Jay Winik
Jay Winik
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April 1865: The Month That Saved America
ISBN: 0060187239
April 1865: The Month That Saved America
April 1865 was a month that could have unraveled the nation. Instead, it saved it. Here Jay Winik offers a brilliant new look at the Civil War's final days that will forever change the way we see the war's end and the nation's new beginning. Uniquely set within the larger sweep of history, filled with rich profiles of outsize figures, fresh iconoclastic scholarship, and a gripping narrative, this is a masterful account of the thirty most pivotal days in the life of the United States.

It was not inevitable that the Civil War would end as it did, or that it would end at all well. Indeed, it almost didn't. Time and again, critical moments could have plunged the nation back into war or fashioned a far harsher, more violent, and volatile peace. Now, in a superbly told story, Winik captures the epic images and extraordinary history as never before. This one month witnessed the frenzied fall of Richmond; a daring last-ditch Southern plan for guerrilla warfare; Lee's harrowing retreat; and then Appomattox. It saw Lincoln's assassination just five days later, and a near-successful plot to decapitate the Union government, followed by chaos and coup fears in the North, collapsed negotiations and continued bloodshed in the South, and finally, the start of national reconciliation. In the end, April 1865 emerges as not just the tale of the war's denouement, but the story of the making of our nation.

Provocative, bold, exquisitely rendered, and stunningly original, April 1865 is the first major reassessment of the Civil War's close and is destined to become one of the great stories of American history.
—from jacket of the book

TRANSCRIPT
April 1865: The Month That Saved America
Program Air Date: July 29, 2001

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Jay Winik, author of "April 1865: The Month That Saved America," where'd you get the idea for the book?
Mr. JAY WINIK (Author, "April 1865: The Month That Saved America"): Where'd I get the idea for the book? Well, you know, originally I was--before I wrote "April 1865," I was writing a book on the end of the Cold War. And in the process of that, I started doing some research and reading on other wars, just to get insights and parallels from previous conflicts. And in the course of that, in reading about the Civil War, several things happened. Firstly, I got drawn in. You know, I became one of these, you know, what you would call a Civil War buff. Secondly, it occurred to me, in the process of this, that Robert E. Lee surrenders, yet he surrenders only his army. There's still three Confederate armies in the field. We'll get to that later on. Five days later, Lincoln is dead.

And I thought, `You know, from my previous life, when I worked in defense and foreign policy'--I used to be an adviser to Les Aspin, Bill Clinton's first secretary of Defense, and I had been involved in a number of civil wars myself, most especially the conflict in Cambodia, which I had a great deal of work with. It occurred to me that's a story there, and I wanted to look at that, and, in fact, nobody really quite looked at it that way.

In--in effect, what I was asking is the question of how wars end is every bit as important as why they start or how they're fought. Put differently, far too many civil wars throughout history end quite badly. Think of Northern Ireland. It's gone on for some 200 years. Thinks of Lebanon, Rwanda, Cambodia. Think of the horrors of the Middle East or the Balkans today. Our civil war could have ended just as badly, with the same terrible, tragic consequences, but didn't. Why? That's a question I wanted to answer and which I do answer in "April 1865."
LAMB: You were the first person on the ground after the Killing Fields in Cambodia?
Mr. WINIK: Not the first person on the ground, but I was on--the first person to go back to Cambodia in--in an official airplane since, actually--since, A, the Killing Fields and since we broke off relations. And it was really quite a trip. We didn't know who we'd meet with. I had to go meet with the Vietnamese the day before in Thailand to make sure that we wouldn't even be shot down. And we didn't know how long we'd be there. We didn't know what kind of reception we'd get. You couldn't telephone, you certainly couldn't e-mail, you certainly couldn't fax. It was, really, a black hall--black hole removed from the rest of the war, and a civil war was raging there, literally, when we landed. And it was a fascinating trip. But one of the things that this work in--in other foreign civil wars stimulated in me was a real interest in our civil war.
LAMB: What are some of the other civil wars you've seen up close, contemporary?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. I've been to--I've been to the civil war in Nicaragua when--during the Sandinista period. I've been to the civil war in El Salvador, and during that civil war, I still vividly remember being in an armored car, with a lead car in front of us and a chase car behind us, and we had a--a sort of garrison of machine guns protecting us because the civil war was so raging out of control, and that was another civil war I'd been to. I had been to the former Yugoslavia as a--just--just as it was about to dissolve.

And I also saw the sort of dissolution of the Soviet Union, not quite a civil war, but it has variations of it and had a fascinating, fascinating several weeks where I met with Lech Walesa, Jaruzelski, who was the--the--the commander, who was the pres--the Communist president of--of Poland. We went through Czechoslovakia, and we just went through all of Eastern Europe as it was dissolving. And it was really history at its making, and I felt privileged and excited to be there. And--and it also gave me an enormous pool to draw upon when I'd later sit down to write this book.
LAMB: What do you do now on a full-time basis?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah, that's what my father wants to know, and we were discussing that earlier. I now write full time. I used to be in government. I worked for the Foreign Relations Committee, the Armed Services Committee. I--I advised Les Aspin, who was the first secretary of Defense for Bill Clinton. I made a decision when the Cold War ended that I wanted to do something different. I came to Washington not to have a job, but to do a job, and when the Cold War ended, I wanted to do something sort of--that would mark--that would challenge me anew, and that became writing.

And the first book I wrote was about the end of the Cold War. It was called "On the Brink." And then I hit upon this idea for "April 1865," and the last--the last four and a half years, that's all I've been doing. I get up every day, I have the same schedule, I have the same routine, and I either research or I write. And--and at this point, I really couldn't imagine doing anything else. In both administrations, the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, people said to me, `You've got a lot of contacts, you know a lot of people, you've got the--the background. Why don't you go into the administration?' And at this point, I just couldn't imagine doing it. I love writing, and I hope to continue doing it.
LAMB: There--there's a--you read the acknowledgments, there's a conflict to try to figure out where you might be coming from politically. One of your favorite people is Stephen Solarz, a former Democratic congressman, and, also, this is underwritten by the Bradley Foundation, which is often known to underwrite conservatives. Help me out on the ideology thing.
Mr. WINIK: Right. W--well, the ideology for "April 1865" is there is no ideology. I've been in Washington a long time. I--you know, I'm fairly well connected in both parties and with people of all political stripes. Steve Solarz is somebody who I worked with extensively during the Cambodia crisis, and I've come to know him quite well. We play tennis together, and I think the world of him. I think he's a terrific guy and a--and a wonderful statesman in America.

The Bradley Foundation has been helpful to me in--in providing additional research monies. It's always a question with authors, `Do you have enough'--no matter how much money you get paid--and I got a nice advance for this, but it always runs out. And in--they were really very nice and generous in assisting me.

