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Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House evokes a highly gratifying image in the popular mind -- it was, many believe, a moment that transcended politics, a moment of healing, a moment of patriotism untainted by ideology. But as Elizabeth Varon reveals in this vividly narrated history, this rosy image conceals a seething debate over precisely what the surrender m Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House evokes a highly gratifying image in the popular mind -- it was, many believe, a moment that transcended politics, a moment of healing, a moment of patriotism untainted by ideology. But as Elizabeth Varon reveals in this vividly narrated history, this rosy image conceals a seething debate over precisely what the surrender meant and what kind of nation would emerge from war. The combatants in that debate included the iconic Lee and Grant, but they also included a cast of characters previously overlooked, who brought their own understanding of the war's causes, consequences, and meaning. In Appomattox, Varon deftly captures the events swirling around that well remembered-but not well understood-moment when the Civil War ended. She expertly depicts the final battles in Virginia, when Grant's troops surrounded Lee's half-starved army, the meeting of the generals at the McLean House, and the shocked reaction as news of the surrender spread like an electric charge throughout the nation. But as Varon shows, the ink had hardly dried before both sides launched a bitter debate over the meaning of the war. For Grant, and for most in the North, the Union victory was one of right over wrong, a vindication of free society; for many African Americans, the surrender marked the dawn of freedom itself. Lee, in contrast, believed that the Union victory was one of might over right: the vast impersonal Northern war machine had worn down a valorous and unbowed South. Lee was committed to peace, but committed, too, to the restoration of the South's political power within the Union and the perpetuation of white supremacy. Lee's vision of the war resonated broadly among Confederates and conservative northerners, and inspired Southern resistance to reconstruction. Did America's best days lie in the past or in the future? For Lee, it was the past, the era of the founding generation. For Grant, it was the future, represented by Northern moral and material progress. They held, in the end, two opposite views of the direction of the country-and of the meaning of the war that had changed that country forever.


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Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House evokes a highly gratifying image in the popular mind -- it was, many believe, a moment that transcended politics, a moment of healing, a moment of patriotism untainted by ideology. But as Elizabeth Varon reveals in this vividly narrated history, this rosy image conceals a seething debate over precisely what the surrender m Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House evokes a highly gratifying image in the popular mind -- it was, many believe, a moment that transcended politics, a moment of healing, a moment of patriotism untainted by ideology. But as Elizabeth Varon reveals in this vividly narrated history, this rosy image conceals a seething debate over precisely what the surrender meant and what kind of nation would emerge from war. The combatants in that debate included the iconic Lee and Grant, but they also included a cast of characters previously overlooked, who brought their own understanding of the war's causes, consequences, and meaning. In Appomattox, Varon deftly captures the events swirling around that well remembered-but not well understood-moment when the Civil War ended. She expertly depicts the final battles in Virginia, when Grant's troops surrounded Lee's half-starved army, the meeting of the generals at the McLean House, and the shocked reaction as news of the surrender spread like an electric charge throughout the nation. But as Varon shows, the ink had hardly dried before both sides launched a bitter debate over the meaning of the war. For Grant, and for most in the North, the Union victory was one of right over wrong, a vindication of free society; for many African Americans, the surrender marked the dawn of freedom itself. Lee, in contrast, believed that the Union victory was one of might over right: the vast impersonal Northern war machine had worn down a valorous and unbowed South. Lee was committed to peace, but committed, too, to the restoration of the South's political power within the Union and the perpetuation of white supremacy. Lee's vision of the war resonated broadly among Confederates and conservative northerners, and inspired Southern resistance to reconstruction. Did America's best days lie in the past or in the future? For Lee, it was the past, the era of the founding generation. For Grant, it was the future, represented by Northern moral and material progress. They held, in the end, two opposite views of the direction of the country-and of the meaning of the war that had changed that country forever.

