gain a vivid, panoramic look at the effects of a bitter struggle, and at the efforts of both sides to work toward a solution to problems whose answers were elusive.

From the Back Cover:

Advance Praise for A Ruined Land "A social and military history of the waning days and the end of the Civil War in Virginia, eastern Georgia, and the Carolinas. Solidly researched and finely written, it is a tragic and seldom-told story that illuminates this ‘ruined land.’" —Alan T. Nolan, author of The Iron Brigade and Lee Considered General Robert E. Lee and Civil War History "A richly variegated narrative, chock-full of dramatic episodes and colorful vignettes, smoothly woven together to bring the final months of war and the early stages of Reconstruction vividly to life." —Michael Burlingame, Professor of History, Connecticut College, and Lincoln biographer "Well researched and beautifully written.... This book will appeal to historians and the general public alike." —William N. Still Jr., coauthor of Why the South Lost Praise for Michael Golay’s To Gettysburg and Beyond "Ably captures the swirling chaos of battle. We are provided and ever-revolving point of view...enriched by the letters of foot soldiers and by the grand strategic accounts of generals." —New York Times Book Review "Superb." —America’s Civil War "Thoughtful and well-written...a riveting portrait of two men who felt they had outlived the historical moment." —Kirkus Reviews "Fascinating... Golay’s account is masterful....Well-chosen detail makes Gola’s story vivid." —Hartford Courant

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