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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
The setting is Richmond, capital of the Confederacy -- the date April 1865. General Lee telegraphs that he can keep one sector of the battle line open for another 12 hours. President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet pack up the archives and treasury and flee the city as the Union soldiers approach and the cotton warehouses go up in flames. Thus begins the odyssey of the Confederate government, vividly recounted in this page-turner of a book.
Though the reader knows how it must end, the story is nevertheless full of suspense. Its hero is not the stubborn, self-deluded Confederate president but his secretary of war, John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, who worked desperately to convince Davis that the war was over, and even tried to negotiate peace terms behind his back. Davis, by contrast, clung to the idea that he could continue the fight from Texas or Mexico.
Using eyewitness accounts, William Davis presents in lively detail the adventures of the cabinet and its wagonload of gold and silver en route from Virginia to Georgia. He brings to life the individual quirks of half a dozen men, and the feelings of those who helped and sheltered them. Along the way came news of Lincoln's assassination -- a terrible shock to Davis and Breckinridge, who rightly concluded that they would be blamed, and also felt that Lincoln would have been a better friend to the defeated South than Andrew Johnson.
Against a background of political infighting, the story veers from melodrama to black comedy, complete with escapes and calamities, culminating in the arrest of Davis and his family and Breckinridge's perilous flight to Cuba in an open boat. Exciting and extremely readable, it also enlarges our understanding of this tragic period. (Stephanie Martin)
Stephanie Martin lives in Newton Centre, Massachusetts.