cover image A Ruined Land: The End of the Civil War

A Ruined Land: The End of the Civil War

Michael Golay, Author John Wiley & Sons $40 (400p) ISBN 978-0-471-18367-9

With considerable agility, Golay (To Gettysburg and Beyond) combines both manuscripts and printed sources to paint a picture of the last months of the Civil War and the first months of peace. Golay takes the reader along with General William T. Sherman's veterans as they capture Savannah and then head north through the Carolinas, brushing aside meager resistance and spreading terror among the civilians in their path. Other selective pictures emerge throughout the book, including the evacuation and destruction of Richmond, President Lincoln's assassination and the subsequent trial of the conspirators, Andersonville commandant Henry Wirz's trial and execution, the return home of veterans and operations on the Mexican border. Following the end of hostilities, Golay looks at the plight of former slaves and President Andrew Johnson's bickering with Radical Republicans trying to protect the newly freed slaves. He uses letters and other writings from a number of soldiers and civilians to provide graphic portraits of life in the shattered South. This fascinating social history, through Golay's expert use of sources, brings to life a time in America's past that promised so much but delivered so little, especially to former slaves. 26 photos and 4 maps. (Oct.)