Lincoln and the War’s End presents a concise description of the final months of the American Civil War. Author John C. Waugh begins his narrative on November 8, 1864 after Lincoln’s victory in the presidential election. The book is another addition to the Concise Lincoln Library collection published by Southern Illinois University Press.
Following the defeat of Hood’s Army of Tennessee in Georgia, General Sherman begins his “March to the Sea.” Leaving the “blackened ruins and lonesome chimneys” of Atlanta, Sherman’s forces advance toward Savannah with plans to “make all Georgia howl.” In the meantime, Hood leads the Confederate forces to disaster in battles at Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville.
While waiting for news from Sherman, President Lincoln sends his State of the Union address to Congress. Lincoln presents ideas for “moulding society for the durability of the Union” based on the progress of loyal state governments established in captured Confederate states. He reaffirmed his commitment and the nation’s strength to put down the rebellion.
Sherman reaches Savannah and presents the city as a Christmas gift to Lincoln. In mid-January 1865, Union forces capture Fort Fisher in North Carolina and close the South’s only remaining Atlantic port at Wilmington. The New York Herald reports that Union generals were “pressing the rebellion to its last shifts.”
Waugh describes how Lincoln and the Republicans deliver the “deathblow to slavery” with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment on the last day of January 1865. Lincoln celebrates its passage and calls it “a great moral victory” and a “King’s cure for all the evils.”
With the “Confederacy on the ropes,” the author discusses the failed peace negotiations at Hampton Roads.
The book continues with Lincoln’s speeches following his inauguration on March 4. The president concluded with, his now famous, “With Malice toward none…” quote.
Waugh traces the final days of the Confederacy with Lee’s defeat at Fort Stedman, retreat from Petersburg, and burning of Richmond. He describes Lincoln’s visit to the Rebel capital and Grant’s pursuit of Lee’s gallant forces to the surrender at Appomattox. We also learn about Sherman’s path across South Carolina and Johnston’s eventual surrender.
Lincoln and the War’s End concludes with Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln preparing to leave for Ford’s Theater. That part of the saga is left to Edward Steers’ Lincoln’s Assassination.
The timing of this book is perfect as the nation begins remembering the events that ended the Civil War. Waugh has included numerous notes and several maps and illustrations. The book is well written and will be appreciated by those just learning about the Civil War as well as readers that are more knowledgeable.
John C. Waugh is a former reporter and bureau chief of the Christian Science Monitor. He is the author of eleven other books on the Civil War era.
Title: Lincoln and the War’s End
Author: John C. Waugh
Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press
-Book review by Allen Mesch
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