What's important--one point I want to stress is--is the ideology for this book is nothing. I want to write for all readers. I don't want to turn off liberals. I don't want to turn off consi--conservatives. Really, what I did is I sat down with a kind of a fresh eye and a fresh vantage point, and I said, `What's the story?' And--and that's what I set out to do.
LAMB: What do you get in your book that you don't get in all the other thousands of books that have been written about Abraham Lincoln, just for starters?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Yeah. Well--well, you--you certainly hit your nail--you hit the nail on the head there because more books have been written about the Civil War than any other topic there is, except for the Bible. And, of course, when I started out, everybody said to me, `Well, you're not a Civil War historian per se. What do you have to say?' And--and--and that was kind of the challenge, and, I mean, indeed, it was sort of heretical that I would take on a body of literature where so many good scholars have written so many wonderful and fine books, from James McPherson to Shelby Foote to Gary Gallagher and onward.

Yet having said that, because of my defense and foreign policy background, I think I brought to it a kind of freshness of eye and a freshness of appreciation and--and this--this idea of how wars end being as--every bit as critical as why they start and how they're fought. This was, really, one of those few areas that has, really, not been mined extensively with this kind of eye.

One other thing I do in "April 1865," which is a little bit different, is I strip away the inevitability of events, so that rather than seeing it with the comfort of 136 years or 140 years of hindsight, you see the events as they take place, you see the decisions as they see them, you see the turning points as they see them, and you see how easily events could have just as--just as easily gone one way or gone another way. And it's that kind of richness of history that I wanted to bring alive.
LAMB: Back in the back, on page 376...
Mr. WINIK: I--I'd like to say I know it by heart, but I don't.
LAMB: No, I'll read this to you, because I--I think it--it--it touches on so many things I want you to talk about.
Mr. WINIK: Right.
LAMB: You do the `what if?'
Mr. WINIK: Yeah.
LAMB: `What if this happened rather than that?' `What if Lee had found an abundance of food at Amelia Court House and safely made his way south to link up with Joe Johnston?' Explain that.
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. No, this is--this is one of the great moments in--in American history, and it's fascinating, it's filled with drama. The setting tha--that--that is taking place is as follows: Richmond and Petersburg have just fallen, and Robert E. Lee, with his--with his great Army of Northern Virginia having bested or eluded every other Union general before them, now was go--trying to hook down South to met up with General Joe Johnston, another Confederate general. He has a one-day leap on the federals--on U.S. Grant. And his goal, at this point, is he's going to hook down South, link up with Johnston; they will strike at, of all people, Bill Sherman, and at that point they will take to the hills. As Robert E. Lee once said, if he can get to the Blue Ridge Mountains, he could continue the war for anther 20 years.

And--and--and far from being dispirited when Petersburg and Richmond fell, the men were actually quite elated. Their spirit was high, their morale was high because Robert E. Lee had performed miracles before. And so they believed once out on the open, he could do it again; that was out in the open where he was his most aggressive, it was out in the open where he was his most audacious. And...
LAMB: When--what was the timing on this?
Mr. WINIK: The--the timing of this was after April 2nd. It was April 2nd leading until April--April 9th...
LAMB: So you're in that last month.
Mr. WINIK: ...when he was--surrendered ... You're in that last month in that--thank you, in that last month in--in the final four weeks. And--and yet this retreat is contingent upon one thing: They need food. They leave without food. So they're marching in the heat of the Virginia sun, they're marching in the cool of the Virginia nights, hour after hour after--for a day and a half straight. And eventually they come to the small, little sleepy village called Amelia Court House. It's got--it's got spanking-white picket fences and weathered cottages--weathered cottage houses and tumbled roses running over the walks.

And thousands of men descend in, and eventually Lee himself comes in there. And he let out this loud, lusty cheer because this is the moment they've all been waiting for. They're going to find food, they will rest and then they will move down South and continue this war. Lee gets to the train, which has the--the food waiting for him, 350,000 rations. They open it up, and what do they find? They find guns, they find cannon, they find caissons, they find weapons. They find everything bi--but food, they find everything but tea, they find everything but water. A mere administrative mix-up has threatened to undo this mighty Army of Northern Virginia as much as any of the Union generals before them. These are the quirks and the turns of the wheel of history.
LAMB: `What if he had decided that honor lay not in surrendering, but in fighting on and on for Mother South with organized guerrilla warfare?'
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. It--it's--thi--this--this we should discuss in a little bit of detail. The--the month of April, 1865, actually starts out--let's not take it in the South, but let's move it into the North for a second--a meeting that Abraham Lincoln has with his two top generals, U.S. Grant and Bill Sherman. He wants to talk about the war, when it will end, what will happen, how will it happen. And one of the first things he says to Grant is he says, you know, `Must more blood be shed, must there be a final bloody Armageddon?'

And, of course, picture Lincoln for a second; just imagine it in your mind's eye. He is so exhausted and worn by this ongoing tornado and wreckage of war. He is 30 pounds underweight. His hands are routinely cold and clammy. He is so sick of this ongoing war, he has recently held a Cabinet meeting from his bed. So he says to Grant, `Must more blood be shed?' Grant shakes his head sadly and says, `Lee being Lee'--`Robert E. Lee, the commanding general of the Confederate Army's being Lee, more blood will be shed.'

And then Lincoln talks about his other great fear that is haunting him. He says, `I'--he worries about them taking--the Confederates taking off into the hills with their hearty horses and hearty men; in other words, guerrilla warfare. That was the option that lay before the Confederates, and that's what--that's what Lincoln feared, that's what Grant feared, it's what Sherman feared. And, of course, when Lee was about to be surrounded--he was surrounded in a nor--south and east and west, every direction but north--it's at that point where he convened a council of war. And in this council of war, one of his top aides, E.P. Or--E.P. Alexander, one of his most trusted aides, I should say, says, `You know, we can take to the hills like partridges and rabbits, and a little more bloodshed now will make no difference.'

In other words, what he is talking about is he was talking about guerrilla warfare. He is talking about what Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, was calling for: guerrilla and partisan warfare. In other words, what he was talking about, in effect, was the Vietnamization of America, and this was the decision that lay before Robert E. Lee.
LAMB: `What if Lee had responded to surrender not with dignity and honor, but with rage?'
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Yeah. It--it's--it's fascinating. You know, we're--we're speaking in the year 2001, and while I don't want to date ourselves, the fact is if we looked at the Middle East, there--there are--these conflicts are kind of spiraling out of control, and with every act of violence, it seems to beget more violence. And, of course, in--in the case of Robert E. Lee, he was the moral conscience of the South. He was--as General Wise, one of the--one of his top men, once said to him--and Wise was also a former governor of--of Virginia. Near the end of the war, they were talking about what will happen next, and--and--and Wise had ridden through the lines. He dismounted his horse, and he had actually fallen in--in--in Virginia quicksand, and he was caked with red mud, and he looked kind of ridiculous.

