Appomattox; The Last Days of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia by Michael E. Haskew, reviewed by Arley McCormick; Newsletter Editor
You know how it ends. You have read about Appomattox before. But, you have never read it like Michael E. Haskew writes it. It is certainly about the end of an era that punctuates 19th Century America and yet it is more than that. The author illustrates his book, not with maps focused on troop movements but on leaders, decisions, and lost opportunities. He accentuates it all with firsthand accounts, recollections, orders, and letters. He introduces key characters on the battle line with short enlightened biographies that provide insight to their personality and the impact upon decision making. He integrates the combat action with accounts of President Lincoln’s observations and comments while close to the battlefields and visits to Petersburg and Richmond. The judgment of General U.S. Grant and Lee are not questioned but explained in terms that make sense for that specific moment in time when a decision was necessary. The author mater-of-factually describes the killing and inadvertent loss of key leaders and men, both North and South, accentuated by prose from men that were there. Michael E. Haskew captures the very essence of soldering during adversity and the respect leaders and men earned during those final contested days and demonstrated later when former soldiers, in their twilight years, met as friends during reunions at contested battle sites. The Army of Northern Virginia steadfast in their resolve till the bitter end and tarnished only by the reference that it fought to preserve slavery. If you don’t read it your understanding of the Appomattox will be lacking.