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Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War [Kindle Edition]

Nicholas Lemann
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A century after Appomattox, the civil rights movement won full citizenship for black Americans in the South. It should not have been necessary: by 1870 those rights were set in the Constitution. This is the story of the terrorist campaign that took them away.

Nicholas Lemann opens his extraordinary new book with a riveting account of the horrific events of Easter 1873 in Colfax, Louisiana, where a white militia of Confederate veterans-turned-vigilantes attacked the black community there and massacred hundreds of people in a gruesome killing spree. This was the start of an insurgency that changed the course of American history: for the next few years white Southern Democrats waged a campaign of political terrorism aiming to overturn the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and challenge President Grant'ssupport for the emergent structures of black political power. The remorseless strategy of well-financed "White Line" organizations was to create chaos and keep blacks from voting out of fear for their lives and livelihoods. Redemption is the first book to describe in uncompromising detail this organized racial violence, which reached its apogee in Mississippi in 1875.

Lemann bases his devastating account on a wealth of military records, congressional investigations, memoirs, press reports, and the invaluable papers of Adelbert Ames, the war hero from Maine who was Mississippi's governor at the time. When Ames pleaded with Grant for federal troops who could thwart the white terrorists violently disrupting Republican political activities, Grant wavered, and the result was a bloody, corrupt election in which Mississippi was

"redeemed"--that is, returned to white control.

Redemption makes clear that this is what led to the death of Reconstruction--and of the rights encoded in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. We are still living with the consequences.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Historians agree that Reconstruction was a conflict in which the good guys lost. Lemann (The Promised Land) hammers the point home with a grim account of post–Civil War Mississippi. His central figure is Adelbert Ames, a Union general and war hero who fought to preserve the Union, despised abolitionists and considered African-Americans an inferior race. Appointed provisional governor of postwar Mississippi, he was horrified at the violence that whites, a minority, used against blacks trying to vote. As military commander, he provided enough security to ensure a Republican victory in 1869 state elections (blacks voted Republican until the 1930s), became an advocate of civil rights and was elected senator in 1870 and governor in 1873. He worked hard to protect the freedmen but failed, and Lemann's description of the terror campaign against Mississippi blacks makes depressing reading. The book's title refers to the popular version of Reconstruction in which valiant Southern whites "redeemed" their states from corrupt carpetbaggers and ignorant freedmen. Agreeing with recent scholars who consider this another Civil War myth, Lemann delivers an engrossing but painful account of a disgraceful episode in American history. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

In July, 1874, A. K. Davis, the black lieutenant governor of Mississippi, wrote to President Grant that "armed bodies of men are parading the streets" of Vicksburg and the authorities are "utterly unable to protect the lives and property of the Citizens"—by which he meant, primarily, black citizens. Vicksburg was the site of Grant's greatest victory; now, Lemann writes, "Vicksburg was, evidently, seceding all over again." Lemann's searing account of how Reconstruction was defeated points to what he calls a campaign of organized terrorism. Thousands of blacks were killed with impunity, as Southern whites gambled that Northerners would be less bothered by atrocities than by the redeployment of federal troops in the South. These Southerners also constructed the myth that they were "redeemers" and that Reconstruction collapsed of its own accord, and not in what was, as Lemann makes clear, a bloody regional fight over the rights of black citizens.
Copyright © 2006 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker

Product Details

  • File Size: 444 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0374530696
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (August 21, 2007)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #543,399 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How the South Eventually Won the Civil War December 10, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Well, Nick Lemann has done it again. As he did in his groundbreaking and award winning book "The Promise Land," Professor Lemann has again burrowed deep beneath the surface of American culture into its undercurrents and subtext to mine more pure gold. Despite the fact that he is a Southerner, few historians of American culture exhibit the exquisite balance and honesty on the sensitive issue of race as does Nick Lemann. You can take his narratives of American history to the bank. He is the genuine article. Amen.

In this little gem, which will inevitably become a classic of American history, Lemann tells the story of what happened after the Civil war, in fact what happened after Reconstruction. He does so at eye level and in vivid color. He tells us of how the south was "redeemed," and how America became "One Racist White Nation Under God." Leaning heavily on WEB DuBois' work, but without the socialist over and undertones, Lemann makes no mistake about the fact that the radioactive fallout, the racist culture we have today, is nothing but the background noise from America's own Cosmic Big Bang, the Civil War.

