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Synopsis: In February 1865, the end was clearly in sight for the Confederate government. An Honorable Defeat is the story of the four months that saw the surrender of the South and the assassination of Lincoln by Southern partisans. It is also the story of two men, antagonists yet political partners, who struggled to achieve their own differing visions for the South: Jefferson Davis, the autocratic president of the Confederate States, who vowed never to surrender whatever the cost; and the practical and warm General John C. Breckinridge, Secretary of War, who hoped pragmatism would save the shattered remnants of the land he loved so dearly.
Noted historian William C. Davis traces the astounding flight of these men, and the entire Confederate cabinet, from Richmond. Using original research, he narrates the futile quarrels of Davis and Breckinridge as they try to evade Northern pursuers and describes their eventual--and separate--captures. The result is a rich canvas of a time of despair and defeat, a charged tale full of physical adventure and political battle that sweeps from the marble halls of Richmond to a dingy room in a Havana hotel.
Review: In the final days of the Civil War, when defeat loomed for the South, Confederate Secretary of War John C. Breckenridge warned, "This has been a magnificent epic. In God's name, let it not terminate in a farce." To be sure, there were plenty of farcical moments--even pathetic ones--as the Confederate government breathed its last. President Jefferson Davis fled capture but was ultimately apprehended in disguise; he was wearing his wife's clothing. Union soldiers detected his "distinctly unfeminine cavalry boots and spurs" and arrested him. Then there was "the last official act of the Confederate government itself"--Breckinridge giving a commission in jest to a soldier who had already surrendered because the man wanted to outrank one of his fellows.
William C. Davis is the perfect author for An Honorable Defeat. He is an accomplished Civil War historian and previously has written excellent biographies of Jefferson Davis and John Breckinridge, the two figures who dominate this book. It also serves as a fitting bookend to A Government of Our Own, an earlier volume on the birth of the Confederate government. An Honorable Defeat is an absorbing story of desperation, as President Davis contemplates waging a guerrilla war against the North and continues to believe the South can prevail even when its mighty armies have been reduced to almost nothing. "A narrow divide separates heroic commitment from sheer fanaticism," writes the author, who nevertheless defends Davis against the charge of fanaticism. He shows, for example, that Davis almost certainly was not aware of any plot on the life of Abraham Lincoln--even though one obviously existed and elements of his secret service probably encouraged it. On the whole, the Confederate president comes off as a man ill-suited to the task that confronted him, which, in time, included graceful surrender. Breckinridge, by contrast, emerges as a hero who made decisions in those last hours that saved lives and fostered national reconciliation. This is a fine book on an overlooked episode, and fans of Jay Winik's masterful April 1865 will find that it deepens their understanding of how the Civil War came to a close. --John J. Miller
Title: An Honorable Defeat: The Last Days of the ...
Publication Date: 2002
Book Condition: Used: Good
Book Description Harcourt, 2002. Book Condition: Good. 1st. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP3053262
Book Description Harcourt. Paperback. Book Condition: GOOD. Good clean copy with no missing pages might be an ex library copy; Possibly may have minor marginal notes and or highlighting. Bookseller Inventory # 2716974892
Book Description Harcourt. Paperback. Book Condition: Very Good. This copy shows very minor wear. Bookseller Inventory # G0156007487I4N00
Book Description Harcourt. Paperback. Book Condition: Very Good. Very good condition book with only light signs of previous use. Bookseller Inventory # G0156007487I4N00
Book Description Harcourt. Paperback. Book Condition: Good. Ex-Library Book - will contain Library Markings. Book has some visible wear on the binding, cover, pages. Bookseller Inventory # G0156007487I3N10
Book Description Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Paperback. Book Condition: Good. Light shelf wear and minimal interior marks. Bookseller Inventory # G0156007487I3N00
Book Description Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Paperback. Book Condition: As New. Book appears to be new. Bookseller Inventory # G0156007487I2N00
Book Description Harcourt, 2002. Book Condition: Very Good. 1st. Ships from the UK. Former Library book. Great condition for a used book! Minimal wear. Bookseller Inventory # GRP95866683
Book Description Book Condition: VeryGood. A well-cared-for item that has seen limited use but remains in great condition. The item is complete, unmarked, and undamaged, but may show some limited signs of wear. Item works perfectly. Pages are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine is undamaged. Bookseller Inventory # 4BQM2A0003IF
Book Description Harcourt. Book Condition: As New. Bookseller Inventory # SB03G-00321