Americans debating the fate of slavery often invoked the specter of disunion to frighten their opponents. As Elizabeth R. Varon shows, "disunion" connoted the dissolution of the republic - the failure of the founders' effort to establish a stable and lasting representative government. For many Americans in both the North and the South, disunion was a nightmare, a cataclysm that would plunge the nation into the kind of fear and misery that seemed to pervade the rest of the world.
Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House evokes a highly gratifying image in the popular mind - it was, many believe, a moment that transcended politics, a moment of healing, a moment of patriotism untainted by ideology. But as Elizabeth Varon reveals in this vividly narrated history, this rosy image conceals a seething debate over precisely what the surrender meant and what kind of nation would emerge from war. The combatants in that debate included the iconic Lee and Grant, but they also included a cast of characters previously overlooked.
"It stays the same!"