Well, they joked a bit, and they--but then they talked about the end of the war. And Lee sort of raises this dreaded concept of surrender, and he says, `What will the country think?' And Wise looks over to Lee, and he says, `Country? My God, man, you are the country to these men.' So, in other words, Lee was the country to the Southerners. And whether or not he would decide to deal with the Northerners with honor and dignity and to become good citizens again or with rage with continued civil war and civil violence, he would be the determinant of that. That's what I'm talking about there.
LAMB: `Or if Grant and Sherman had neglected Lincoln's admonitions at City Point and responded, not with generosity of spirit, but with unbridled anger?' Where is City Point, and when was Abraham Lincoln there?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Yeah, Cit--City Point is--is in Virginia, and it's where U.S. Grant, the commanding general of the Union armies--where he had his floating--his floating fortress. City Camp was, in effect, an armed command post for the Northern Army as they were encircling the--Lee's army in--in Petersburg and in Richmond. And they met it on March 27th and March 28th, where Lincoln actually wanted to see the front lines and confer with his commanding generals.

And it was from City Point that--that Lincoln, in that same meeting that he--he talks about his fears of guerrilla warfare, in the same meeting where he talks about his fear that this--there will be a final bloody Armageddon, he does something quite unique. Abraham Lincoln says--he says, `When this war is over, there must be no hangings, there must be no bloody work.' And, of course, what is--what is sort of looming large in his mind is the specter of the French Revolution, because it--it loomed large in the minds of all Americans. And, of course, to remind our listeners and our viewers here, in the French Revolution, the revolutionaries started out with the best of intentions, and before everybody knew it, they were guillotining the opposition, and before everybody knew it, they were guillotining each other, and before everybody knew it, it would engulf all of a continent.

And, in effect, what Lincoln was saying is, `There must be no French Revolution here.' And it was prescient, and it was visionary and it was one of Lincoln's finest acts and finest moments. And Grant would carry it out brilliantly at Appomattox during the surrender, where rather than treating--treating Lee like a defeated, dishonored foe, he would treat him with great dignity and grace. And it would be one of the most poignant scenes, really, in our history.
LAMB: W--we're in Washington, DC. If you had to go to Appomattox, how would you get there from here?
Mr. WINIK: You let my wife drive there. No, you--you would--I mean, I can't tell you the exact highway, but it's about three and a half hours from Washington, DC. And Appomattox is one of these sleepy, little places that d--does not get nearly enough attention, but it is well worth going because it's in ap...
LAMB: In what state?
Mr. WINIK: In Virginia, I'm sorry. In Appomattox, Vir--and--and--and the best way to do it is, really, you can go to Richmond first, and you can actually do a little tour of Richmond. You can sort of re-create the burning of Richmond, as happened on April 2nd and April 3rd in 1865. And from there, you can go down to Cold Harbor, and you see the--the--the ...() fighting of 1864. And then you can actually do Lee's retreat, and--and they have it marked out in Virginia. And--and I did it. I mean, I--I did it with my wife. We drove it. We walked those fields, we walked those roads. We actually sort of did it on the day that Lee did it. And--and people can do it now, and it's--it's just wonderful. I mean, you really are transported back in time, and it's--it's a trip well worth taking.
LAMB: Back to the `what ifs': `Or if there had not been an honorable stacking of arms and mutual salute to set the tone for the end of the war, but hangings and humiliations.'
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Yeah, this was one of the crossroads. Throughout--throughout history, far too many civil wars end with that sort of bloodshed, where the--with hangings or killings or beheadings. In fact, just think about it, the morning that--that Lee has made this fateful decision that he's going to surrender--and at that point, he sort of straightens himself up, and he says, `And now I must go meet General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths than do that. History has, more often than not, telescoped and simplified what happens. They have simplified it to say that there's Lee's vain, quixotic retreat. They've said then there's the dignity of Appomattox, end of war, end of story.

In truth, it's far richer. Let's ask the first question: How would Lee be treated when he goes to meet U.S. Grant? He didn't know. What--what--what we do know is that Lee, that morning, was actually quite nervous, uncharacteristically so. He was speaking in mumbled half-sentences. And, well, he should have been nervous because--because, throughout history, as he knew all too well, defeated generals and revolutionaries and traitors were typically beheaded, or they were hung, or they were imprisoned or, like the--General Napoleon, they were exiled.

And, in fact, that very morning--that very morning, the Chicago Tribune editorialized: Hang Lee. And just days earlier, in the Union capital of Washington, DC, Andrew Johnson, the vice president of the Union, went out with several senators and before a thronging crowd of hundreds, maybe over 1,000, and gave a rousing speech in which he said, `We must hang Davis, we must hang Lee. We must hang them 20 times.' So, in fact, Lee didn't know what to expect. And that Grant would treat him with such tenderness and dig--dignity and it--it's such a rich scene, he was carrying out Lincoln's vision at City Point of no bloody work, no hangings. But it was really unique in the chain of history.
LAMB: I have--talking about your book with some friends the other day, and somebody said, `Well, Lee and Grant knew each other well at West Point.' Well, you address this in the book.
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Yeah. They--they--they didn't know each other well at West Point, but what--what is interesting is--is the sort of bonds that are forged--forged in war. And--and--and let me sort of set the scene for a second to explain this. Let's go to the Wilderness for a second because this is where--the Wilderness is the sixth-week campaign in 1864, before they begin the siege in Richmond and Petersburg, and it's f--where Lee and Grant squared off for the first time.

In the first two days of the Wilderness, Grant loses 17,500 men. He goes into his tent that night, and he weeps like a baby. And the next morning when he comes out, everybody expects him to do what every other Union general had done: retreat. Memorably, Grant says, `We will fight it out if it takes all summer.' Of course, it will take all year. Just a few weeks later, at Cold Harbor, in the first nine minutes alone, Grant will lose 10,000 men; that is twice as many men who will die of all the Confederates in the entirety of the Gettysburg conflict. And--and he does it within 10 minutes. And in--and in this entire six-week skirmish, Grant will lose as many men as Lee has in his entire army, and he will lose as many men as we will lose in the entirety of the Vietnam War.

So out of this ghastly warfare, this--this bloody battling, the irony is--is that these two men came to respect each other, to r--almost to fear each other and to admire each other. And...
LAMB: What's the difference in age?
Mr. WINIK: The difference in age is--is--is Lee is about 58, and Grant is--is, I think, 43. So...
LAMB: So they didn't even come close at West Point.
Mr. WINIK: They--they--they--they didn't even come close at West Point, but, interestingly enough, when they first walk into Appomattox Court House, Lee is wearing his finest uniform because, as he said, `And now I must become General Grant's prisoner' that day, and Grant, who keeps him waiting for 30 minutes, comes in in a mud-spattered private's blouse. In fact, later on in history, he will apologize for how he's attired.

And, you know, picture this scene for a second: this small, little home, Wilmer McLean house, in Appomattox Court House, this little village of about eight structures or so, and rolling hills. And outside in these rolling hills are thousands of men, who are standing at rapt attention to watch this amazing piece of historical theater to take place. In fact, you know, when the surrender is over--I'm going to digress for a second--everything will be ripped apart from the Wilmer McLean house: the--the desk, the pens, the floorboards, the--the--the wallpaper. Even a tree that Lee himself would have leaned against that morning will be ripped apart so there's nothing, except for a hole there, because everybody knew that day that history was taking place, and they wanted a piece of it. And so they were standing at--rapt at attention.

