Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War

Scribner. Oct. 2019. 416p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781501116223. $32; ebk. ISBN 9781501116247. HIST
Journalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist Gwynne ((Rebel Yell)) brings the last year of the American Civil War into sharp focus in this insightful, well-written work. The spring of 1864 found the Confederacy hobbled but still able to field armies capable of attacking Union forces, all while huge swathes of territory remained out of Union control. The year 1864 was also an election year, and in order for Abraham Lincoln to win a second term, he needed to convince a war-weary North that the fight was worth continuing. In each chapter, Gwynne shows how the war took on increasingly unimaginable horror, from the massacre of black Union soldiers at Fort Pillow to Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s rampage through Georgia to deny the enemy use of their land. He also relays the inhumane conditions discovered at Andersonville prison in the aftermath of the war and, finally, the assassination of Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth.
VERDICT The actions of freed slaves and other African Americans are given considerable attention; however, since the work is mainly concerned with the Eastern theatre, the war’s lasting impact on Native populations is neglected. Still, history and Civil War enthusiasts will find much to engage with in Gwynne’s latest book.

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