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April 1865: The Month That Saved America…

April 1865: The Month That Saved America (P.S.) (original 2001; edition 2006)

by Jay Winik

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Title:April 1865: The Month That Saved America (P.S.)
Authors:Jay Winik
Info:Harper Perennial (2006), Paperback, 512 pages
Collections:Your library

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


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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 |
vivid incidents and portraits of the leading players. colourful occasionally purple writing but insightful too. Intriguing points: The frequency of earlier secession threats by various States before the big one; the Civil War brought that to an end. J Davis was a poor political leader while Lincoln was great one; Lee might well have fought for the North; The risk of continuing partisan warfare after the defeat of the South. The South effectively emancipated their slaves towards war's end - so what were they really fighting for? ( )
  vguy | Apr 3, 2012 |
At the end of the Civil War, it is startling that so much occurred in the "final" month. The Confederate Army, led by Robert E. Lee, made one last ditch effort to elude the Union forces of Ulysses Grant but on April 9, 1865 surrendered at Appomattox Court House. Less than a week later, Abraham Lincoln lies dead, assassinated by John Wilkes Booth and Andrew Johnson is the new President. Confederate General Johnston disobeyed Jefferson Davis' orders to fight on and surrendered to Sherman.

The end of hostilities came in 1865 and possibly, Lincoln would have agreed with Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate General, when he said "You have been good soldiers, you can be good citizens. Obey the laws, preserve your honor, and the government to which you have surrendered can afford to be and will be magnanimous."

This book relates the details of these events as well as the background that brought about these results. However, IMHO, it is not well written. If this book is to be constituted as a book of historical fact, then it needs to be severely edited. There are far too many personal observations and conclusions interspersed throughout as well as a jumpy writing style. The author frequently leaves one thought process hanging moving on to another and then jumps back to where he left off. I have no doubt that Professor Winik has researched his topic diligently, however, I believe that this book of 606 pages with another 101 of footnotes could have been more concise if the author's opinions had been eliminated and the conclusions left to be evaluated by the reader with just the facts stated. ( )
1 vote cyderry | Nov 2, 2011 |
APRIL 1865 is a one of the best history book I ever read.

Through detail and imagery Jay Winik brings events and characters to life; and tells an emotionally moving story, partly because he he able to see things from different perspectives and show that there is not always black or white.

In addition, Winik clearly has a take on the forces that drive history. (His book, therefore, has a message. I won't give it away.) ( )
  Randyflycaster | Jun 18, 2011 |
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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.

(summary from another edition)

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