But inside this small, little hou--this small, little home, Grant comes in, and, you know, rather than talk about the surrender, they talk about the old days. And I think this is what your friends are referring to, because Grant says, `You know, I remember you from the Mexican War, and what is it we do?' Lee looks at him and he says, `You know, all these times in this battle, I've tried to recall your face. I could never quite do it.' And, in fact, they continued to chat happily. And--and Grant tell us that--that they continued on and on, and it was eventually Lee who says, `I suppose we must discuss the object at hand, the surrender.'

So though they didn't know each other, the kind of bond--the bonds that were forged and the closeness they had almost defies the fact that they were the greatest of nemeses one could imagine.
LAMB: Back to the `what ifs': `What if Andrew Johnson had been assassinated, after all, and the blade hadn't missed its mark of Seward's jugular?'
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Yeah. Let's--let's set the stage for a second. The--the first thing to remember is that on April 9, as we were discussing, Robert E. Lee surrenders to U.S. Grant, this dignified, honorable surrender. Yet it--yet it--he only surrenders his army. There are still three Confederate armies in the field. There are over 175,000 men, their murderous gun barrels hot to the bitter end. There was Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, calling for guerrilla warfare. And--and even Mary Lee, Robert E. Lee's wife--Mary Lee, who is directly descended from Martha Washington, the great-granddaughter and by--by marriage, of course, to George Washington, she says, `Robert E. Lee is not the Confederacy. Richmond is not the Confederacy.' That's how volatile the still--the situation still is.

And, of course, as Lincoln feared--how much longer would the war last? A week? Three weeks? Three months? Six months?--was Lincoln knew and feared, throughout history, such time spans had been enough to start, fight and win wars, to unseat great dynasties or to complicate the reconciliation to come. And five days later, Lincoln is dead. He gets killed on April 14th at 10:14 at night. And William Seward, the Union's secretary of State, is stabbed five times. His wife is soon screaming, `They've murdered my son. They murdered my husband.' And only Andrew Johnson escapes unscathed.

But the irony of that night is--is Andrew Johnson was invited to, all--of all places, Ford's Theatre. He turns it down, saying, you know, `I'm tired. I want to have a quiet, little supper and then turn in.' And he does this, not realizing that on the very floor above him, in his hotel, is another deadly assassin who's going to plunge a knife into his heart. But at the last second, the assassin gets cold feet, and so Johnson escapes. But had Johnson been assassinated that night, there would have been a completed decapitation of the Union government.

For those who are old enough to remember the--the--the horror and the trauma of just Kennedy getting killed, in one of the most established and oldest and most formed democracy in the world, imagine this: the first-ever assassination of a president in American history; his secretary of State's been stabbed five times, and the vice president was also a mark.
LAMB: I just saw the--the--the--the knife. It's on display in Ft. Wayne at the Lincoln Museum there.
Mr. WINIK: Yeah.
LAMB: And it's on--you know, it's--they had it on loan there. They had an assassination exhibit. And it's interesting that, all these years later, that knife is still intact. What was that all about? Five times the secretary of State was stabbed. By whom?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Yeah, hi--his--his name was Louis Powell, and he went by a number of aliases, from Louis Payne to a number of other names. And he was a big, hulking man who wore a sort of broad hat. And--and th--the setting of that night was--was Louis Powell was dispatched by John Wilkes Booth, who--who, of course, is the murderer of Abraham Lincoln at--that same night and at the same time. And Powell arrives at the Union's secretary of State's house, knocks on the door, and he pretends to be carrying--carrying medicine for--for the secretary of State, Seward. And the reason why that is is Seward had just been in a--excuse me--a horse accident--I mean, a--a carriage accident. He had--he had been knocked out, and he was in a neck brace lying down.

And so the irony is--is that when--when Powell went through the house and was stabbing one person after another and finally finds the ailing secretary of State, he stabs him once, twice and three and then five times. What we know, or what is clear, is he stabbed a number of times the neck brace, and that is the only reason why--why Seward wasn't killed.
LAMB: What did you do to get a grip on the whole story of the assassination, Ford's Theatre and John Wilkes Booth? How'd you learn it?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Yeah. I learned it the way I learned everything else. A couple of ways: Firstly, there's a rich body of literature out there, and--and I try to become as--as--as acquainted and as--as--as intimately aw--knowledgeable about this body of literature as possible. And a number of many good books--and I hesitate to name them for fear of omitting several good ones. Secondly, I went to the places. I went to the places, and, again, I tried to re-create it.

I went to Ford's. You know, for example, in Ford's Theatre, they talk about how John Wilkes Booth, after he shot--after he shot Abraham Lincoln, he--he sort of jumped from the--the balcony, and he screamed, you know, `Sic semper tyrannis,' or, `Death to tyrants,' and--and--and it's often said that that was an easy jump, especially for an athletic man like Booth. Well, I took a look at that--that--that balcony, and--I play tennis and I've played a number of sports, and it was clear to me that it was anything but an easy jump.

So, in other words, actually going--and as we used to say in the defense business, to actually go out and kick the tires and to try to relive it and to try to sort of feel it, that's--that--that was very important and crucial for me to get a sense of that night. And just the way I did--in Richmond, when I tried to re-create the burning of Richmond, I really tried to kind of walk the streets and follow the same paths to get a feel for what it must have been like. You know, for example, at one point, John Wilkes Booth will cross a significant body of water. Well, it sounds pretty easy unless you actually go try and do it yourself. And, you know, you try to also sort of be on the hunt the whole time. So I really tried to capture that as much as I could.
LAMB: The Ford's Theatre just 10 blocks from where we're sitting.
Mr. WINIK: Yeah.
LAMB: Right across the street, the Peterson house. You also re-create that whole night.
Mr. WINIK: Yeah.
LAMB: He--he died--What'd you say?--7:22 the next morning?
Mr. WINIK: Right.
LAMB: Ho--did you find anything new, or did you just try to tell the story as you found it other places?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. You know, i--it's--some of the details that I use, I think, are different. And that's not to say I found anything new, but I just sort of saw anew some of the details that have already been out there. But, again, I want to go back to one of the original things I started out by saying what I do in "April 1865" is I--is I strip away the inevitability of events. More often than not, when you--when you have books on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, it's totally separate from the story of the end of the war.

So, in fact, most people don't realize that Lincoln was assassinated just five days after the surrender of Lee. And most people also don't realize there were still three Confederate armies out in the field, that guerrilla war was a real possibility and that all sorts of things could have happened to complicate the reconciliation.

