- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 4, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199751714
- ISBN-13: 978-0199751716
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.1 x 6.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 51 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #561,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Appomattox: Victory, Defeat, and Freedom at the End of the Civil War 1st Edition
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"Varon's work is a balanced inquiry into the meanings of the Appomattox peace for Northerners and Southerners, whites and blacks, men and women... Appomattox is equally adept at illuminating the war's meaning on the home front and in political halls... [Varon] successfully resurrects the true April 1865 event as one fraught with anxiety, passion, and, above all, political conflict." --North Carolina Historical Review
"[A] compelling new account of the war's end... Rather than emphasizing the finality of military defeat, Varon stresses the uncertainty of the subsequent days, weeks, and months." --Sarah Bowman, Civil War Monitor
"A very fine account... In the end, as Varon so ably demonstrates, Appomattox did not end a war. It just closed the phase of that contest characterized by armed conflict. The much older war would go on. In some ways, it is not over yet." --William C. Davis, History Book Club
"Excellent and thought-provoking...Varon...treats Appomattox as a major event in American history, worth extensive analysis, but also as a very engaging human story." --James E. Sefton, Civil War Book Review
"Elizabeth Varon successfully argues in her groundbreaking book that the seeds for the post-Civil War world started before the ink had dried on the surrender agreement signed by Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House... A careful construction and analysis of the meaning of Appomattox to many different people." --James Percoco, Civil War News
"A careful, scholarly consideration of how the ambiguities surrounding the defeat of the South resolved into the bitter eras of Reconstruction and Jim Crow." --Kirkus Reviews
"In this powerful analysis of the substantive and symbolic meanings of the surrender at Appomattox, Elizabeth Varon shows how that iconic moment has shaped a range of perceptions of the Civil War and its consequences. Grant and Lee emerge with new richness and complexity in this important book, one of the best to appear during these years of the war's sesquicentennial anniversaries." --James McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom
"In lively prose, Elizabeth Varon demonstrates that much of what we think we know about Lee's surrender to Grant in April 1865 is misleading, embellished, or just plain wrong, but even more important, she portrays the ending of the Civil War less as a moment of innocence than as long process, begun before the ink on the surrender signatures had dried, in which white and black Americans of all regions and varying political stripes shrewdly contested the meaning of the war." --Chandra Manning, author of What This Cruel War Was Over
"In a short space, Elizabeth Varon has not only given us a graceful narrative of the epochal surrender at Appomattox, but has also awakened us to the bitterly-contested meanings of that surrender. The war that ended at Appomattox did not subside into a happy story of fraternal reconciliation, but into an ongoing struggle between those who believed the war had brought a new age of freedom and equality into existence, and those who fought to keep the South's feudal past upon its throne. We will not be able to look at Appomattox, or the legacy of the Civil War, in simplistic terms again." --Allen C. Guelzo, author of Gettysburg: The Last Invasion
"Elizabeth Varon's elegant meditation on the complex legacy of the Appomattox surrender combines finely grained social history with penetrating analysis of one of the great mythic moments in American history. Closing out the Civil War, Lee and Grant's fateful meeting ushered in a harmonious reunion of a country destined for greatness. Or did it? Varon's meticulous unpacking of the layers of falsehood surrounding the myth lays bare a painful truth-that there was no unified vision of what peace might bring to a troubled and still bitterly divided nation." --Joan Waugh, University of California, Los Angeles
"Based on exceptionally thorough research, Elizabeth Varon's study meticulously dissects the sentimental, romantic version of the Appomattox story, which portrays it as an apolitical, magnanimous event. Varon shows convincingly that Robert E. Lee and other Confederates made the Army of Northern Virginia's surrender the opening shot in the battle over Reconstruction, and that the seeds of Reconstruction's failure were sown at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865." --Michael Burlingame, author of Abraham Lincoln: A Life
"Varon probes deep into the psyches of Lee and Grant and analyzes them with fresh eyes to understand what kind of nation they envisioned emerging from the wreckage of war... Varon also delves into the letters, diaries, and memoirs left by the men of the two armies who fought each other during those last desperate days... In her clear, confident, yet elegant, prose, Varon gives renewed life to many of the players in the last act of America's greatest tragedy." --Gordon Berg, Civil War Round Table of the District of Columbia
"We are always looking for books that enable us to see the Lees in a new way. Elizabeth Varon's new book, Appomattox: Victory, Defeat, and Freedom at the End of the Civil War does just that... A compelling tale." --Paul Reber, Executive Director, Stratford Hall
"Varon is effective in dispelling the various myths that have sprung up over the surrender itself, including the fabled meeting under an apple tree, which never happened. Using a wealth of primary and secondary sources, the work is excellent in never treating either North or South as monolithic. The author thoroughly discusses the roles of African Americans in both sections, and gives the political opponents in both regions their say." --K.L. Gorman, Minnesota State University, Mankato, CHOICE
"Elizabeth Varon's elegant narrative, provocative argument, and skillful use of sources make this work an interesting addition to the historiography of the Civil War Era." --Southern Literary Review
"A compelling account of the courses taken by Grant and Lee and a superb look at how the public in both sections endeavored to understand what had happened-and what it portended for the future." --Ethan S. Rafuse, America's Civil War
About the Author
Elizabeth R. Varon is Langbourne M. Williams Professor of American History at the University of Virginia. A noted Civil War historian, she is the author of Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859; We Mean to be Counted: White Women and Politics in Antebellum Virginia; and Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, A Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy, which was named one of the "Five Best" books on the "Civil War away from the battlefield" by the Wall Street Journal.
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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.
Thought provoking discussion of both men's post war mind sets re reconstruction and ex slave voting rights
Often Lee is given mythical status and Grant's victory is denigrated as due to having overwhelming men and material. Varon disputes this assessment
With political and social ramifications that echo to the present day, how the defeat of the South was handled by the both winning and losing sides in the aftermath of Appomattox is superbly analyzed by Professor Varon.
In essence, the South invented myths that allowed it to believe that, while it lost militarily to an overwhelming force, its cause was still right and its pre-war social system of white supremacy was still valid.
My take from this book? The North won for more reasons than brute strength; Lee was far from an unblemished hero; the cause of effective voting rights for blacks was set back for a century; there is a reason there are no public monuments in Washington, D.C., for President Andrew Johnson; and Grant deserves his honored place in our country's history.
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Appomattox: Victory, defeat, & freedom at the end of the Civil War
NYC: Oxford Univ Press, 2014.
• 1 map. 32 images (numerous portraits). Notes.Read more