By Joseph Wheelan

Overview

As the Confederacy progressively crumbled lower than the Union army’s relentless hammering, dramatic advancements in early 1865 introduced the bloody struggle to a quick climax and denouement. Their final complete Measure relates those exciting occasions, which each other like falling dominoes—from citadel Fisher’s trap to the burning of South Carolina’s capital to the autumn of Petersburg and Richmond and, finally, to Lee’s hand over at Appomattox and Lincoln’s assassination.

Acclaimed historian Joseph Wheelan—whose prose “fairly gallops around the page”(Wall highway Journal)—braids the disparate occasions right into a compelling, fast paced account of strong armies; civil and armed forces leaders, either mistaken and luxurious; and usual humans, black and white, suffering to outlive the war’s wreckage in Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

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39 No part of American thinking, Bailyn suggests—not the widespread belief in a ministerial conspiracy, not the hostile and vicious indictments of individuals, not the fear of corruption and the hope for regeneration, not any of the violent seemingly absurd distortions and falsifications of what we now believe to be true, in short, none of the frenzied rhetoric—can be safely ignored by the historian seeking to understand the causes of the Revolution. Bailyn’s study, however, represents something other than a more com­ plete and uncorrupted version of the common idealist interpretations of the Revolution.

By concentrating on the immediate events of the decade leading up to independence, the historians of the 1950s have necessarily fled from the economic and social determinism of the Progressive his­ torians. And by emphasizing the consistency and devotion with which Americans held their constitutional beliefs, they have once again focused on what seems to be the extraordinary intellectuality of the American Revolution and hence its uniqueness among Western revolutions. This interpretation, which, as Jack P.

Our intellectual life is made up of struggles over getting people to accept different meanings of our experiences—in effect, trying to change Introduction | 17 the culture. The stakes are always high because actions that we cannot make meaningful—cannot conceive of, rationalize, legitimate, or per­ suade other people to accept—we in some sense cannot undertake. What is permissible culturally affects what is permissible socially or politically, so that although ideas may not be the motives for behavior (underly­ ing interests and passions are the real motives), ideas do affect and limit behavior.

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