Their Last Full Measure: The Final Days of the Civil War by Joseph Wheelan

Joseph Wheelan recently wrote a book covering the last days of the Civil War in Their Last Full Measure: The Final Days of the Civil War.

Here is a brief synopsis of the book form the publisher:

As the Confederacy crumbled under the Union army’s relentless “hammering,” Federal armies marched on the Rebels’ remaining bastions in Alabama, the Carolinas, and Virginia. General William T. Sherman’s battle-hardened army conducted a punitive campaign against the seat of the Rebellion, South Carolina, while General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant sought to break the months-long siege at Petersburg, defended by Robert E. Lee’s starving Army of Northern Virginia. In Richmond, Confederate President Jefferson Davis struggled to hold together his unraveling nation while simultaneously sanctioning diplomatic overtures to bid for peace. Meanwhile, President Abraham Lincoln took steps to end slavery in the United States forever.

As I have mentioned before, I enjoy reading about the Civil War – not just the battles, but also the causes of the war and social changes that occurred during the time period. It has always amazed me how quickly the bitterness between the two sides developed. To think that the adversaries were from the same country is hard to believe.

Wheelan brings his excellent writing skills to the final chapter of the Civil War. After the countless deaths and other casualties, the Confederacy was on its last legs and yet its soldiers continued to fight and Jefferson Davis was willing to sacrifice them. The Union and its armies also suffered high casualties, but it (with Lincoln at the forefront) sensed the end was near and wanted to make the killing blow to the Confederacy.

Although the entire book is great, the part on the surrender of the Confederate armies is particularly well done. Wheelan captures the depressive mood of the Confederates as they surrendered and the boundless joy of the Union troops as the final arms were laid down.

Out of the divisiveness of the war came one final act – the assassination of Lincoln. Wheelan discusses the events surrounding the assassination, but also the reaction. Although many in the South were happy at Lincoln’s death, many others were saddened because they knew he was a key to a faster reconciliation of the two sides.

Simply put, the book is an excellent read.

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