30 review for Appomattox: Victory, Defeat, and Freedom at the End of the Civil War

  1. 5 out of 5

    robin friedman

    The Spirit Of Appomattox There are few more iconic moments in American history than the April 9, 1865 surrender of Robert E. Lee to Ulysses Grant at the McClean house in Appomattox, Virginia. Although armies remained in the field, the surrender, for practical purposes, ended the Civil War. In her new book, "Appomattox: Victory, Defeat, and Freedom at the End of the Civil War" (2013) Elizabeth Varon examines the events leading to Appomattox, the surrender conference itself, and the aftermath of Ap The Spirit Of Appomattox There are few more iconic moments in American history than the April 9, 1865 surrender of Robert E. Lee to Ulysses Grant at the McClean house in Appomattox, Virginia. Although armies remained in the field, the surrender, for practical purposes, ended the Civil War. In her new book, "Appomattox: Victory, Defeat, and Freedom at the End of the Civil War" (2013) Elizabeth Varon examines the events leading to Appomattox, the surrender conference itself, and the aftermath of Appomattox through the assassination of Lincoln and continuing into the Reconstruction Era. Varon argues that the pictures many Americans hold of the Appomattox surrender is "largely a myth" because it masks disagreements over the nature of the Civil War and the subsequent peace that remained unresolved well after the end of the conflict. The Longbourne M. Williams Professor of American History at the University of Virginia, Varon has written extensively on the Civil War. Varon maintains that Union supporters and Confederate supporters had differing understandings of Appomattox. These differences were personified in the two commanders, Grant and Lee. Grant saw the Union victory as the triumph of "right over wrong". He believed that the magnaminous surrender terms he offered were ways of vindicating the Union war effort and of encouraging the Confederates to return peacefully to the Union. Grant looked forward, Varon argues, to a United States which would puruse moral and material growth. Varon further argues that Lee viewed the surrender as the triumph of "might over right". The South lost the war due to the North's superiority in men and resources rather than due to any deficiency in the valor of the soldiers or to moral fault in the cause for which they fought. The South had to accept defeat but, Lee believed, had little cause for repentance of guilt. Lee looked towards the past, Varon maintains, towards the restoration of the southern ruling elite that had governed prior to the War and to the relationship between the races, without slavery, that had prevailed before the war. Varon finds a source of Lee's position and of the subsequent "Lost Cause" view of the Civil War in the Farewell Address that Lee delivered to his Army upon the surrender. In her study, Varon describes how these conflicting visions of Appomattox played out. In the first part of the book, she offers a good military portrayal of the Appomattox Campaign. This was a more difficult, closely-fought campaign than sometimes realized. Among other events, Varon discusses the role of African American troops (USCT) in repelling Lee's final attempt at a break-out on the morning of April 9. Varon concentrates on the events leading to the surrender, including the exchange of notes between Grant and Lee, the surrender document itself, and Lee's Farewell Address. For all the criticism of mythologizing the event, Varon's portrayal of the surrender conference exhibits the high degree of solemnity appropriate to an iconic moment. Varon examines how Americans viewed Appomattox in its immediate aftermath through a discussion of Newspaper and other accounts. The supporters of the Union war effort supported Grant's lenient surrender terms on grounds that they would unite the country and allow for the protection of African-American rights. Northern sympathizers with the South, and most southerners saw the surrender as validating their bravery and allowing them to return to their homes with control of their own internal affairs. They did not see in the War or its aftermath a reason to revise their beliefs or social structures about the political rights of African Americans. Varon carries the competing visions of Appomattox through Lincoln's assassination and Andrew Johnson's presidency. She personifies the competing views with her emphasis of the activities of Grant and Lee during this time. When President Johnson showed himself unwilling to protect the rights of the Freedpeople, Grant gradually distanced himself and became a supporter of the Radical Republican policy for a military Reconstruction to protect the persons and rights of African Americans. During this period, Lee, while acting with peace and restraint, signaled his support for the former southern elite and for a restoration of the Union and of southern society as it stood in the pre-war years. Grant and Lee remained, in essence, enemies in peace as they had been in war. Varon concludes with a discussion of a northern reformer, Ellen Watkins Harper, who toured the South in 1867. "The work goes bravely on", Harper wrote. Varon adds: "For those in the postwar world determined to seize the promise of freedom, this was the true meaning of Appomattox." Varon has written an eloquent history of Appomattox and its aftermath. In my view, she does not show that the received picture of the Appomattox surrender is a "myth". Rather the momement is properly iconic and self-contained, in the way a photograph is self-contained. More importantly, the icon was an ideal that held forth through all the tumult of its attempted realization that Varon describes. There may also be more space that Varon suggests, in places, for reconciling the two polar views of Appomattox that she develops in her study. The book is well documented but lacks a bibliography. This book will interest readers who want to think about the Civil War and its continuing impact on American history. Robin Friedman

