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Appomattox: Victory, Defeat, and Freedom at the End of the Civil War 1st Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199751716
ISBN-10: 0199751714
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Editorial Reviews

Review


Winner, Library of Virginia Literary Award for Nonfiction
Winner, Eugene Feit Award in Civil War Studies, New York Military Affairs Symposium
Winner of the Dan and Marilyn Laney Prize of the Austin Civil War Round Table
Finalist, Jefferson Davis Award of the Museum of the Confederacy
Best Books of 2014, Civil War Monitor
6 Civil War Books to Read Now, Diane Rehm Show, NPR


"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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Product Details

  • 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: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #782,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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An excellent book on the subtle, but profound, shift of meanings associated with Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House.

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! A name which will live in historical memory in the mind of the nation. On Palm Sunday April 9, 1855 the immaculately dressed Robert E. Lee general of t he Army of Northern Virginia tendered the surrender of his forces to General U.S. Grant in a small parlor in Appomattox Virginia. This famous event is known to every schoolchild and the myths and legends surrounding it are well known. Now it is the task of Dr. Elizabeth R. Varon a Civil war scholar of note and professor of history at the University of Virginia to dispel the myths surrounding the surrender ceremony and give us a 21st century view of the momentous occasion Varon has accomplished an impeccable job of researching original sources such as soldier s letters, newspaper accounts and memoirs to give us a first hand understanding of Appomattox and its implications. Among the things I learned by reading this scholarly work are":
a. Robert E. Lee was a white supremacist who was against African-American equality. He wanted the South to be restored to the Union with all of its ante-bellum society of white rule preserved. This view of Lee will not set well with Lost Cause and Lee worshippers but it is the truth of the great general s views. Lee opposed the Radical Republicans favoring the approach of President Andrew Johnson who pardoned thousands of Confederate soldiers and wanted reconstruction to maintain the white society of Dixie.
b. Ulysses Simpson Grant viewed the Civil War as a huge step in achieving racial citizenship and equality for African-Americans. He favored the Civil Rights Bill which was vetoed by President Andrew Johnson. Grant allied himself with the Republican Party as did James Longstreet, William Mahone and John Mosby.
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This is a must read for those who have not locked up their minds and forgotten where they put the key. Varon is obviously one of those people who know what they're writing about. Watch her on C-span and listen to a historian who ranks up there with other, more noted ones. This book proves that point. If you want a little different take on that historical event, READ THIS BOOK ... sammy
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Elizabeth Varon
Appomattox: Victory, defeat, & freedom at the end of the Civil War
NYC: Oxford Univ Press, 2014.
• 1 map. 32 images (numerous portraits). Notes. Index with names predominating.
• This book provides much more than a recounting of the conclusive defeat of Lee’s Army of Northern VA. It provides a solid summary of the transition from active warfare to reconstruction / restoration efforts (1865-1867). A central bridge is the quite different perceptions of the ‘terms of surrender’ as it impacts the interregnum between active, ‘formal’ warfare and the Presidential Reconstruction efforts by Lincoln & Johnson. A good starting point for ‘wrapping’ your mind around & attempting to understand Reconstruction.
• Varon employs literary & artwork sources in her analysis of the meanings attributed to the surrender at Appomattox and sectional perspectives on ‘restoration’ & ‘reconstruction.’

This reviewer is currently reading on wartime & postwar Reconstruction efforts in order to have a reasonable working knowledge for attending a CW conference on that subject AND to beginning an initial attempt to ‘wrap’ his mind around that topic. The additional books on my reading liat (in probable reading & overlapping time span sequence) are:

Gregory Downs
After Appomattox: Military occupation & the ends of war
Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2015.
• 9 longitudinal maps on military post locations. 6 images. Notes. Index. 8 statistical appendices on the number of U.S. Army posts, soldiers, & soldiers / post; mostly longitudinally with some by region.
“Statistics regarding U.S.
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