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Lincoln and the War's End

Lincoln and the War's End

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John C. Waugh


E-book (Other formats: Hardcover)
10 illustrations

Concise Lincoln Library


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About the Book

On the night of his reelection on November 8, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln called on the nation to “re-unite in a common effort, to save our common country.” By April 9 of the following year, the Union had achieved this goal with the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. In this lively volume, John C. Waugh chronicles in detail Lincoln’s role in the final five months of the war, revealing how Lincoln and Grant worked together to bring the war to an end. 

Beginning with Lincoln’s reelection, Waugh highlights the key military and political events of those tumultuous months. He recounts the dramatic final military campaigns and battles of the war, including William T. Sherman’s march through Georgia to the sea; the Confederate army’s attempt to take Nashville and its loss at the battle of Franklin; and the Union victory at Fort Fisher that closed off the Confederacy’s last open port. Other events also receive attention, including Sherman’s march through the Carolinas and the burning of Columbia; Grant’s defeat of the Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Five Forks, and Lincoln’s presence at the seat of war during that campaign; the Confederate retreat from Petersburg and Richmond; and Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.

Weaving the stories together chronologically, Waugh also presents the key political events of the time, particularly Lincoln’s final annual message to Congress, passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, the Second Inaugural, Lincoln’s visit to Richmond the day after it fell, and Lincoln’s final days and speeches in Washington after the Confederate surrender. An epilogue recounts the farewell march of all the Union armies through Washington, D.C., in May 1865. Throughout, Waugh enlivens his narrative with illuminating quotes from a wide variety of Civil War participants and personalities, including New Yorker George Templeton Strong, southerner Mary Boykin Chesnut, Lincoln’s secretary John Hay, writer Noah Brooks, and many others.


John C. Waugh, a reporter at the Christian Science Monitor for many years, is the coeditor of How Historians Work, and the author of eleven other books on the Civil War era, including The Class of 1846, Reelecting Lincoln, and Lincoln and McClellan.


"With his effort here, Waugh has created a small gem, one that is easily admired and hard to imitate. Brevity is a virtue, sometimes the most important one for the harried, book-reading public. This latest contribution to the Concise Lincoln Library certainly proves that point, perhaps as well as any in that fine series."—Matthew Pinkser, Journal of Illinois History 

"Waugh excels at writing accessible, entertaining historical prose, and with Lincoln and the War's End, the Concise Lincoln Library has a book that will entice casual readers and perhaps inspire them to dig into deeper works."—Gerald J. Prokopowicz, Journal of Southern History

"Lincoln and the War’s End is a must read for all, not just historians."—Wallace Dean Draper, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

"Waugh's observations about Lincoln's character, motives, decisions, and actions prove to be exceptionally well researched and astute. Supporting quotations from notable figures, both private and public, seem brilliantly selected and uniformly useful. The text, delivered in clear, precise, and well reasoned prose, is accompanied by ten helpful illustrations, and the whole of the book is attended by excellent notes, an extensive bibliography, and a thoroughly comprehensive index. Students as well as casual readers should find the book to be a fine record of a period which Lincoln's private secretary, William O. Stoddard, called 'that terrible furnace time, during which the old nation melted away, and a new nation was moulded."'—Phillip Parotti, Texas Review

“What John Waugh does as well as almost anyone in the Civil War history business is to build smart narratives around compelling quotations. Like the good reporter he used to be, Waugh collects and evaluates striking reactions from his sources and then weaves them together with deft prose. The result for a short book about the end of the Civil War is pure joy for anybody who wants to immerse themselves in a Lincoln-sided view of that critical period. Give yourself a long plane ride or a quiet weekend at home, and this little volume offers an antidote to some of the anxieties of the modern age. . . . With his effort here, Waugh has created a small gem, one that is easily admired and hard to imitate. Brevity is a virtue, sometimes the most important one for the harried, book-reading public. This latest contribution to the Concise Lincoln Library certainly proves that point, perhaps as well as any in that fine series.” –Matthew Pinsker, Journal of Illinois History

“In a vivid recounting of the critical five months between Lincoln’s reelection in November of 1864 and Lee’s surrender at Appomattox in April of 1865, John C. Waugh combines a thoughtful analysis of political activities with a vibrant, fast-paced narrative of the military campaigns to illuminate the almost breathtaking denouement of the Civil War.”—Craig L. Symonds, author of Lincoln and his Admirals

“Bravo to master storyteller John Waugh for this fast-paced and enthralling account of the Civil War’s decisive final weeks! A lifetime of research and writing on this endlessly compelling topic is evident in his presentations of the crucial players and decisive battles. His smoothly conversational narrative, and talent for seasoning it with personality studies, eye-catching quotations, and even weather reports, sent me from cover to cover in just one intensely focused sitting.”—Richard A. Baker, coauthor of The American Senate: An Insider’s History

“In the hand of a master historian and storyteller, even a timeless tale can be enlivened and made to sing. The ending is of course unchanged, but with beautiful prose resting on a firm foundation of essential research and his unimpeachable expertise, Waugh educates and entertains.”—Lynda Crist, editor of The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Rice University

“With a narrative style that is at times moving and dramatic, Waugh expertly weaves together events on the battlefield and in Washington to demonstrate the important connections between military and political history.”—Carole Emberton,Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association

“Waugh’s work roughly covers the period of Lincoln’s reelection until his untimely death, ending on the somber realization that Booth robbed Lincoln of seeing his work completed. Waugh demonstrates the president’s confidence in the final days of his life.”—Daniel W. Farrell, Civil War History

“With fitting quotes from many participants during the era, including George Templeton Strong, Mary Boykin Chestnut, and Lincoln’s secretaries—John Nicolay and John Hay—the narrative comes alive. [Waugh] uses beautiful prose based on his expertise and research.”—Frank J. Williams, Civil War Book Review

“In Lincoln and the War’s End, John C. Waugh writes about Lincoln’s role in the final five months of the Civil War. Waugh reminds readers that Lincoln’s reelection in 1864 was a ‘watershed in American history.’ No president had been reelected to a second term since Andrew Jackson in 1832. Most importantly, Lincoln’s election came in the midst of a civil war: the Constitution worked.”—Patricia Ann Owens, The Annals of Iowa