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dimitri

    Contrary to hagiography and popular memory, Appomattox wasn’t a gentleman’s agreement between Robert E. Lee & U.S. Grant to bury the hatchet. Technically, the Army of Northern Virginia was cornered after a westward flight out of Richmond and Petersburg. Both men entered a limited agreement to grant safe passage to its repatriating veterans, thus preventing a union with other leftover Confederate forces in the field. In a deeper sense, both generals claimed the moral high ground for their side. T Contrary to hagiography and popular memory, Appomattox wasn’t a gentleman’s agreement between Robert E. Lee & U.S. Grant to bury the hatchet. Technically, the Army of Northern Virginia was cornered after a westward flight out of Richmond and Petersburg. Both men entered a limited agreement to grant safe passage to its repatriating veterans, thus preventing a union with other leftover Confederate forces in the field. In a deeper sense, both generals claimed the moral high ground for their side. The South interpreted Appomattox as the omen of a mild peace which would restore its pre-war political weight and customs, apart from slavery. The North interpreted Appomattox as a just genuflection, paving the way for profound social change. Varon is single-minded in her thesis. She pays a lot of attention to Lee’s mental frame of reference as representative of the slave-holding elite, less so to Grant’s, and to the shaping of Lee as a symbol of pro-Southern commemoration. The Northern point of view is assembled from a variety of voices, reflecting the fundamental differences of opinion between hardcore abolitionists, moderates and Copperheads. They don’t merely concern the memory of defeat, but also the shaping of the post-war Jim Crow laws under Andrew Johnston. All of this is contained largely within the timeframe of 1865-1866 and supported by numerous peer quotes, notably Reconstruction expert Eric Foner (Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction.) Who leads me to a few reservations. The book hints at Grant’s presidency, but doesn’t reach it. It incorporates the earliest phase of Reconstruction, but sideways … it manages to make its point, but so many stories play on the edge of the narrow focus that I come away with the feeling that there’s little new ground broken, merely sliced off. For a newbie such as myself, it makes for a good post-war primer, but I have Foner waiting around for that ! P. S. look out for the unintentionally hilarious fear-mongering outcry that “a Negro will want to run for the highest office of this country”; it makes we want to hop in the nearest time machine with a list of the accomplishments of a damned fine presidency.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gerry Connolly

    Varon has researched newspapers, diaries, letters, sermons and even Congressional testimony to show the marked difference between Northern and Southern interpretations of Appomattox' meaning She also unmasks Lee for the racist reactionary he was. He more than anyone enabled the South in the mythos of its" noble" cause. He was outspoken against Republican attempts to protect newly freed blacks and made common cause with Democratic Copperheads in the North post civil war. Grant understood these dyn Varon has researched newspapers, diaries, letters, sermons and even Congressional testimony to show the marked difference between Northern and Southern interpretations of Appomattox' meaning She also unmasks Lee for the racist reactionary he was. He more than anyone enabled the South in the mythos of its" noble" cause. He was outspoken against Republican attempts to protect newly freed blacks and made common cause with Democratic Copperheads in the North post civil war. Grant understood these dynamics and called out Lee for his dangerous statements that helped usher in a reign of terror throughout the South that suppressed speech, ignited lynchings and thwarted the constitutional rights of a third of its citizens for the next 90 years. So much for Lee's "noble"cause.

