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However, while the Lost Cause lived on, notes Mr. Swanson, “The twentieth century came to belong to Abraham Lincoln, not Jefferson Davis. His eclipse began as early as 1922, with the completion of the Lincoln Memorial.” Symbolic of Davis‘ decline was Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of the Beauvoir estate where Davis finished his life. In August 2005, writes Mr. Swanson, “the sanctuary where Jefferson Davis labored to preserve for all time the memory of the Confederacy, its honored dead, and the Lost Cause was, by wind and water, all swept away.”

In “Bloody Crimes,” James Swanson describes well the twin journeys of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. These men were the two most important political figures during the most tragic period of American history. The Civil War offered much pageantry and heroics. But “Bloody Crimes” reminds us that the Civil War was more fundamentally a time of unnecessary and tragic folly.

Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, was a special assistant to President Reagan.