Review: Pursuit: The Chase, Capture, Persecution & Surprising Release of Jefferson Davis

by James Durney on July 29, 2009 · 3 comments

Pursuit: The Chase, Capture, Persecution & Surprising Release of Jefferson Davis (Paperback)
by Clint Johnson

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Citadel; Reprint edition (June 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806528915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806528915

PursuitTheChaseCaptureAndSurprisingReleaseOfJeffersonDavisClintJohnsonClint Johnson has written a book that works on many levels.  This is a concise biography of Jefferson Davis.  This is a look at the last days of the Civil War and early Reconstruction.  This is a history of the flight of the CSA Government from Richmond and the capture of Jefferson Davis.  This is a history of a government trying to solve a problem, what do with an unwanted prisoner.   All of this is tied together with and intelligent lively writing style that is easy and fun to read.

The author looks at all of this from a Southern Reconciliation Tradition giving the reader a new perspective to often missing in this type of book.  The author never strays into Lost Cause Tradition staying firmly grounded in very solid history.  This is an important item as this subject is a minefield.  In lesser hands, this could easily be a Lost Cause rant or mindless mumbling.  What we have is a detailed account of Davis from the fall of Richmond to his release from imprisonment.  This is not the United States Government at its’ best.  The book contains a good legal discussion of the issue of treason vs. rebellion, civil vs. military courts and what might happen if the government lost this case.  This can be a lot to understand but the presentation is clear and the issues understandable.

My problem with this book is footnotes.  Only quotations are footnoted and the source listed at the end of the book.  The reader is forced to determine which of several quotations they are looking for as page number is the only reference.  This is a real problem considering the issues discussed.  In about ten pages, covering Lincoln’s views on Reconstruction there are no footnotes.  Many of the discussions in Johnson’s Cabinet meetings have the same problem.  With proper detailed notes, this would be a five-star history that should be in every Civil War library.  Without them, this informative entertaining read presents a number of things that need to be investigated.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike July 29, 2009 at 11:04 am

I just finished reading American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House and it had the same style footnotes. I’ve never seen them before and I hope this isn’t a trend.

Reply

Robert July 29, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Thanks James. I saw this in a bookstore not too long ago and couldn’t decide on it so I didn’t pick it up. Sounds good but I think I’d have to agree with you about the notes issues. Sounds tough to deal with.

Reply

James Durney July 30, 2009 at 8:56 am

The author told me his publisher forced this style of “footnotes”. My understanding is it is cheaper and the publishers don’t care if it upsets us.

If you check the history section in a chain books store, this “style” is common. I have commented on this in a number of reviews. Some authors are very agressive in defending this style or their book, pick one.

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