  4. 4 out of 5

    R. Jones

    Elizabeth Varon's Appomattox is the end of my Civil War project. I had set out to read one book per Civil War battle, campaign, and major engagement. Appomattox is, of course, the right place to end such a project. It's where Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Ulysses S. Grant, and while it wasn't the very final action that the war between states, it was clearly understood to be The End. Well, kinda. I liked what Varon did here: she portrayed, with an unflinching gaze, the awful mess that one m Elizabeth Varon's Appomattox is the end of my Civil War project. I had set out to read one book per Civil War battle, campaign, and major engagement. Appomattox is, of course, the right place to end such a project. It's where Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Ulysses S. Grant, and while it wasn't the very final action that the war between states, it was clearly understood to be The End. Well, kinda. I liked what Varon did here: she portrayed, with an unflinching gaze, the awful mess that one might imagine would follow a conflict as deep, bitter, and destructive as the one that plagued the United States in 1861. It didn't just end with Lee's surrender. Varon's book is a well-researched portrayal of the terrible political upheaval that results from two bitter enemies trying to become one political unit again. She uses diaries, sermons, articles, and reports from the time to approach the topic from all angles. I liked that. It could border on apologist regarding Southern opinions on slavery and secession, but then just as quickly sear Robert E. Lee as a racist hypocrite who alone enabled the "noble Lost Cause" mythos of the Confederacy. I think it did a good job of showing just how divided America was during, and after, the Civil War. Disappointingly, what it did not do a very good job was showing the actual encounter at Appomattox. The skirmishes and actual surrender are covered, for sure, but only for like... fifty pages. I liked what Varon did with this book, but that's not why I picked it up in the first place. As much as I appreciate the glimpse into post-war America, I've already got a few of those books on my bookshelf. I wanted Appomattox. I wanted more of it. That's the name of the goddamn book, ain't it?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    An intriguing and though-provoking look at the meaning and different interpretations of Grant's surrender terms for Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia. This is a good read to bridge the gap between the end of the war and the beginning of Reconstruction. The book explores three major fronts - the military actions that led to surrender, the thoughts of both Southern and Northern civilians on the ramifications of the end of the war, and the aftermath in terms of how Southern capitulation was vie An intriguing and though-provoking look at the meaning and different interpretations of Grant's surrender terms for Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia. This is a good read to bridge the gap between the end of the war and the beginning of Reconstruction. The book explores three major fronts - the military actions that led to surrender, the thoughts of both Southern and Northern civilians on the ramifications of the end of the war, and the aftermath in terms of how Southern capitulation was viewed politically and socially. Appomattox largely marked the cessation of military action, but it was the beginning of ongoing conflict in terms of how the Confederacy and its key players would be viewed immediately after the war. At the center of controversy was how the US government should deal with the former Confederacy, ranging from complete amnesty to military and civil punishment of its leaders. Primary source documents challenge the widely-accepted myth that Lee was the standard bearer for Southern honor after the war. In fact, his duplicity and efforts to shape the narrative of Confederate defeat - including the popular "overwhelming numbers" theory - began during his initial correspondence with Grant regarding surrender terms at Appomattox.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    This book eradicates some myths about Appomattox, such as the gentlemen's agreement between Lee and Grant. It also helps to understand why we are having discussions about how we must remember the civil war. The decisions to remove Confederate statues and monuments could have been made moot if our ancestors had followed some who believed those who made the choice to separate from the Union were not heroes they were traitors. It's said that history is written by the victors, but that is not entire This book eradicates some myths about Appomattox, such as the gentlemen's agreement between Lee and Grant. It also helps to understand why we are having discussions about how we must remember the civil war. The decisions to remove Confederate statues and monuments could have been made moot if our ancestors had followed some who believed those who made the choice to separate from the Union were not heroes they were traitors. It's said that history is written by the victors, but that is not entirely true in this case and Varon's book notes how the vanquished south wrote their version of the conflict as did the victorious north. I enjoyed the book because of its connection to what is happening in our nation today. We are essentially still fighting the war with words and actions short of taking up arms. Although there is still violence against the African Americans that can be traced to the roots of racism from our founding as a nation when slavery was not discussed because it would have destroyed the nation before it began. We have made strides but there is a long way to go.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Darrell E.