One other thing that really struck me that night in the Peterson house, when Linc--when Lincoln lay dying, is--you know, we've been hearing a lot these days about Alexander Haig during the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan saying, `I'm in control here,' and how that was seen as a really rogue act. Well, on the night of--of--of April 14th and then April 15th, when Lincoln had died, from this small--small, little room in the center of the Peterson house, the secretary of War for the Union, Edwin Stanton, was literally running the country. He had become the president, the vice president, the secretary of War, the secretary of State and a comforter in chief, all wrapped into one. And--and it shows you just how different the world they inhabited was from our's.
LAMB: What did you learn about Mary Todd Lincoln and her reaction to the assassination?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. I mean--I mean, I have to say that i--it--it--it really sort of struck a chord of both poignancy and pathos in me because, you know, her husband has just been shot. I mean, his bra--his brains have been--essentially been blown out before her eyes. And that night, she was weeping and wailing by his side and, at one point, again to show the power of Edwin Stanton, the secretary of War, she had so gotten out of hand that at one juncture, he screams, `Take that woman out of there.' And you know, you can imagine this happening with Hillary Clinton. It would never happen. But in fact, she was actually removed to the front room of the Petersen house where she continued to weep and wail. And it was only--it was only then again around 7:19 or 7:17, thereabouts, when she was allowed to be back with her husband. And she was screaming, `Oh, do not--what--what have you done to take him from me, God? Or bring Taddy to him.' Abe--you know, `Abe loves him so.' I mean, i--it had to have been such a--a poignant night.
LAMB: Back to the what-ifs. You've got two left here. And it follows on this discussion: It--`What if after the assassination of Lincoln, all went to pieces and the presidential transition process fell prey to momentary passions and fears?'
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it--you know, I went to Yale. I got a BA from Yale, a master's from the London School of Economics and a PhD from Yale University again, and I figured that the transition mechanism, vice president becoming president, was all very simple and laid out; that the president dies, the vice president becomes president, end of story. In fact, the picture was far murkier and far more complex in April 1865. Because as it turns out, when I went to go check this question, the founders did not intend for the vice president to become president. They only intended for the vice president to temporarily act as president until there was an election. And at that point, then there would be a new president. And so on that fateful evening, when--when--when Lincoln was shot and Seward was ailing with five wounds and Johnston, who nobody ever expected to be president and who had met with Abraham Lincoln only once by happenstance on the day of the assassination for 30 minutes...
LAMB: Ever?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. No, no, no, during--during the...
LAMB: Just during the presidency.
Mr. WINIK: ...the second term.
LAMB: He knew him before that.
Mr. WINIK: Right. Right. But not well. And--and we've st--to this day, we still don't know what they talked about. And--and Johnston was widely written off as a buffoon in--in Washington circles. In fact, during the second inaugural, the attorney general--while Johnston was kind of rambling on and on because he was drunk that night, the attorney general said, `Take that deranged man out of there.' That's how low regard--little regard they held Andrew Johnston in. And so that evening, the temptations for a regency were for a Cabinet-style government. In fact, as I was saying earlier, Edwin Stanton was basically running things for the first day and a half for a regency or Cabinet-style government were great, or for that matter, for a military-style intervention. You know, after the assassination of Lincoln, there would be such turmoil, such chaos and anarchy gripping the Union capital.

In fact, The New York Times would editorialize: `If this were France, all the country would be in bloody revolution by 24 hours.' They were in such turmoil that the Union Cabinet would soon be discussing whether or not, in effect, a Napoleonic coup was under way and who did they think was behind it? None other than one of their greatest generals, Bill Sherman. And that's why I think it's so important to go back and kind of re-create the world, not as we see it with hindsight, but as they saw it, so we can see the turning points that they've confronted.
LAMB: Last what-if: If Joe Johnston had not decided to disobey Jefferson Davis' orders--who was Joe Johnston?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Joe Johnston was the other principal Confederate commander in the field beyond Robert E. Lee. So after Lee surrendered, Joe Johnston was still out there, and Johnston and Sherman had been engaged in 10 days of extensive negotiations about what was to come next. And Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, sent orders to Johnston in which he basically said `Fight on.' Imagine those words ringing like a Klaxon in his head. But Johnston's final actions were not to do what--to do what Davis said, but hi--his final act was really an act of disobedience. He said no, and he concluded a surrender there following Lee's example. And in by doing that, he played a great role in sort of helping heal the country. But the irony is, is his last act was not as a good military man, but it was really in defying his own Confederate president.
LAMB: On the back of your book, there are endorsements.
Mr. WINIK: Yeah.
LAMB: How did you get the following people to endorse this book: Doris Kearns Goodwin, James McPherson, Paul Johnson, Doug Brinkley, Gary Gallagher and Robert Dallek?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Well, it--it--it's a pretty diverse cross-section of--of people. And you know, if you think about--you know, you have Doris Kearns Goodwin, a Pulitzer Prize winner, obviously James McPherson, who--who I didn't know, and you know, Paul Johnston--we're getting back to the ideological question. There's kind of an ideological spectrum there. Basically, we sent the book to all of them and we sent it not in the finished manuscript, but in typewritten manuscript. So it was--these people were awfully nice to have waded through this--this typewritten manuscript, and to be honest, I went to the people who I thought were the very best and who I most admired a--as much as anyone, whether it's Doris Kearns Goodwin or McPherson or Paul Johnston, you know, and Bob Dallek is o--I mean, and Gary Gallagher and--and--I mean, they're just all terrific people. And--and I just was really touched that they had those kind words to say about the book.
LAMB: When did you get out of Yale?
Mr. WINIK: I was originally class of seven--1979. I graduated in 1980. And got my PhD actually much later in 1993.
LAMB: Where did you go right after Yale?
Mr. WINIK: After Yale, I--you know, I didn't want to be a lawyer. That was the only thing I knew, is I didn't want to be a lawyer and I sort of wanted this--you know, back in those days, it was foreign policy, the great issue of the Cold War, that was one of the hot things to do and I was interested in it. I went to the London School of Economics, got my master's in international relations. And--and it sort of opened up a whole new world for me.
LAMB: And then when did you start working in Washington?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah, I started basically working in Washington in about 1984, '85, when Les Aspin, the Democratic congressman, became chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. He--he and I sort of knew each other. I'd been writing some op-eds in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and we knew each other that way. And he said, `Why don't you come down, work for me?' And I was sort of a young kid. I was kind of fresh and green and not very schooled in the ways of Washington, but I got a quick baptism in fire by becoming one of his--his closest aides.
LAMB: On his congressional staff.
Mr. WINIK: On--on the House Armed Services Committee staff. And--I mean, I did everything from writing speeches to--to--to doing analyses of US-Soviet relations, to--to assessments of arms control and all the rest. And--a--and that's really what I did for a number of years until about 1990, and that's when I decided--or 1991, and that's when I decided to take up writing.
LAMB: First book?
Mr. WINIK: This is my second book.
LAMB: But what was your first book?
Mr. WINIK: My first book was called "On the Brink." It was about the end of the Cold War.
LAMB: How did it do?
Mr. WINIK: It got a lot of attention, got a lot of critical acclaim, ruffled a few feathers. But it didn't do nearly as well as this.
LAMB: Why did it ruffle a few feathers?
Mr. WINIK: It--it--it ruffled a few feathers because ultimately, I came out and I said that Ronald Reagan will go down in history as one of the predominant presidents and was--was real--was really instrumental in--in--in the end of the Cold War. And--and--and my view was, was that Reagan was a more sophisticated, more nuanced leader and you know, it took me four years to get to that point. And when I started writing the book, the last thing I wanted to do was go out and say `Ronald Reagan was a critical factor in all this.' But by the end of the book, I just felt that that's really where the evidence laid and I actually kind of was furiously rewriting things to suggest that--that history will be much more kind and much more generous to him. And--but because the book was written fairly recently after the end of the Cold War--partisan passions are still high and--you know, just as if you had written a book about Franklin Roosevelt shortly after World War II, it would have ruffled a lot of feathers. I mean, that's what happens when people who are still part of that--those administrations are around. History usually sorts those things out. And I took my first crack at history there.
LAMB: When did you start this--when did you start your research?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...() can you remember a moment where you said `April 1865'?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Wh--where I said `April 1865' or just...
LAMB: Where that was--that's the--what the book was about.
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. I think really going into the proposal writing process. I'd--I wanted to--y--you--I mean, I sort of focused on the idea of this April 1865, but I wasn't sure the meaning of it, the extent of it or the richness of it. And--and one of the things that's clear to me, now having written two books, and especially after writing "April 1865," is what you think you're going to say going into the book will be very different from what you eventually come out saying. I think there are a number of moments during a book where you really get hit with an epiphan--epiphany and things start rushing together and you say, `This is very different from what I had thought. I want to capture this.'
LAMB: So when did you begin to focus on exactly what you're going to conclude?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah.
LAMB: And what did you go through to get there? I mean, you mention going to the Ford's Theatre and down to Richmond and battlefields.
Mr. WINIK: Right. Right, right. I--it--I mean, sort of midway through the book--I--I was writing the story and--and midway through the book and--and I started writing this in about, you know, it--the last four years, I've been writing it. The first two years was research and writing. Somewhere around year two, things started coming together to me. And the way I write is I don't hand in drafts to the--the publisher. And I'm sort of putting them on notice for my next book.

