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Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  241 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
"An arresting piece of popular history." —Sean Wilentz, The New York Times Book Review

Nicholas Lemann opens this extraordinary book with a riveting account of the horrific events of Easter 1873 in Colfax, Louisiana, where a white militia of Confederate veterans-turned-vigilantes attacked the black community there and massacred hundreds of people in a gruesome killing spree
Paperback, 272 pages
Published August 21st 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2006)
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Clif Hostetler
Aug 31, 2011 Clif Hostetler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Reading this book is like taking bitter medicine. It's good for you, but not pleasant. I had the same feeling at the beginning of this book as when I began Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee; which was, "This isn't not going to end well."

The book is about the post Civil War reconstruction era. This is a dark chapter of American history, but not for the reasons I was taught in school. I don't remember much of the specific facts that I was taught, but I remember picking up the impression that "scalawag
Sep 21, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The standard history of the Civil War is that America fought a bloody war to abolish slavery and the South lost.

As Nicholas Lemann makes so clear in this compelling book, it was hardly that simple. Ten years after the end of the war, with Ulysses Grant in the Oval Office, the fate of political and social freedom for southern blacks was still very much undecided, and in this sad story, Lemann shows how the battle for full rights was essentially lost for decades because of the events of this perio
Jul 26, 2009 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
After the Civil War the Constitution was amended to establish equal political and civil rights for former slaves, and for the first few year blacks had some real political power. For example in Mississippi 64 of 152 state legislators were black in 1873. Mississippi voters had elected a man sympathetic to Reconstruction as governor: Adelbert Ames, a former Union General recently arrived from Maine. However, many whites didn’t like the new arrangements, and with the Union Army largely withdrawn an ...more
Jul 04, 2007 Duncan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs, family
I was drawn to this primarily because it's about my great-great-grandfather Adelbert Ames and his tenure as governor of Mississippi during Reconstruction; he had been the subject of a short, unfavorable mention in Profiles in Courage, which the family tried to correct without success, and Lemann, I think, was trying to do what Kennedy wouldn't. (Kennedy wrote favorably about L.Q.C. Lamar, a white Democratic Mississippi politician of the 1870s and '80s who was instrumental in ending Reconstructio ...more
Robin Friedman
Feb 18, 2014 Robin Friedman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In order to place Nicholas Lemann's fine book "Redemption: the Last Battle of the Civil War" in context, a bit of background is necessary. With the end of the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the United States faced the daunting tasks of reintegrating the defeated South into the Union and providing for the rights of the African Americans freed from slavery. The period from 1865 -- 1876 is generally described as the "Reconstruction" era, and it includes, broadly, three separate ...more
The continued effort by many to bring the Confederate banner down from government buildings and grounds, especially in my home state of South Carolina, as well as strident assertions by bigots and white supremacists that "their" history is being forgotten, made reading this book all the more intense and angering than it might have been at another time. While this country struggles against terrorism throughout the world, it is good and important to remember we had our own domestic terrorists who ...more
Peter Calabrese
May 07, 2013 Peter Calabrese rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politica, war, action
It is very important for us to be aware of this period of history. First part tells the story of the Redemption as the story of General/Senator/Governor Ames. It is a story that needs to be told but seems to drag a bit. Nice units on historiography of the era.
Robert Owen
