CONCLUSION by Chris Mackowski
Commentary · Images · Additional Resources · About the Author
The conclusion to Turning Points of the American Civil War suggests a variety of other possible turning points beyond those explored in the book’s essays. To spark additional conversation, ECW writers have written about a number of other possible turning points:
Kevin Pawlak considers one of the most legendary turning points, the loss of Lee’s Special Order 191 during the 1862 Maryland Campaign. But as Kevin asks, “Was Lee’s “Lost Order” a Turning Point?”
In their book Seizing Destiny: The “Valley Forge” of the Army of the Potomac and the Civil War Winter that Saved the Union, Albert Conner, Jr., and Chris Mackowski call Joseph Hooker’s resuscitation of the Army of the Potomac in the wake of the loss at Fredericksburg and the disaster of the “Mud March” the war’s most important non-battle military turning point of the war. Turning Points co-editor Kristopher W. White explored that idea in a four-part series, “The Rebirth of the Army of the Potomac.”
While Chancellorsville represented the Confederate high tide of the war, some argue that the reason Robert E. Lee never again scored an offensive battlefield victory is because of the mortal wounding of Stonewall Jackson during the battle. Chris Mackowski has examined Jackson’s wounding in several posts; this one is a good place to start.
On the eve of Appomattox, Robert E. Lee faced the choice to surrender or resort to guerrilla-style warfare. Dan Davis and Bert Dunkerly, who have both worked at Appomattox Court House National Historic Site, consider this pivotal moment.
“Satan tempting Booth to the murder of the President” by John L. Magee, circa. 1865. From the Library of Congress: “Lincoln’s assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, is goaded by a hideous Mephistophelian figure to shoot the unsuspecting President, who is visible in a theater box beyond. Booth stands erect, his left arm behind his back and a small pistol in his right hand. He stares straight ahead, seemingly mesmerized by Satan, who stands close behind him, pointing with one hand at the pistol and with the other at Lincoln. Rays of light issue from the demon’s eyes, mouth, and ears. He wears a peacock feather on his head and is clad in a tassled medieval tunic.” (credit: Library of Congress)
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Various depictions of Lincoln’s assassination from the Library of Congress’s collection:
Read more about “Reactions to Lincoln’s Death” from Ashley Webb.
For more on Lincoln’s vision for the postwar peace, read Chris Mackowski’s post “‘Let ‘Em Up Easy’—Lincoln in Richmond.”
Read more ECW posts about the Lincoln assassination here.
To understand how veterans saw the end of the war as only being “halftime,” read Brian Matthew Jordan’s Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War.
About the Author
Chris Mackowski is a professor of journalism and mass communication at St. Bonaventure University. He serves as the editor in chief of Emerging Civil War, cofounded with Kristopher D. White, and is the editor of the Emerging Civil War Series and the coeditor of the Engaging the Civil War series. He has written or cowritten more than a dozen books about the Civil War, and his work has appeared in major Civil War magazines. Mackowski is also the historian-in-residence at Stevenson Ridge, a historic property and inn on the Spotsylvania battlefield.