A House Reunited: How
Survived the Civil War by Jay Winik America
It really doesn’t get any better than this. Cruising in the car (OK, commuting) and listening to a born storyteller talk about a topic you find fascinating. Truly, this is good.
Many years back, I went through a Civil War phase that eventually waned. But occasionally I have a flare-up of the old condition, and this series of lectures about the Civil War’s final months was just the ticket.
(The Modern Scholar series: Why am I late to the party on this? I’ve known about them for years, and yet it’s only now that I dive in. I can be a strange creature.)
Winik is the author of the book April 1865: The Month That Saved America, which made a good-sized splash when it was released. And he’s one heck of a good lecturer. He’s got an almost preacherly cadence (preacherly, meaning: lyrical, not didactic) that drew me right in. Also, he does this thing where he says, “Picture this scene if you will…” and then he’ll describe the situation so clearly that you can indeed visualize it. It’s a good tactic.
So this audio series is all about the way the end of the Civil War was kind of a mini-miracle—that things worked out as well as they did (given how horrible things were), and how close things were to not working out at all. It’s actually a bit chilling.
I mean, most of us know the story of the Lee’s surrender to Grant at
And then shortly thereafter, Appomattox
was assassinated. We all know that. But the thing I sure didn’t realize was
that the South was considering launching into guerrilla warfare when they
realized they could no longer win a conventional war. Yikes, guys. It coulda
happened that way. Lincoln
hadn’t been all “With malice toward none, with charity for all…” we likely
would’ve ended up with a country that never came back together fully. Lincoln
Here’s a quote from Robert E. Lee that I really think will stick with me: “I surrendered as much to
goodness as I did to Grant’s armies.” Lincoln
It really hits a person that so much depends on the decisions and the character and the temperament of a few key historic figures, and if any of those variables had been different, things could’ve gone so very wrong.
Seriously, thank goodness for those humans and their wisdom.