53 pages • 1 hour readJames L. Swanson
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The preface brings us up to speed with the subject of the story, explaining that the Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, was a bloody conflict over the Southern states’ secession to preserve their right to perpetuate the institution of slavery. Swanson notes that the war cost over 600,000 lives before Confederate General Robert E. Lee formally surrendered to US General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. Despite the surrender, some armies not directly under Lee’s control continued to fight; moreover, discontented spies and sympathizers, concealed in the nation’s capital, still sought the opportunity to strike a blow for the Confederacy.
The Prologue illustrates an eerie coincidence on March 4, 1865, the day of Lincoln’s second presidential inauguration, which took place before the recently completed Capitol. The photographer, Alexander Gardner, took photos of the event, which captured not only President Lincoln and other prominent politicians, but also an array of spectators. Among the crowd, Lincoln’s eventual assassin, John Wilkes Booth, can distinctly be seen alone on a balcony. Lincoln’s inauguration speech that day was just 701 words, and touched on the importance of healing and reconciliation.
On April 3, 1865, Richmond, Virginia fell to the North, spelling effective victory.
By James L. Swanson