    This book had so much potential, but in the end fell flat with an overabundance of focus on the year after the Appomattox surrender. The author never truly translates the multitude of ways contemporaries interpreted the meaning of the surrender and its terms and how that has led to the current political climate. The evidence the author presents naturally leads to the inference that Southerns have learned through tradition and state history one version of the Civil War, its meaning, and who its h This book had so much potential, but in the end fell flat with an overabundance of focus on the year after the Appomattox surrender. The author never truly translates the multitude of ways contemporaries interpreted the meaning of the surrender and its terms and how that has led to the current political climate. The evidence the author presents naturally leads to the inference that Southerns have learned through tradition and state history one version of the Civil War, its meaning, and who its heroes are and Northerns a different version. But, the author never analyzes this or makes any real recommendation. Rather, she chooses to ensure that the reader is dead sure that what Grant thought he achieved at Appomattox was never truly the view of anyone of any stripe. Worth a read certainly, the not among the greats.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ddoddmccue

    Varon adds life and amazement to a historic event that, as a Virginia, I thought I knew and understood. Was I wrong! In Varon's able prose, Lee, Grant, Lincoln, and company burst to life with raw ambitions, manipulation of optics, and sadly misguided aims. Andrew Johnson explodes with raw rhetoric and mercurial nature. The joy of emancipation and wars end collapses into another version of mistreatment and limited rights for free blacks, with the plight of black Union soldiers particularly poigna Varon adds life and amazement to a historic event that, as a Virginia, I thought I knew and understood. Was I wrong! In Varon's able prose, Lee, Grant, Lincoln, and company burst to life with raw ambitions, manipulation of optics, and sadly misguided aims. Andrew Johnson explodes with raw rhetoric and mercurial nature. The joy of emancipation and wars end collapses into another version of mistreatment and limited rights for free blacks, with the plight of black Union soldiers particularly poignant. Can we learn from history? Based on Varon's Appomattox, we can but haven't.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Essential history (one of many, also check out Douglas Blackmon's 'Slavery By Another Name' and Carol Anderson's 'White Rage') for understanding the resurgence of racist ideologies in America, the rise of Trump, the battles over memorials celebrating traitors, and the recent violence and NAZI/confederate imagery at far-right demonstrations (like Charlottesville https://wearemany.org/v/lessons-from-... ). Essential history (one of many, also check out Douglas Blackmon's 'Slavery By Another Name' and Carol Anderson's 'White Rage') for understanding the resurgence of racist ideologies in America, the rise of Trump, the battles over memorials celebrating traitors, and the recent violence and NAZI/confederate imagery at far-right demonstrations (like Charlottesville https://wearemany.org/v/lessons-from-... ).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dave Cavanaugh

    Restoration v. Reconstruction. The legacy of Appomattox and the persistence of the unreconstructed confederates to accept military defeat set the stage for 100 plus years of racial intolerance. Excellent telling of the roots of the lost cause propaganda. The general hatred of Andrew Johnson has special meaning today.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    This is a really interesting examination of Lee's surrender at Appomattox and the impact it had on the next year or so during the political debates on reconstruction and integrating the South back into the Union. This is a really interesting examination of Lee's surrender at Appomattox and the impact it had on the next year or so during the political debates on reconstruction and integrating the South back into the Union.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Many Americans know that the Civil War ended at Appomattox, but the implications of Lee's surrender on the post-war order are not as well understood. Varon's account is well-researched and insightful, rebutting some of the southern mythology the arose to explain away its loss. Many Americans know that the Civil War ended at Appomattox, but the implications of Lee's surrender on the post-war order are not as well understood. Varon's account is well-researched and insightful, rebutting some of the southern mythology the arose to explain away its loss.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mike Siems

