Practically all Civil War historians agree that after the fall of Atlanta in September 1864 and Lincoln's triumphant reelection in November, the South had no remaining chance to make good its independence. Well aware that Appomattox and Durham Station were close at hand, historians have treated the war's final months in a fashion that smacks strongly of denouement: the great, tragic conflict rolls on to its now-certain end.
Certain, that is, to us, but deeply uncertain to the millions of Northerners and Southerners who lived through the anxious days of early 1865. The final months of the Confederacy offer fascinating opportunities-as a case study in war termination, as a period that shaped the initial circumstances of Reconstruction, and as a lens through which to analyze Southern society at its most stressful moment. The Collapse of the Confederacy collects six essays that explore how popular expectations, national strategy, battlefield performance, and Confederate nationalism affected Confederate actions during the final months of the conflict.
Mark Grimsley is an associate professor of history at Ohio State University. Brooks D. Simpson is a professor of history at Arizona State University. Grimsley and Simpson are coauthors of Gettysburg: A Battlefield Guide (Nebraska).