In “Redemption”, Nicholas Lemann explores the violent, terroristic tactics southern whites used to reestablish white supremacy in the conquered southern states in the aftermath of the Civil War. This book was difficult to read; not because it was flawed in any way, but because when the story it tells isn’t profoundly sad, it is teeth grindingly upsetting. It is a story of unambiguous good battling with self-indulgent, leering evil, and losing. The story is made all the more sickeningly poignant ...more
Mark Valentine
Jan 17, 2016 Mark Valentine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read myself into a learning vortex lately that has moved me to a deeper understanding of the problems Americans have regarding race. Lemann's history of the Reconstruction--but called the Redemption by white southerners after the Civil War--adds a growing, profound empathy for African Americans in the U. S. Lately I have read two of Toni Morrison's latest novels (God Help the Child and Home) and Te-Nehisi Coates' remarkable essay (Between the World and Me) and now Lemann's history and I s ...more
I'm fascinated by the changes that occurred during Reconstruction. The government supported support of newly freed slaves and their political movements. Just as fascinating is the Republican decision to abandon them in favor of votes for Rutherford B. Hayes. This book has interesting material about the racial violence in Miss, LA, and other southern states...but, it is bogged down by bad writing and by the end you just want to throw it across the room.
Feb 06, 2013 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
In the days after the Civil War there was a concerted effort on the part of the white establishment to reinstate the supremacy of the whate race. It was done with violence, with trickery, with blatant racism. The results lasted up to the mid-20th century, making the Civil Rights movement necessary.
Jan 08, 2008 Miranda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Great story, important history, but unfortunately not particularly well written or interesting in this telling.
I had to read this book for school, but that doesn't mean it wasn't interesting.
This book chronicles events that take place post-Civil War Reconstruction Era and sheds some light on this period and subject that don't usually get focused on as much. The information given was interesting, but unfortunately the way it was presented just gave it a bland aura that caused me to struggle to pay attention at times. I also wish the writing had been a bit better and maybe then I could have paid attention
Elliot Ratzman
Dec 09, 2013 Elliot Ratzman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Folks curious about the Tea Party and today's GOP
The South really won the Civil War according to this disturbing book. After the Civil War, the North reconstructed the South, establishing schools and securing the vote and safety for former slaves: basic, imperfect democracy. This is the story of a revolution—“redemption”—by Confederates who muscle their way back to “white supremacy” (their words) by provocation, occupation and massacre. Adelbert Ames, a Union war hero from Maine, becomes first senator and then governor of Mississippi. After a ...more
Larry Bassett
There are a manageable number of reviews for this sparsely read (by GR people) book. Redemption Reviews A reading of those reviews will quickly give you a sense of the content here. If you are looking for literature, you will not find David McCullough in Nicholas Lemann. But as a non-historian, I find that nonfiction histories rarely immerse you in the time and place. While Redemption is not riveting, it is well researched and has 45 pages of Notes and Index as well as source references througho ...more
Apr 08, 2010 Paul rated it really liked it
Lemann's brief but compelling description of the depressing last years of Reconstruction depicts an organized campaign of political violence aimed squarely at depriving freed slaves of their 15th Amendment rights, which guaranteed them the right to vote. Armed Democrats, almost always Confederate veterans, typically descended on Republican rallies (believe it or not, African-Americans were exclusively Republican in those days), created a pretext for violence, and began shooting. After the former ...more
Sep 09, 2008 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: every body
Shelves: history
I read Lemann's "The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America" a while ago. It was dry, but good information. I have always wanted to find a good book about the reconstruction period after the civil war. I'm hoping this is a good book, but concerned that its only 200 pages


