Reviews

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

The disparate fates of contending presidents make an odd juxtaposition in this ungainly history of the Civil War's last gasps. Swanson recounts the April 1865 odyssey of Abraham Lincoln's funeral train as it wound through the North, intercutting it with Jefferson Davis's flight south from Richmond through a disintegrating Confederacy. The intertwined narratives lack the drama of the John Wilkes Booth saga Swanson told in his bestselling Manhunt. Lincoln's progress is a vividly described but lugubrious study in Victorian pomp, with giant hearses, trackside bonfires, choruses of white-robed young women, and huge crowds filing past the slow-moldering corpse. Davis's journey is a deluded, lackadaisical picaresque as he tries and fails to rally demoralized Southerners-his own cavalry escort pillaged the accompanying treasury wagons-until his anticlimactic capture by Union forces. Swanson works hard to make Davis a noble (no, he was not captured wearing his wife's dress, just her shawl) worthy of the Dixie-wide memorial procession with which the book closes. But Davis's story is incomparably less resonant than the martyred Lincoln's; in Swanson's best sections, outpourings of grief-Lincoln's own and those of his mourners-make for a moving evocation of wartime loss. B&w photos. (Sept. 28) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved