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Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War Paperback – August 21, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (August 21, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374530696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374530693
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #322,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on 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 By Giordano Bruno on 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 By Philip A. True on April 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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