    US history buff, liked but didn’t necessarily love this one. Look forward to many more Varon books in the future though. Wahoowa!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kayli Hansen

    Seemed very redundant, but the basic ideas she expounds are interesting and compelling.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Really unique way of looking at the Appomattox surrender and the consequences that flowed from it. The author uses personal reflections, diaries, letters, editorials, and WPA interviews with former slaves, to illuminate how various factions in the country viewed the surrender, and how they interpreted its terms and subsequent statements made by Grant and Lee. Most of all it describes how it was used (distorted) by the South to insure the failure of reconstruction and reinstatement of elite white Really unique way of looking at the Appomattox surrender and the consequences that flowed from it. The author uses personal reflections, diaries, letters, editorials, and WPA interviews with former slaves, to illuminate how various factions in the country viewed the surrender, and how they interpreted its terms and subsequent statements made by Grant and Lee. Most of all it describes how it was used (distorted) by the South to insure the failure of reconstruction and reinstatement of elite white rule in the former confederacy - indirectly aided by apathetic northern moderates, and overtly by Copperheads. Those in the South who wished to return the region to a prewar condition (sans slavery) used the surrender terms as a shield, arguing its terms proscribed the Federal government from imposing equal rights for African-Americans, allowing them to reestablish the social caste system that existed before the war. A system in which former slaves would return to its lowest rung. For many in the north, particularly liberal Republicans, Grant's terms were interpreted as a way to keep from the South any excuse to belligerency.Its generous terms it was believed, would disabuse the prevalent, though mistaken, notion of the North as a pack of scoundrels and profiteers only looking to subjugate the South and destroy its way of life. And, it was believed those who had rebelled against the union should not be returned to power at the expense of those who fought for its restoration (southern unionists, African-American soldiers etc). Far from guaranteeing the South would not have to pay a penalty for its treason, Grant's surrender terms were viewed as a military measure only. There were gradations in these views held among citizens in both regions, with some in the North believing for example that the Appomattox terms did protect Confederate soldiers from any legal retribution, but did not protect their leaders. And in the South, there were unionist factions as committed to justice for freedmen as northern radicals. The takeaway is one of lost opportunities. Had events transpired differently, and had certain people behaved in a more decisive way, the author appears to argue that reconstruction may have had a better outcome and that freedmen might not have had to wait until the 1960s to have their civil liberties restored to them. Had Lincoln survived and had not been replaced by a man - Andrew Johnson - committed to an interpretation of the surrender that comported well with its view among southern elites, there is little doubt the freedmen would have been better protected. By the time 1869 rolled around, enough damage had been done by Johnson that even the heroic efforts of the new President Ulysses S. Grant, could not prevent the failure of reconstruction. Had Robert E. Lee been able to rouse himself from his prewar view of social caste and had followed the example of more courageous former Confederates such as James Longstreet and John Singleton Mosby who publicly accepted the necessity of establishing civil rights for former slaves, there is no doubt his influence could have helped prevent the retrenchment of southern society along with the violent excesses that went along with it. Up until now most books that look at the Appomattox surrender do so through the lens of reconciliation and American exceptionalism. Jay Winik's excellent book April 1865: The Month that Saved America is an example of this. Appomattox goes a long way toward reorienting the way history views this singular event, one stripped of its patina of chivalry and reconciliation to lay bare its role as a catalyst for the failure of reconstruction and the denial of equality for former slaves. An excellent book, extremely well written. Highly recommended!!!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Miles Smith

