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April 1865: The Month That Saved America…

April 1865: The Month That Saved America (P.S.) (2001)

by Jay Winik

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A fascinating book on the last month of the Civil War. There were dozens of nuggets from this book that I will take with me as nice stories to share with my students. My favorite chapter was easily the one that dealt with the surrender of Lee's army and the meeting of Lee and Grant. The author writes with grace and puts you into the house at Appomattox. The level of respect these two men had for each other after spending months trying to defeat the other is incredible. Great stuff.

My main criticism of this book is that only about half of it really talks about April of 1865. Every time a major figure is mentioned, the author takes 5-10 pages to go back and tell that person's biography. I understand that some context is necessary to fully tell the story of the end of the War, but I felt that it slowed down the story and gave us more than we really needed. Also, unless you are very new to the Civil War, the background stories do not truly provide any vital information.

I would recommend this read to any Civil War lovers. ( )
  msaucier818 | Apr 9, 2018 |
Why didn't the Civil War turn the US into a gaggle of petty republics? The author recounts the many ways the US could have disintegrated during April 1865, and examines why it didn't. The best book I've read all year. ( )
  LaurelPoe | Dec 25, 2017 |
A snapshot of the end of the grand struggle. The maps don't amount to much, but if you're looking for a quick refresher, much tilted towards the south, you will find this book interesting. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Sep 20, 2017 |
An interesting concept for a book, and one that seemed to be a refreshing take on the end of the Civil War. Does a good job at illustrating the circumstances around the Civil War, and provides good mini-biographies of many of the major players.

However, the author has made some egregious factual errors (two general Longstreets?), which detract from the book as a whole. Some interpretations of events are also suspect.

Not a bad book, but one that could use some revision and improvements. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
This is an excellent review of the status of the Civil War at its very end. Winik covers the political as well as the military aspects of the period and describes the rather unique path America took to uniting the states into a nation. ( )
  addunn3 | Nov 24, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060899689, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:51 -0400)

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Traces the events which occurred in the final days of the Civil War and discusses how these events changed the history of the United States.

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