Cover image for A ruined land : the end of the Civil War
A ruined land : the end of the Civil War
Golay, Michael, 1951-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Wiley, [1999]

Physical Description:
xv, 384 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E468.9 .G68 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"This fascinating social history, through Golay's expert use of sources, brings to life a time in America's past that promised so much but delivered so little, expecially to former slaves."-Publishers Weekly

"A tautly woven narrative history..Lively and readable."-Kirkus Reviews

In a fascinating approach that allows the voices of those touched by the Civil War to speak for themselves, gifted writer Michael Golay shows the impact of victory and defeat on the ordinary Americans who both influenced events and were caught up in them. Using illuminating new material, much of it previously unpublished, Golay takes a unique perspective by interweaving personal histories of soldiers and civilians with the larger events of the Civil War. Among the events of this bitter conflict, Golay illuminates the impact of Sherman's march through Georgia and the Carolinas, the despair caused by the assassination of Lincoln, the first bitter weeks of armistice, the immediate postwar life in a devastated, chaotic South, and the promise of freedom for African American slaves. Through the letters, diaries, and other literary remains of those who experienced the war, we gain a vivid, panoramic look at the effects of a bitter struggle and at the efforts of both sides to work toward a solution to problems where effective answers were elusive.

Author Notes

Michael Golay is a journalist & author of several books, including "The Ruined Land: The End of the Civil War". He lives in Exeter, NH.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The eminent Civil War historian Bruce Catton viewed the closing months of the war as a remarkable combination of nobility and meanness. In this striking account of those months, Golay reaffirms that view by utilizing the personal remembrances of a variety of soldiers, civilians, and politicians who directly experienced the final ordeal. In vivid, often heartbreaking accounts, Golay includes Sherman's devastation of the Carolinas, the Lincoln assassination, and the mustering out of both the victors and the vanquished. Hovering over all the accounts is the aura of a nation deeply ravaged, both physically and psychologically. This is a keenly moving and important work that should be a vital addition to any Civil War collection. --Jay Freeman

Publisher's Weekly Review

With considerable agility, Golay (To Gettysburg and Beyond) combines both manuscripts and printed sources to paint a picture of the last months of the Civil War and the first months of peace. Golay takes the reader along with General William T. Sherman's veterans as they capture Savannah and then head north through the Carolinas, brushing aside meager resistance and spreading terror among the civilians in their path. Other selective pictures emerge throughout the book, including the evacuation and destruction of Richmond, President Lincoln's assassination and the subsequent trial of the conspirators, Andersonville commandant Henry Wirz's trial and execution, the return home of veterans and operations on the Mexican border. Following the end of hostilities, Golay looks at the plight of former slaves and President Andrew Johnson's bickering with Radical Republicans trying to protect the newly freed slaves. He uses letters and other writings from a number of soldiers and civilians to provide graphic portraits of life in the shattered South. This fascinating social history, through Golay's expert use of sources, brings to life a time in America's past that promised so much but delivered so little, especially to former slaves. 26 photos and 4 maps. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In his latest, Golay (To Gettysburg & Beyond) chronicles the collapse of the Confederate army and the beginning of southern Reconstruction, once more revisiting this painful and tumultuous period by examining the lives of the newly emancipated and political, military, civilian, academic, and philanthropic figures both prominent and obscure. Through these cameos, he relates the old story of the defeated South's halting attempts to resurrect its bankrupt leadership and postwar agrarian economy, he also profiles its occupiers, a shaky coalition of rigid abolitionist missionaries, hardened Federal soldiers, disillusioned black troops, Yankee speculators, and other assorted opportunists. Golay's final chapter follows the post-Reconstruction lives and careers of his principal characters. Is this work a major contribution to Civil War/Reconstruction historiography? No. Is it an interesting read with an engaging approach? Yes. Golay's inclusion of a time line and a "cast of characters" section provides useful preliminary reference tools. Recommended for public and academic libraries.ÄJohn Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Athens (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. vi
Author's Notep. vii
Time Linep. viii
Cast of Charactersp. xiii
Part 1 War and Revolutionp. 1
1 Honey Hillp. 3
2 The Laws of Warp. 35
3 The Sherman Landsp. 65
Part 2 The End of the Warp. 97
4 The Smoky Marchp. 99
5 The Shell of Rebellionp. 136
6 Booth and His Crimep. 172
Part 3 Something Like Peacep. 205
7 Exile and Returnp. 207
8 Crime, Punishment, Absolutionp. 242
9 Fallow and Neglected Landsp. 282
Coda: 1876-1877p. 322
Notesp. 342
Bibliographyp. 369
Indexp. 375