    Varon offers the first cultural, political, and social history of the Army of Northern Virginia's surrender at Appomattox Court House. Her elegant narrative, provocative argument, and skillful use of sources make this monograph an interesting addition to the historiography of the Civil War Era. Varon argues that the traditional interpretation of the surrender as an agreement between victorious and defeated military commanders who nonetheless respected each other is simply a construction of a nort Varon offers the first cultural, political, and social history of the Army of Northern Virginia's surrender at Appomattox Court House. Her elegant narrative, provocative argument, and skillful use of sources make this monograph an interesting addition to the historiography of the Civil War Era. Varon argues that the traditional interpretation of the surrender as an agreement between victorious and defeated military commanders who nonetheless respected each other is simply a construction of a northern and southern conservative reconciliationist narrative. Grant and Lee in fact brought differing views of what the surrender meant. Chiefly, she argues that transformation was the point of the Federal victory, not restoration. Nationalism and race equality formed the core of the neccesary conditions for the surrender to mean anything. Varon cast US Grant as the chief hero of the surrender, a man committed to making the Civil War mean something. The antagonist to Grant's role as the chief actualizer of the national transformation was Robert Lee. The Confederate commander hoped instead for a restoration of the old constitutional order. In his capacity as the most prestigious public Confederate Lee, according to Varon, transmogrified Confederate paroles into shields protecting Confederates from apparently justified retribution of all sort. Varon seems to concede that the Confederates deserved punishment, of some sort, and that despite Lee's nefarious attempts to forestall progress Grant magnanimously stayed his hand. Varon's work is well-argued and elegantly written. The author's sometimes hyper-nationalistic sympathies however lead her to embrace certain academic vogues, chiefly the deconstruction of Robert Lee. True, Lee was a paternalist and not gentle towards his slaves. But Varon reads backward from the post-war era and applied the populist racism of the Reconstruction Era to Lee. In one instance Varon states that Lee encouraged soldiers to "denigrate" the post-war settlement. Varon also argues that Lee was political during his post-war life. Emory Thomas argues convincingly that Lee was in fact a temperamental aristocrat who disliked politics of all sorts precisly because he exemplified sort of honor-bound gentry that Grant's settlement was supposed to displace.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tom Darrow

    Read this as the first book in a grad school class on Reconstruction and it worked very well. She opens with a nice play by play coverage of the Appomattox campaign where she depicts the Army of Northern Virginia as being in not as hopeless of a situation as many other authors depict. She then does a nice job at covering the correspondence between Lee and Grant prior to the surrender, and how each general was trying to out-maneuver each other, just as they had on the battlefield. The remainder o Read this as the first book in a grad school class on Reconstruction and it worked very well. She opens with a nice play by play coverage of the Appomattox campaign where she depicts the Army of Northern Virginia as being in not as hopeless of a situation as many other authors depict. She then does a nice job at covering the correspondence between Lee and Grant prior to the surrender, and how each general was trying to out-maneuver each other, just as they had on the battlefield. The remainder of the book is how people, north and south, used the Appomattox surrender to validate their victory, justify their defeat and provide a foundation for their vision for the future of America. Positives - very well researched and written. She does a good job at explaining the worth of a source and weaving it into the narrative, but doesn't dwell too long on it. Perhaps most importantly, she explains how the Civil War never really "ended". Rather, the issues of the war blended into the issues of Reconstruction and beyond. Negatives - I can't quite give this five stars because some of her points, especially in the later parts of the book where Lee and Grant are challenging each other, through words after the war, are weakly made. Also, her choice to end the book only a year or so after the surrender seems to leave a lot out. She builds up Grant and his political aspirations but doesn't talk about anything he did when president. Also, she talks about Lee in 1866-7, but he lives another 3-4 years after that. Taking the narrative a bit further would have been helpful to see if her arguments lasted. Overall, though, a very good book for anyone interested in the Civil War, Reconstruction or the idea of historical memory.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Elizabeth Varon's book on the surrender of Lee to Grant at Appomattox puts more meat on the bare bones of the story most of us learn in school. As Ms. Varon explains both the North and South; black and white; civilian, military, and political figures, had a different vision of the meaning of the surrender. Hundreds of books have been written on the war while little is published on the aftermath. Most of what is learned about reconstruction continues the myth of the "lost cause" and the supposed Elizabeth Varon's book on the surrender of Lee to Grant at Appomattox puts more meat on the bare bones of the story most of us learn in school. As Ms. Varon explains both the North and South; black and white; civilian, military, and political figures, had a different vision of the meaning of the surrender. Hundreds of books have been written on the war while little is published on the aftermath. Most of what is learned about reconstruction continues the myth of the "lost cause" and the supposed era of reconciliation between north and south. Ms. Varon's Appomattox delivers a more complete, complex, and accurate picture of the beginning of reconstruction, based on period newspaper articles, letteries, and diaries.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Ericson

