I may have linked to one version of this article already, but it's worth doing so again.
Professor Somin – who is IMHO one of the best bloggers on the libertarian movement and libertarian doctrine – responds to the article I linked to earlier.
April 1865 was the month that hostilities stopped in the Civil War and the month Lincoln was shot. Winik's goal is to point out the incredible importance of this month in the formation of modern America. He compares the outcome of the US Civil War to other civil wars, and rightly notes that the former is an exception to the rule. As a rule, civil wars tend to transform into guerrilla conflicts. Winik notes that several Confederate leaders wanted to begin guerrilla campaigns. He emphasizes the important precedents set by General Lee and General Johnston (who disobeyed direct orders). These leaders convinced Southerners to give up and become citizens in the new nation. The precedent was followed by even the most ardent military leaders, including the ones who could have led highly effective guerrilla campaigns, like Nathan Bedford Forrest.
I found the sections on Forrest who fought using guerrilla tactics and Sherman, who put them down, to be the most interesting. Sherman's used one of the only tactics that are known to be effective against guerrillas, namely that of total destruction. There would be enough material here for a great book.
The section on Southerners debates about arming their slaves and even giving the slaves freedom if they served is very interesting. Many prominent Southern leaders favored these steps all along in the fight against the North. I think Winik does a very fair job presenting the Southern side. He also does a good job getting across the extent of destruction in the South, something we all too often forget.
The short biographies that Winik writes of all the major characters alone are worth the time it takes to read the book.
Lastly, the "what if" scenarios are interesting to contemplate. What if the Southerners had armed or freed the slaves? What if Lee and Johnston hadn't been willing to surrender and had instead taken to the hills? What if some of the other commanders hadn't taken their lead? What if Lincoln had lived? What if Andrew Johnson had been killed during the assassination of Lincoln? In short, Winik makes scenarios under which history turned out in a different way seem very plausible. By doing so, he makes the incredible importance of April 1865 startlingly clear.
I read this before going on vacation and now it's been too long to write an adequate review. Dr Klemperer sets out to study how the Third Reich used language to achieve its larger purposes. The alteration of language was necessary to their purposes. Changes in language made everyday people susceptible to Hitler's message in ways they were not even aware of.
The arguments of the book are too disjointed to summarize in an intelligible way. See here for an attempt. There's enough serious food for thought in this book that I'll probably read it again and update this post.