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A Place Called Appomattox

Community at the Crossroads of History

By William Marvel

With a New Preface by the Author

416 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 59 illus., 7 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2839-4
    Published: March 2016
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6083-0
    Published: February 2016

Civil War America

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Although Appomattox Court House is one of the most symbolically charged places in America, it was an ordinary tobacco-growing village both before and after an accident of fate brought the armies of Lee and Grant together there. It is that Appomattox--the typical small Confederate town--that William Marvel portrays in this deeply researched, compelling study. He tells the story of the Civil War from the perspective of one of the conflict's most famous sites.

The village sprang into existence just as Texas became a state and reached its peak not long before Lee and Grant met there. The postwar decline of the village mirrored that of the rural South as a whole, and Appomattox served as the focal point for Lost Cause myth-making.

Marvel draws on original documents, diaries, and letters composed as the war unfolded to produce a clear and credible portrait of everyday life in this town and the galvanizing events of April 1865. He also scrutinizes Appomattox the national symbol, exposing many of the cherished myths surrounding the surrender there. In particular, he challenges the fable that enemies who had battled each other for four years suddenly laid down their arms and welcomed each other as brothers.

About the Author

William Marvel's many books include Lincoln's Autocrat, Andersonville: The Last Depot, Lincoln's Darkest Year, and Tarnished Victory.
For more information about William Marvel, visit the Author Page.


"Thanks to Marvel's treatment, we have an even better appreciation of the significance of Appomattox beyond its common perception today."--Civil War News

"Marvel's elegantly written book offers scholars valuable evidence about antebellum, wartime, and Reconstruction Virginia by interweaving the actions and perspectives of soldiers and civilians over nearly eighty years in this 'place.'"--Civil War History

"[This book] reveal[s] the possibilities of local history to enhance our understanding of broader trends. It also is deeply researched and compelling in its narration."--Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

"William Marvel knows how to tell a good story. He is also a master at debunking myths and reinterpreting historical orthodoxy. . . . A Place Called Appomattox demonstrates that Marvel can bring the same pleasing style and fresh perspective to local history. . . . Those who appreciate lively prose laced with irony will enjoy Marvel's style, and A Place Called Appomattox appeals to such a wide-ranging audience that it almost defies a label. Whether shelved as Civil War history, Virginia history, Southern history or local history, Marvel's work is sure to stand for generations to come as the most authoritative account of one tiny village's collision with history."--America's Civil War

"Marvel has done it again. . . . Any conscientious evaluation of this fine history would yield a similarly favorable view of its accomplishments."--Indiana Magazine of History

"One comes away with a renewed sense of just how difficult life was then, and just how devastating the Civil War was for the South. Marvel's singular gift comes in the presentation of the narrative. While clearly the result of extensive research, the book reads as a sympathetic, interesting, poignant story of the life and people of a small rural town."--Virginia Quarterly Review