Lee and Grant at Appomattox Critical Context - Essay

MacKinlay Kantor

Critical Context

Kantor has had a long and respected career as a novelist, short-story writer, and historian. A distinctly American writer, his subjects have ranged from frontier tales to accounts of military battles, and he has shown a particular interest in the people and events of the Civil War. For example, in 1934, Kantor published Long Remember, a fictional account of the Battle of Gettysburg. After Lee and Grant at Appomattox, he also wrote Gettysburg (1952), a nonfiction work for younger readers about this pivotal battle that was also illustrated by Donald McKay, and Andersonville (1955), a novel based on the tragic circumstances that existed at that Civil War prison camp.

Lee and Grant at Appomattox has become a classic juvenile biography because of Kantor’s ability to involve young readers in the drama of this important historical event. The author accomplishes this feat through his vivid descriptions of the thoughts and emotions that surely accompanied the final days of the conflict and the surrender of the Confederacy. For example, the reader can sense the tension that was felt by the Confederate and Union officers as they anticipated Grant’s entrance into the room where Lee waited to discuss the surrender terms. In contrast, one experiences the release of tension as the two generals conversed and made minor grammatical corrections to the terms dictated by Grant. Thus, Lee and Grant at Appomattox serves as an interesting, accessible introduction to the Civil War for young history students.