April 1865: The Month That Saved America, by Jay Winik, works to discuss the final battles of the Civil War, and works to address how the end of the Civil War worked to provide a new start for America. It discusses why these particular days were the most pivotal in the shaping of life within the United States, both then and now, and provides a detailed explanation of all the events that occurred during this particular time period.
It is considered to be one of the most “dramatic and as devastating (months) as any ever faced in American history” (Winik, p. x). Starting with the guerilla warfare that was used in the final month of the Civil War, covering the fall of Richmond, the retreat of General Lee’s forces, and the Battle of Appomattox, it describes the end of the Civil War in a manner that brings individuals to feel as though they were actually there. The book moves to cover the assassination of President Lincoln five days after Appomattox, and the fears felt by the North, the failing negotiations between the North and the South, and concludes with the methods used in order to reconcile the two, making America into the unified nation that she is today.
The book concludes with a discussion of what Thomas Jefferson did to be able to work to bring the nation together and compares his actions to do so to the building of Monticello, his home. The house “embodied the varied strains of Jefferson, (as) did the adolescent republic he has assiduously labored to found. His disparate threads were woven not just through its vibrancy and its growth, but also through its very deep and real divides” (Winik, p. 6). April 1865 served to see the end of the Civil War and the birth of a nation, complete with hard work, sweat, bloodshed, tears, and cries of anguish and triumph. It shows that the end to the war was not inevitable, and it serves to provide a new way of looking at history, providing both the big picture and the minute details in order to allow the reader to better understand the world we live in.