    I checked this book out from the library to read about the time leading up to Lee's surrender at Appomattox. That covers the first seventy or so pages of the book. The rest deals with the after effects of the surrender in both the North and South which I am less interested in. Varon's writing was clear and fairly easy to follow. Well researched. But for me, this was not a book that I could not put down. 3.25/5 stars. I checked this book out from the library to read about the time leading up to Lee's surrender at Appomattox. That covers the first seventy or so pages of the book. The rest deals with the after effects of the surrender in both the North and South which I am less interested in. Varon's writing was clear and fairly easy to follow. Well researched. But for me, this was not a book that I could not put down. 3.25/5 stars.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Paul Miller

    Fascinating read. Turns out that the end of the Civil War was just as messy as the end of our actions in Kuwait and Iraq. Was the story "Might beats Right" or "Good beats Evil"? Amazing how many issues you thought were resolved by arms were in fact less open to the political process. Then with Lincoln's assassination so soon afterwards, stuff really got messy. Fascinating read. Turns out that the end of the Civil War was just as messy as the end of our actions in Kuwait and Iraq. Was the story "Might beats Right" or "Good beats Evil"? Amazing how many issues you thought were resolved by arms were in fact less open to the political process. Then with Lincoln's assassination so soon afterwards, stuff really got messy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    John Walker

    Interesting book about what happened between Lee's surrender to Grant's election as president. Fairly predictable and except for a few interesting sidelights the book goes over old stories. the USCT gets a well deserved shout out here and Bobby Lee comes out as a not too nice character, Still it does cover the post civil war America from (1865-1868) Interesting book about what happened between Lee's surrender to Grant's election as president. Fairly predictable and except for a few interesting sidelights the book goes over old stories. the USCT gets a well deserved shout out here and Bobby Lee comes out as a not too nice character, Still it does cover the post civil war America from (1865-1868)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Elizabeth Varon is probably one of the nicest and the smartest professors I've had in college. I regret that I was never able to take one of her civil war classes, (although American history survey course was great), so it was great to read this for another class! Great book, pretty quick read. You will come to hate Andrew Johnson. Elizabeth Varon is probably one of the nicest and the smartest professors I've had in college. I regret that I was never able to take one of her civil war classes, (although American history survey course was great), so it was great to read this for another class! Great book, pretty quick read. You will come to hate Andrew Johnson.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael Ramirez

    While goal was to show both views of the surrender, Varon ended up trying to make excuses for secession and slavery. Would have been better had she not tried to equate the morality of both sides rather than staying more impartial.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    An interesting approach to looking at the impact of the surrender of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. An analysis of the views of soldiers, civilians and newsmen on the impact of Grant's terms of surrender. An interesting approach to looking at the impact of the surrender of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. An analysis of the views of soldiers, civilians and newsmen on the impact of Grant's terms of surrender.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael Ramirez

    Made too many excuses for secession and slavery. Slow to recognize moral superiority of the North in the war.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    Professor Varon, Do Virginians despise you following this publication?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tim Jones

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jim

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mickey Lovingood

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mike

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