West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War

Paperback | May 1, 2008

byHeather Cox Richardson

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The story of Reconstruction is not simply about the rebuilding of the South after the Civil War.  Instead, the late nineteenth century defined modern America, as Southerners, Northerners, and Westerners gradually hammered out a national identity that united three regions into a country that could become a world power. Ultimately, the story of Reconstruction is about how a middle class formed in America and how its members defined what the nation would stand for, both at home and abroad, for the next century and beyond.
A sweeping history of the United States from the era of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, this engaging book stretches the boundaries of our understanding of Reconstruction. Historian Heather Cox Richardson ties the North and West into the post–Civil War story that usually focuses narrowly on the South, encompassing the significant people and events of this profoundly important era.
By weaving together the experiences of real individuals—from a plantation mistress, a Native American warrior, and a labor organizer to Andrew Carnegie, Julia Ward Howe, Booker T. Washington, and Sitting Bull—who lived during the decades following the Civil War and who left records in their own words, Richardson tells a story about the creation of modern America.

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The story of Reconstruction is not simply about the rebuilding of the South after the Civil War.  Instead, the late nineteenth century defined modern America, as Southerners, Northerners, and Westerners gradually hammered out a national identity that united three regions into a country that could become a world power. Ultimately, the s...

Heather Cox Richardson is professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the author of The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post–Civil War North. She lives in Winchester, MA.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:416 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 1.31 inPublished:May 1, 2008Publisher:Yale University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0300136307

ISBN - 13:9780300136302

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Q:  How is this book different in its focus and scope from other books on Reconstruction? A:  West from Appomattox expands the usual story of Reconstruction both geographically and temporally. Tying the North, South, and West together into a story that reaches beyond 1877 reveals a more complex pattern than is found in the usual accounts of Southern racism or Northern industrialism.  This is a story of the creation of the American middle class around an ideology that celebrated individualism even as it harnessed the government to its own interests.Q:  Why should people read this history? A:  First of all, I hope it’s fun. It explains Jesse James, Mother’s Day, Monopoly, Sitting Bull, and a whole bunch of things that are part of our everyday culture. But it also makes a larger argument about the creation of an American mindset that has determined our history since 1900, and that still influences our politics today.  Q:  How does it relate to today's political and social environment? A:  Political discourse today echoes the fights of Reconstruction. During the Civil War era, the Republicans created national taxes and dramatically expanded voting. Ever since, the questions of tax dollars and how they are spent have been the focus of political debate. Are voters “hard-working” citizens who want policies that will be good for everyone, or are they “special interests” looking for a government handout?Q:  Why "West from Appomattox"? A:  Americans looked west for new opportunities after the Civil War, and western symbols came to represent an American ideal of hard-working citizens in a land of small government. At the same time, though, those symbols obscured the fact that the newly created middle class was expanding the government to bolster its own interests even as its members extolled individualism. Even today, the same tensions over the role of government persist. And the symbol of America is still the cowboy.