Wh--what I do is I write the entire book and then I actually sit down with my wife, my wife Lyric Winik. She's also a talented writer and author in her own right. And we edit this thing at great length. Every single paragraph, every single sentence, every single word has been edited and--and--and--and pruned in here. And--and I think it's important for a--a writer to sort of write so people feel like this is an enjoyable experience, that it reads well, that it sort of comes alive, that it's evocative. And--and that's--that's what w--that's what I really labor to do with the good assistance of my wife Lyric. And--and that--that process takes at least about six months. But I think it really pays dividends. I don't know how many people have come up to me and they said they've read this book. They've had tears in their eyes. It's really moved them and it--and it reads like a novel. And I think that's because I put so much effort into sort of giving that k--that kind of aura and feeling.
LAMB: When did you know you a--you--and you went on The New York Times Bestseller List, but when did you know that you had a winner here?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. You--you know, a--anyone who writes a book who thinks this thing is kind of gamed out is--is just--it's not the world that I live in because anything can happen. Every time the book was read, it came back with the same response. So when did I--I--I always felt I had a winner from r--from really day one. Once the book was done I felt there was nothing more I could do. My goal was always to write the best book I could and then it's up to the rest--it--it's up to the rest of the world. And I felt I wrote the best book I could. But from the time that Doris Kearns Goodwin said that, you know, `This is a superb piece of history and I'm a remarkable--you know, I'm a--I'm a marvelous storyteller with a remarkable tale to tell,' to what Paul Johnston said--P.W. gave it a starred review and they said it--Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review saying `This book is a triumph and that I'm a master storyteller,' and--and then it just kind of continued on there. But, you know, even Peter Jennings--I don't know if I should be saying this on TV. Peter Jennings heard me on NPR and he said he wept hearing me talk about the book. And then he said he started and he was reading it and he just called me up as a fan and I was--I was very touched by that.
LAMB: What are they weeping about?
Mr. WINIK: I think they're weeping about how--how, for example, people like Robert E. Lee--you know, that--that--that men can be on what we deem now as the wrong side and yet can have such character and dignity. And--and sort of hope against hope, rather than giving in to the passions of the day, that they can really--th--that they can sort of give of themselves in a sense.

Let me give you a quick example of that. You know, after the end of the war, you know, the South was in--the South was in tatters. It was a defeated, ruined country. And of course, the--the institution of slavery was turned upside down and was gone. And there's this poignancy that takes place in St. Paul's Church. St. Paul's Church is in Richmond. You can go there today. It's a beautiful church. I've actually been to a wedding there for one of my wife's closer friends. And--and--and the--Charles Minnegrow, the--the--the rector, was giving the--was giving the--the sermon, and at a certain point, it came time for communion. Quite unexpectedly, shattering years of tradition, a black man walks up to the--to the chancery rail and he kneels down ready to take communion. And at this point, everybody tenses. They--they're wondering, my God, this has never happened, certainly not in the church of the elite.

And--and all of a sudden, quite unexpectedly, a man who has sort of--hi--his hair is kind of thinned on top and he's got a midlevel there and--and he looks sort of tired and beaten and--and worn down and he sort of slowly walks up. And this is a man who--who just days earlier said, `I am defeated. I am homeless and penniless. I have nothing left to live for.' And that man knelt down to take communion next to this black man, setting tone for what would c--for what should come next in the South. And that, of course, was Robert E. Lee. That was a poignant scene.
LAMB: There's another scene that--and I've talked about it before with other authors, but it still--every time you read it, you can't believe it happened, the McClellan-Lincoln visit.
Mr. WINIK: Right. Right.
LAMB: It...
Mr. WINIK: It defies imagination.
LAMB: Explain that whole story.
Mr. WINIK: Well, I--I assume you're talking about when--when Abraham Lincoln comes to McClellan's house and he wants to talk about the progress of war. And Lincoln...
LAMB: What time of the war is this?
Mr. WINIK: 1860...
LAMB: He was still in charge...
Mr. WINIK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...so that would be middle because he had quit and...
Mr. WINIK: Eighteen--yeah.
LAMB: ...quit and then ran against him.
Mr. WINIK: Yeah ...().
LAMB: D--d--doesn't matter so much...
Mr. WINIK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...but it was--it was not at the end.
Mr. WINIK: Right. Right, right. No, it--it's in the earlier stages of the war. And--and--and Abraham Lincoln comes in with his secretary of State and--and he wants to meet with--meet with Mc--General McClellan. McClellan, h--McClellan comes in, walks up the stairs and Lincoln is kept waiting for a full hour. And after a full hour, McClellan sends word down to Lincoln he won't meet with him. He'll meet with him the next day. That is unthinkable in this day and age with a president and a commanding general. And what it tells us is--is it tells us of the kind of stature that Lincoln had. You know, we revere Lincoln. I mean, I know I revere Lincoln and I love Lincoln and he's--he is so crucial to this country. But in his day and age, he was as hated as he was loved. And if he walked into a room, he wouldn't sort of fill it the way presidents do today. And one other little footnote, you know, the night that he went to Ford's Theatre, he invited 13 separate people to come with him and they turned him down. This was the man who was the president of the surrender of Appomattox and somehow, 13 people turned him down. Imagine that happening with a John F. Kennedy or with a--with a Bill Clinton or with a Ronald Reagan. It'd be unthinkable.
LAMB: You use words with all three principals--Grant, Lincoln, Lee--anxiety, depression and fatigue. I don't know how many times I read it. They were exhausted beyond all belief. What did you pick up about that? And why--what's with all the anxiety and the ...(), not--not that he couldn't handle it, but wh--what did you learn about that?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Yeah, well, you learn about it, it--it's--it--it's--war is serious business. You know, in--in--in--in--in Grant's case, let's take that for example. I mean, Grant--just before Appomattox, Grant ha--had this pounding headache, this migraine headache and he was using mustard plasters and all sorts of other homeopathic remedies to--to take care of it. And--and--and he was ailing. He was ailing. And it was only when he got word of--of--that Lee would surrender and he said, `Quite by magic, it was gone.' The headache was gone. And I mean, th--the stress and the--the terrors and the difficulties of war were just great. You know, in--in--in Lee's--in Lee's case, he had a bad back. He had diarrhea. He may have even suffered a heart attack mid in the war. And somehow throughout all this, these men kept pushing themselves. They didn't have fancy hospitals to go to or fancy doctors. Somehow, they pushed their bodies to the limit.