Mostly through the eyes of Adelbert Ames, the Civil War hero from Maine, who served as the Governor of Mississippi, the author tells about how the 14th and 15th Amendments were declared null and void. Through unremitting murder, brutality and terror by white vigilante groups, the weak kneed Northern occupiers eventually gave in to the southern brand of terror and insurrection, which the author refers to as the "last battle of the Civil War.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Redemption November 8, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In the decade from the end of the Civil War to the fraudulent brokered election of Rutherford Hayes, two of the most shameful crimes of American history occurred in tandem: the murderous re-establishment of White rule in the former Confederacy, initiating a century of racial oppression and apartheid enforced by lynching; and the devolution of the "Free Soil Free Labor" Republican Party into its persistent status as the factotum of the "malefactors of great wealth" as Theodore Roosevelt christened them, with the cynical abandonment of the forner slaves into the bloody hands of their former owners. Nicholas Lemann gives a vivid and believable account of both disasters, focusing his narrative on the figure of Adelbert Ames (senator and governor of Mississippi during Reconstruction) and using Ames's papers as a major source of information.

Some months ago I wrote a review of the famous DW Griffith movie Birth of a Nation, in which I suggested that the craft and the content of a work of art cannot and should not be disarticulated. I received a blast of comments accusing me of calling for censorship. That ugly movie, however, was more than a bit of cinematographic innovation. It was and still is a centerpiece of the Southern apologetics for "Redemption" (the term invented by Southerners for what Northerners call Reconstruction). Lemann's book is the most vivid refutation available to general readers of that shameful collection of deliberate lies and foolish self-deceptions sometimes called the Myth of the Lost Cause. One could quibble with Lemann's subtitle, however; the butchery and terrorism of the White Liners in Mississippi was sadly NOT the Last Battle of the Civil War.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Needed Corrective April 10, 2007
Nicholas Lemann's book "Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War," focuses on mostly forgotten and often sanitized versions of specific incidents that marked the end of Reconstruction and the regaining by White Southerns of state and local government institutions leading to Jim Crow and Segregation that continued for another 90 years or so. The book, relatively brief, examines in detail several incidents, one in Lousiana, the others in Mississippi where local vigalante groups seized control from local black officials through intimidation and massacres. It is perhaps not coincidential that the worst offenses took place in Mississippi, and perhaps some sort of rough justice that in exchange Mississippi remained for decades afterwards on the lowest rung of the ladder among the states in nearly every social and economic ranking.

Much of the book is through the eyes of one Adelbert Ames, a Union general, senator and governor of Mississippi, as revealed in the copius correspondence with his wife, Blanche Butler, who most of the time remained at home in the North. Because of weariness of the part of the North, insufficient troops, deliberate foot-dragging by US officials sympathetic to the South, and indecisiveness on the part of President Grant, these events from 1874-76 were allowed to precede with little intervention and protection of Black citizens. In effect, the withdrawal of Northern troops in 1877, the result of a compromise that ended the electoral stalemate in the Hayes/Tilden presidential election of 1876, overturned a major achievement of the Civil War, namely full citizenship and voting privileges for former African slaves.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended
A wonderfully readable and informative book. If you do not know much about the reconstruction period this book is both entertaining and enlightening. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Brando
5.0 out of 5 stars I just couldn't believe how many people have been killed
This book makes me reflect the tragedy that the colored people suffered just to be free and able to be heard
Published 4 months ago by diane bertrand
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Amazing book about, what to me, is a little known chapter in our history.
Published 5 months ago by Barbara Z. Stickford
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful
Reads like a novel.
Very well researched.
Disturbing and little known era of US history.
Published 7 months ago by Ed Donnellan
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good
Clear, straightforward, dramatic, well researched. It's history told as lived experience. This is really all I have to say about it.
Published 12 months ago by Michael Jennings
5.0 out of 5 stars Myths Can Distort, and Disenfranchise, and Kill
This book shows how, in 1875, political power in Mississippi was wrested by violent means from the black-supported (and largely black-staffed) Republican government by what was... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Anne Mills
5.0 out of 5 stars What White People Don't Want to Confront
"Redemption" is Nicholas Lehmann's thoroughly researched and thoroughly depressing narrative focused on Governor Adelbert Ames and his stormy tenure as Mississippi's Governor... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Randall L. Wilson
4.0 out of 5 stars Reinterpretation of the failure of Reconstruction in Mississippi
Lemann's Redemption is simultaneously a study in the breakdown of Reconstruction in Mississippi in the 1870s and a reinterpretation of Adelbert Ames' governorship of Mississippi... Read more
Published on March 16, 2012 by R. S. Wilkerson
5.0 out of 5 stars An Engrossing Story of Amercian Political and Racial Terrorism
I am not particularly a student of history, but I regard myself as having a base of general knowledge that is fairly broad and deep. Read more
Published on April 30, 2011 by trac10
1.0 out of 5 stars Repetition, repetition, repetition
I'm sorry, but this book is absolutely horrendously boring. I feel like there is nothing surprising nor shocking in this book about our history (granted I still have about 50 pages... Read more
Published on January 30, 2011 by Kate
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