Book Review: Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee's Army after Appomattox

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by Caroline E Janney .

Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2021. Pp. x, 334. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $30.00. ISBN: 1469663376

The Army of Northern Virginia Goes Home

Caroline E. Janney evokes the human drama of Appomattox and the memory of Confederate soldiers at the end of the Civil War. She does a great job utilizing many primary sources in detailing the perspective of officers and enlisted men both, relating their stories from when the guns went silent and on their journeys home. This is history at its best by a wonderful author and historian.

Many – perhaps most – Confederate soldiers did not know what the end of the war would mean for them, their families, and the South as they left Appomattox. Even before the surrender, the demobilization of Lee’s army had begun, as men deserted before Lee went to meet Grant. They flooded the countryside, some just wanting to go home, others hoping to continue the fight, perhaps would join Joe Johnston's army in North Carolina or the remaining armies further south and west. The 28,000 or so men who remained for the formal surrender, to be paroled by April 12, 1865, were perhaps half the number who had been with the army just a few months earlier. Janney argues that the loyalty of Lee’s troops finally unraveled due to fatigue, fear for their families, and disillusionment with the Southern cause.

Janney makes the exceptional argument that Grant should have detailed terms more clearly, though she also recognizes that he had to act rapidly as conditions on the ground changed from day to day. She further asserts that Francis Lieber, author of the Union’s ‘rules of war’, and others worried that Grant was overstepping his authority in making the terms with Lee that ultimately allowed paroles to operate as a blanket pardon.

Janney discusses how the complex the system of managing the military paroles followed the surrender on April 9th, and Grant’s problems with political leaders following Lincoln's assassination over the terms offered.

Ends of War is also the story of the free and enslaved African Americans who were in various ways attached to Lee’s army. Many wanted to go home, but there were issues of how, when, and where they could go in every state of the erstwhile Confederacy. Janney asserts many people of color were forced to accompany their masters home, and the journey home often involved much privation, the need to beg for or steal food, and some arguably ended up in worse circumstance than when the war had started.

Janney makes an extraordinary point, that in the case of many soldiers their commitment to the Confederacy did not end with the capitulation on April 9, 1865. Many former Confederates – civilian as well as veterans, were enraged by the occupation of their states by Federal soldiers and former slaves celebrating liberty and enjoying its fruits. Their response to this was to become an important voting bloc, which over time played a significant role in obstructing and ultimately ending Reconstruction and introducing Jim Crow. She argues in some ways the peace was harder than the fighting, and turned into a test for the republic for generations.

This reviewer highly recommends Ends of War for both novices and seasoned students of the Civil War, and particularly for those with an interest in its end.

 

Our Reviewer: David Marshall has been a high school American history teacher in the Miami-Dade School district for more than three decades. A life-long Civil War enthusiast, David is president of the Miami Civil War Round Table Book Club. In addition to numerous reviews in Civil War News and other publications, he has given presentations to Civil War Round Tables on Joshua Chamberlain, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the common soldier. His previous reviews here include A Contest of Civilizations: Exposing the Crisis of American Exceptionalism in the Civil War Era, Unlike Anything That Ever Floated, Meade at Gettysburg, A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy: The Fall of New Orleans, Grant's Left Hook, The Winter that Won the War: The Winter Encampment at Valley Forge, 1777-1778, Gettysburg Rebels, The Siege of Vicksburg: Climax of the Campaign to Open the Mississippi River, From Arlington to Appomattox: Robert E. Lee’s Civil War, Day by Day, 1861-1865, Unsung Hero of Gettysburg: The Story of Union General David McMurtrie Gregg, The Man Who Punched Jefferson Davis: The Political Life of Henry S. Foote, Custer: From the Civil War’s Boy General to the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg, Passing Through the Fire: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in the Civil War, The Summer of ’63: Vicksburg and Tullahoma, and Crosshairs on the Capital: Jubal Early’s Raid on Washington

 

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Note: Ends of War is also available in several e-editions.

 

StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

www.nymas.org and https://www.nymas2.org 

Reviewer: David Marshall   


Buy it at Amazon.com




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