And of course, in Lincoln's case, as I was saying earlier, his hands were clammy, he was 30 pounds underweight. He was--he was routinely sick. The stresses of the war were so great and--let me--let's give a way to think about this. Any general who has to send men to their deaths in waves of thousand after thousands after thousands has to have this coronal of remorse eating away at them. And so Abraham Lincoln and so Robert E. Lee and so U.S. Grant had to have this kernel of remorse eating away at them for--for what was going--for what was taking place.
LAMB: What was the total number of dead at the end of the Civil War?
Mr. WINIK: 620,000 casualties. I mean, it j--it just--it dwarfs any other conflict in--in our history. It's--it's unfathomable.
LAMB: At the end, you do something different. You talk about a lot of people--and I wrote all their names down and their ages that they were at the end of the Civil War.
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Thank you for picking up on this.
LAMB: Well, d--d--Henry Ford was two, you said.
Mr. WINIK: Yeah.
LAMB: Frank Woolworth, 13. Richard Sears, two. Thomas Edison, 18. Alexander Graham Bell, 18. Samuel Gompers, 15. John D. Rockefeller, 26. Andrew Carnegie, 30. Henry Clay Frick, 16. Frederic Re--Remington, four. And then you have Hiram Revels of Mississippi, was in--in 18--he turned about to be the--in 1870, the first United States senator of black--the black race. P.T. Barnum was 55. He's 55 at the end of the war?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. And he--and he--he hadn't started his circus yet. He had all these other--these other al--other careers and his--his greatest career was still ahead of him.
LAMB: Why did you do that? What was your point on that?
Mr. WINIK: Well--well, you know, earlier we had talked about sort of epiphanies or things that come to you in the process of writing and this was really one of them. Somewhere in the process of writing "April 1865," I decided I wanted to write a snapshot of America and also the men who had gone to shape America for the next 20, 50, 75 years. And so wherever they were, whatever they were doing, I just wanted to capture them. And this--you just read the list of a number of the people who I sort of write where they were, what they were doing. And what really so struck me about all this is that, more often than not, most of them were failures in life and considered to be failures. You know, in--with Henry Ford, I talk about how his father says, `Oh, Henry's not much of anything. He's a tinkerer.' His father's convinced he's going to be or--he's going to be a failure in life.

Or Thomas Edison, just gets fired from yet another job and he's sort of drifting around aimlessly. And--and what that really tells you is a lot of life is persistence. It's hard work. And it's just when everything is--seems to be in its lowest depths, somehow leaders find a way, or people who will become great figures in history somehow find a way to overcome it. It's a real lesson in life as much as anything else.
LAMB: Do you have a favorite chapter?
Mr. WINIK: Oh, that's a--you know, that's what I always ask the people who read the book. I say, `What's your favorite chapter? What's your part of the book?' And--and more often than not, my favorite is different from other people. There are two chapters that I feel--I mean, it's very hard for me to say which I'm more attached to. I--I love the chapter that has Lee's retreat, because just from a--a standpoint of just sheer drama and--and the craft of writing, I think it really sort of hums and soars and it holds and grips the reader. And I also love the--the prelude, which I have, of "April 1865," the introduction. Most Civil War books, or more often than not, they will start out with a more traditional setting like the Mexican War. I start out "April 1865" in, of all places, Monticello with Thomas Jefferson. And the reason why I did that is because I felt Thomas Jefferson, slave owner on one hand who also wrote the Declaration of Independence, a great empire and nation builder on one hand and yet nobody was more of a fervent believer in state rights. I sort of felt that Jefferson seemed to embody the contradictions that would lead to the Civil War. And in e--in a--in a way he was a guiding spirit for both sides in the Civil War.

And more interestingly, when I went to Monticello, I learned that, you know, on the eve of April 1865, Monticello, it turns out, had a Northern owner, it had a Southern owner and was cared for by neither. And that, for me, seemed to be a telling metaphor for the country. Now I should say, getting back to the craft of writing this book, this was probably the hardest thing to write in the entirety of the book. It had to be rewritten several times. When the draft got to the publisher, thanks in good measure to the wonderful sort of assistance of my wife in the extensive revision process, it was in pretty good shape. But that was one of the parts that really had to be sort of redone and redone. And it wasn't clear to me how do I get from here to there to make it work. Finally, it came out. So I'm attached to that one as well.
LAMB: You talk about Thomas Jefferson. You--there's one line here I wanted to ask you about. `In 1800,' you write, `he soberly warned that,' quote, `"a single consolidated government would become the most corrupt government on earth,"' unquote. Why did you put that in there and what do you think he'd think if he saw things today?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Yeah. I'm not sure that's a snake's pit I'd totally want to walk into. You know, the politics of back then don't totally translate into the politics today. But it is clear that Jefferson Davis, who was--who was an agrarian, who believed in smaller government, local was better at every level. If one were to go back in time and sort of tell him, `This is what the government looks like,' he would surely be appalled by it. But having said that, I'm not sure that it totally translates into today, because Thomas Jefferson is also somebody who liberals love as well.
LAMB: So...
Mr. WINIK: Th--that's a partial answer. I mean...
LAMB: So did you meet characters in this book you want to write more about?
Mr. WINIK: You know, e--most of them I would love to write more about. I'd love to write more about Robert E. Lee. I'd love to write more about Thomas Jefferson. I'd love to write more about U.S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln. You know, one of the great things about this book, for me, as--as the author, is--you know, I was--much of the writing was taking place during the whole Monica Lewinsky saga, and--and everyone was talking about leadership, leadership. Where is leadership? And where is character and this and that? I've got to say it was a great pleasure every day to wake up and go to my desk and deal with these figures who would emerge larger than life and who would be so critical in saving this country. So all of them I could easily see writing about again. I won't do it for the next book, though.
LAMB: You did, though, create a contrast between William Tecumseh Sherman...
Mr. WINIK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...and Joe Johnston.
Mr. WINIK: Yeah.
LAMB: Wh--what role did they play in this after April 1865 or you know, after the war we thought was over? And why did you compare the two?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Yeah, I--I compare the two because it just--the--the contrast in their personalities and their types just invited comparison. You know, if you think of Bill Sherman, Bill Sherman, of course--this is Bill Sherman, a Union general, who--who--who said `War is hell and you cannot refine it,' who took Atlanta, who took Savannah, who took Columbia, and cut a swath 422 miles of the South in which he sort of `picked clean,' as he put it. He was an asthmatic. He was volatile. He was--you know, Bill Sherman is someone who I like enormously. I think he'd be great to be at a dinner party with. He would be fascinating. He was a great intellect. He spoke his mind. I sort of like what he said about journalists, although I'm not going to say what he said.
LAMB: Well, go ahead and repeat it.
Mr. WINIK: He--basic--it was something to the effect of--of...
LAMB: Come close.
Mr. WINIK: ...of, you know--he--he--he said `God--goddamn those--those journalists,' out of--you know, i--i--if--`If you died and went to hell, they'd still be there,' I mean, because he really despised journalists. In fact, he tried to imprison one and--and court-martial him, even though it didn't make any sense. But--but Sherman was just--he was a great military man, but he was a fascinating character. You know, in the South today--and you know, I've been on a 14 city book tour and I've been all over the country. I've been East Coast, West Coast, in the South. Sherman is--is still reviled in much of the South today. But the irony is, is Sherman said, `You know, when this war is over, I will share with you my last cracker.' The fact is, is he actually loved the South and it was his love for the South that sort of led him near the end to try to give as generous as terms as possible.