Well Lemann is still dry as the desert, but still this was a emotionally bitter book to read. Reconstruction was suppossed to usher former slaves into full American citizen ship, while brining
marcus miller
Well documented story of the end of Reconstruction. Given the Supreme Courts recent decision to overturn parts of the Voting Rights Act the story Lemann tells is especially relevant today. Lemann describes the strategies used by white Democrats to disenfranchise African-Americans and white Republicans in Mississippi and other southern States. Realizing the demographics were against them, whites resorted to murder, threats, and torture to keep African-Americans from voting.

Lemann provides a brie
May 03, 2013 Casey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was on an interesting topic but for me, it felt like we covered a lot of ground in such a short book. Some of it was hard to follow and some of it seemed irrelevant to me. However, it still was an intersting topic to read on and one that I didn't know much about. I knew that the Civil War didn't end when the books said it ended, rather that it continued for many many years down the road. And what took place during those years makes me wonder how it could go on that long without someone or s ...more
Jun 11, 2015 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book describes the horrifying violent campaign against suffrage for former slaves in the mid 1870s. The death knell of reconstruction and the foundation for Jim Crow was a twisted narrative of "redemption" in which black victims of intimidation, beatings and murder, were recast as an uncontrollable horde set on killing white men and raping white women - abetted by the machinations of cynical, power hungry, carpetbaggers. Confederate veterans, paramilitary groups and freelance terrorists, in ...more
May 06, 2015 Bethany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting take on reconstruction! In school we've been been taught that the civil war ends, slavery is abolished, and fast forward to the 20th century and there are Jim Crow laws. It doesn't talk about the aftermath of the civil war and reconstruction or the violence that still continued in the south. A very good read!
Wf Munn
Feb 24, 2014 Wf Munn rated it really liked it
A well written account of the re-subjugation of freedmen and women after the Civil War. The persistence of the 'redeemer' myth in the south is enjoying a comeback through the tea party movement. Lemann's book outlines the origins of this problem.

The author sometimes becomes "encyclopedic' in his recounting of the atrocities, but the story needs to be told.
Cynthia Karl
Dec 12, 2009 Cynthia Karl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This non-fiction is a must read for anyone that wants to understand the period of Reconstruction after the Civil War and how badly Reconstruction was handled by the newly reunified country. Lemann relates example after example of the atrocities perpetrated by the angry white southerners after the end the war, so many that you think you can't stand to read more about man's inhumanity to man. Lemann does a good job of portraying the attitudes and thinking of the time and debunks the myth that some ...more
Jul 29, 2015 Sue rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Written in 2006 and still calling them "negroes." Lost credibility right then and there. To quote W.E.B. DuBois so many times . . . if I wanted to read that, I'd get his book. Sorry, one big fat long text of contentious material is not going to do it for me. Not one single picture? Not impressed.
Aug 11, 2011 Diane rated it really liked it
This book tells the story of the end of Reconstruction and the establishment of the Jim Crow era in the South. I found the subject matter very interesting, as this is a subject that I didn't learn much about in school, and that isn't normally covered in depth in other books. It would have been better if the author hadn't concentrated so exclusively on the two counties that had discussed in the book (for which he had solid primary sources), but rather developed some comparisons between these coun ...more
Dec 03, 2014 Gabriel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
This book shows just how the South worked to remove the newly awarded rights afforded to African American slaves after the Civil War in Mississippi. It is a sad but true story of how white Southerners worked to intimidate and terrorize the African American community (and any white supporters) into submission while all the while declaring how they were protecting their own lives and liberties from an ever (imagined) present African American army that was armed to the teeth (though any conflicts b ...more
John Duffy
Boring, I'll save you time and boredom, this book says that racism is bad. There now you can say you have read it.
Zack Anchors
Jun 11, 2009 Zack Anchors rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing account of the bloody events that occurred in the deep South during the years after the Civil War -- a period called Reconstruction by historians, but called "redemption" by southerners. The book focuses in part on the story of Adelbert Ames, a civil war hero from Hampden, Maine who becomes governor of Mississippi, only to be disgraced and chased out by rabidly racist and blood-hungry locals. Overall, the book makes it pretty clear to me that the South essentially won the Civi ...more
Feb 06, 2009 Duane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book about the time after the Civil War that so many school books and the media tend to forget. A book every American should read so that they learn just how long it took for our "great" country to come to the level where everyone was considered equal and free. It's sad how teachers and scholars have skipped over the trials and tragedies that African Americans have experienced in our country, but this book is a good start for the average adult reader to discover the world we know so litt ...more
David R.
A tremendous disappointment. As in the case of much present day narrative the tendency is to establish white hats and black hats in the character studies. Lemann goes well beyond the pale, even imagining the oily Benjamin F. Butler as a saintly person, and otherwise engaging in an astonishing amount of hyperbole. The story of Mississippi 1873-75 is rather more complex than Lemann paints it, I'm afraid.
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