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April 1865


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About the Author

Jay Winik is the author of the New York Times bestseller April 1865. He is a senior scholar of history and public policy at the University of Maryland and a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.


Though the primary focus of this book is the last month of the Civil War, it opens in the 18th century with a view of Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. Winik (whose previous book, On the Brink, was an account of the Reagan administration and the end of the Cold War) offers not just a study of four weeks of war, but a panoramic assessment of America and its contradictions. The opening Jeffersonian question is: does the good of the country take precedence over that of the individual states? The question of civil union or civil war is the central question of this new work. Winik goes on to describe how a series of events that occurred during a matter of weeks in April 1865 (the fall of Richmond; Lee's graceful surrender to Grant at Appomattox, and Grant's equally distinguished handling of his foe; Lincoln's assassination), none of them inevitable, would solve Jefferson's riddle: while a loose federation of states entered the war, what emerged from war and Reconstruction was a much stronger nation; the Union had decisively triumphed over the wishes of individual states. Winik's sense of the dramatic and his vivid writing bring a fitting flourish to his thesis that April 1865 marked a turning point in American history: "So, after April 1865, when the blood had clotted and dried, when the cadavers had been removed and the graves filled in, what America was asking for, at war's end, was in fact something quite unique: a special exemption from the cruel edicts of history." Winik's ability to see the big picture in the close-up (and vice versa), and to compose riveting narrative, is masterful. This book is a triumph. (Apr. 4) Forecast: Popular history at its best, this book should appeal widely to readers beyond the usual Civil War crowd. Strong endorsements from a group of noted historians, including James M. McPherson and Douglas Brinkley, along with a 10-city author tour, should also help both review coverage and sales. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

April 1865 saw the evacuation of the Confederate capital at Richmond, the surrender of the Confederacy's two major remaining field armies, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. These events (and more) are brought to life in Winik's (public affairs, Univ. of Maryland; On the Brink) provocative narrative of the end of the Civil War. All of the major characters, from Lincoln and Ulysses Grant to Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, are here, as are numerous other figures. Sometimes the prose is a little too breezy and breathless, and there are the occasional (minor) factual slips that will cause the veteran reader of Civil War narratives to wince. Nevertheless, it is Winik's willingness to embrace contingency, to ponder alternatives, and to raise thoughtful questions about what did (and did not) happen that raise this account above the typical and increasingly tiresome renditions of the conflict's climax. Recommended for public and academic libraries. Brooks D. Simpson, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"DREAMLAND is a fascinating and compelling novel. The real star, perhaps, is the city itself, which Mr.a Baker depicts in all its garish, squalid, exuberant, frightening magnificence"Geoffrey C. Ward, author of THE CIVIL WAR: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY

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