Now in the case of--of Joe Johnston, he was a kind of prim, upright Virginian who--who--who was much more staid and much more proper than Sherman was. Although, the two of them had this marionette dance in--in sort of late 1864, in which they kind of chased each other, zig-zag. In fact, Johnston even inflicted some serious blows at one battle against--against Sherman. And--and at one point, Sherman banged on his dinner table. He said, `My God, what is Joe Johnston's game? Where--where is he today?' because he had escaped from his grasp. And this is another example of two men who became very close in life, as a result--very close bonding as a result of their war experiences. And you know, it's so fascinating, and though I don't put this in the book, when Sherman died, Joe Johnston was selected to be a pallbearer at his funeral. And it was a cold, misty, rainy day and--and Johnston didn't have a hat on. And somebody said to him--he said, `Well, why don't you put on a hat?' because it--it's so cold and misty out? And, of course, by then, Joe Johnston's a very elderly man. And Johnston straightens himself up and says, `Well, Sherman would not--do this for me and I will do the same for him.' And Joe Johnston died something like nine days later of pneumonia.
LAMB: Now how did they end it? What's the Bennes--Bennett House story?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah, the--the Bennett House story is the story that we never hear about. Appomattox is--is usually viewed as the end of the war on April 9th. But, of course, as I was saying, there are still three Confederate armies in the field, 175,000 men, Davis calling for guerrilla warfare. Five days later, there's a tripartite assassination attempt of Lincoln, Andrew Johnston and Seward. Union's in total chaos. And what takes place in the Bennett House in North Carolina is the final surrender of the other principal army of the Confederacy, which is commanded by Joe Johnston.

And in--in--and it's 10 days' worth of negotiations where Johns--Sherman first sits down with Johnston and John Breckinridge, who is a former vice president and--and--and Breckinridge rejoined them for the negotiations. And at one point, the Confederates will be laying down such terms, and--and--and Sherman will move his chair back and say, `Well, see here, who's--who's surrendering to whom?' And--but in fact, Sherman will give very generous terms to the Confederates. And in doing so, he thinks he's carrying out Lincoln's vision. But he will be sharply rebuked by the--by the Union Cabinet, particularly after the death of--of Lincoln, the assassination, and--and Grant will actually be sent down to talk to Sherman. Now this is a fascinating scene, too, because in the Union capital when this happens, the attorney general, James Speed, will say, `Well, what if Sherman decides to arrest Grant?' And Speed and Stanton were convinced that--that Sherman was potentially thinking of some kind of a coup, and as they put it, he was getting ready to march northward with his legions to take over. That's the kind of chaos and anarchy that was gripping the North post-Lincoln assassination while there are still Confederate armies in the field.

So if Johnston had decided to go to the hills and along with Lee to start sanctioning some kind of guerrilla warfare, we would have been in a real mess. But Johnston instead followed Lee's example and--and--and he, too, would surrender, as we said earlier, in this act of basic--basically insubordination. And--and in doing so, it would really pa--pave the way for this country to become not like the Balkans, not like the Middle East, not like Lebanon or Cambodia or these other civil war-torn countries, or Northern Ireland, but to become like America today.
LAMB: So was John Wilkes Booth working on his own?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. That's a--it's a great question and i--and it's one I don't know the answer to. Very few issues did I duck in my own mind when I went into this book. Whenever I went into an issue, I wanted to resolve it in its entirety. That was something that I felt is really beyond just the scope of the book on one hand, and for that matter, the scope of my own knowledge. That's a lifetime's worth of work. I--my sense is--is he was not working in concert with the Confederate government, per se, but I also say in a footnote, somewhere in the end notes, that--that he may have had a relationship with the Confederate Secret Service.

You know, in our time, we've known the CIA to have a number of rogue operations which has been sanctioned by sort of higher-ups, but not at their highest level. And something like that might have happened with Wilkes Booth. But if there's one thing that I was struck by with John Wilkes Booth, many historians kind of talk about this kind of cockamamy rogue group that he has, which is almost kind of pitiful. And my sense is it was quite different. However sort of impromptu and im--improvised this--this sort of group that he assembled of assassins was, the fact of the matter is is how close they almost came to decapitating the entire Union government. I mean, that's really stunning.
LAMB: Did I read in that footnote that you said that the--the Secret Service, when the Confederates had something like 800 and some thousand dollars to--to do a s--project in the North?
Mr. WINIK: Yeah, I--I think that's probably right.
LAMB: That's a lot of money back then.
Mr. WINIK: Yeah. Yeah. But again, as I s--I'm going to duck this one. That's--I mean, I know this from other sources. It is a lot money. But let--let's look at this in context. We do know that Jefferson Davis, at another point--and this--you know, when--when Sherman was ravaging the South, a type of warfare that Robert E. Lee explicitly rejected, attacking--you know, attacking innocence and cities and--and depopulating whole sta--cities, Jefferson Davis turned down a proposal by his own men to send small pox infested blankets into the North. So I don't think that the South is willing to go that far.
LAMB: What's your next book?
Mr. WINIK: My next book is going to be--it's different and it's kind of bold and as sweeping as--as this book, but on a very different subject. Rather than write about--you know, on one hand, I'd like to write about the Civil War again because I have a whole body of knowledge and it would make my life a lot easier and certainly my wife's life and my family life, but I--I want to be challenged. I want to write something different and if I feel excited and enthused about it, I'm convinced I can make readers equally enthused. So it'll probably be about the world of the 1780s to 1790s.
LAMB: Our guest is Jay Winik. Here is the book: "1885: The Month That Saved America." Thank you very much.


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