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America Makes War and Peace in Lincoln’s Final Year

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Edited by Harold Holzer and Sara Vaughn Gabbard


Hardcover (Other formats: E-book)
208 pages, 6 x 9, 16 illustrations


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About the Book

In 1865 Americans faced some of the most important issues in the nation’s history: the final battles of the Civil War, the struggle to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, the peace process, reconstruction, the role of freed slaves, the tragedy of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, and the trials of the conspirators. In this illuminating collection, prominent historians of nineteenth-century America offer insightful overviews of the individuals, events, and issues on 1865 that shaped the future of the United States.

Following an introduction by renowned Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer, nine new essays explore the end of the Civil War, Lincoln’s death, and the start of the tentative peace in 1865. Michael Vorenberg discusses how Lincoln shepherded through the House of Representatives the resolution sending the Thirteenth Amendment to the states for ratification, John F. Marszalek and Michael B. Ballard examine the partnership of Lincoln’s war management and General Ulysses S. Grant’s crucial last thrusts against Robert E. Lee, and Richard Striner recounts how Lincoln faced down Confederate emissaries who proposed immediate armistice if Lincoln were to reverse the Emancipation Proclamation. Ronald C. White Jr. offers a fresh look at Lincoln’s second inaugural address, and Richard Wightman Fox provides a vivid narrative of Lincoln’s dramatic walk through Richmond after the Confederates abandoned their capital.

Turning to Lincoln’s assassination, Edward Steers Jr. relates the story of Booth’s organizational efforts that resulted in the events of that fateful day, and Frank J. Williams explains the conspirators’ trial and whether they should have faced military or civilian tribunals. Addressing the issue of black suffrage, Edna Greene Medford focuses on the African American experience in the final year of the war. Finally, Holzer examines the use of visual arts to preserve the life and legacy of the martyred president.

Rounding out the volume are a chronology of national and international events during 1865, a close look at Lincoln’s activities and writings from January 1 through April 14, and other pertinent materials. This thoughtful collection provides an engaging evaluation of one of the most crucial years in America’s evolution.


Harold Holzer is the Roger Hertog Fellow at the New-York Historical Society and the chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. He is the author, coauthor, editor, or coeditor of forty-seven books about Abraham Lincoln, most recently Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion, which won the 2015 Lincoln Prize. He has published six books with SIU Press. 
Sara Vaughn Gabbard, the executive director of Friends of the Lincoln Collection of Indiana, is the editor of Lincoln Lore and a recipient of the 2015 Order of Lincoln Award from the state of Illinois. She and Holzer coedited Lincoln and Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Thirteenth Amendment and 1863: Lincoln’s Pivotal Year, and she and Joseph R. Fornieri coedited Lincoln’s America, 1809–1865. She also served as a coeditor of the Concise Lincoln Library.

Contributors include Michael Vorenberg, John F. Marszalek, Michael B. Ballard, Richard Striner, Ronald C. White, Jr., Richard Wightman Fox, Edward Steers, Jr., Frank J. Williams, and Edna Greene Medford.


"This book offers great lessons on America’s most critical year."—Civil War News

1865: America Makes War and Peace in Lincoln’s Final Year contains an impressive series of essays by well-known Lincoln scholars. Edited by Harold Holzer and Sara Vaughn Gabbard, this collection offers new insights into not just Lincoln but also the often neglected last days of the war.”—Jean H. Baker, Goucher College

“The year 1865 was a pivotal moment—perhaps the pivotal moment—in American history, and no one played a more prominent role in it than Abraham Lincoln. These engaging essays by ten leading historians of the Civil War era thoughtfully examine many of the events of that year, both the familiar and the forgotten, through the prism of the martyred president’s words and deeds. All who read this volume will be rewarded with a fascinating portrayal of that remarkable year of triumph and tragedy.”—Stephen V. Ash, author of A Year in the South: 1865

“Harold Holzer and Sara Vaughn Gabbard give us a vivid look at one of the most significant years in American history. In fascinating detail the volume’s authors write about final battles of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln’s important work toward a just and lasting peace, why he was assassinated, and how Lincoln’s image changed after his brutal death.”—Jay Winik, author of April 1865: The Month That Saved America and The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800