Library Additions: October 2018 (1)

Thank you to the good people at Da Capo Press for providing a complimentary copy of the new book A Fierce Glory: Antietam–The Desperate Battle That Saved Lincoln and Doomed Slavery  written by Justin Martin. ISBN 9780306825255, cover price $28.

From the publisher website:

On September 17, 1862, the “United States” was on the brink, facing a permanent split into two separate nations. America’s very future hung on the outcome of a single battle–and the result reverberates to this day. Given the deep divisions that still rive the nation, given what unites the country, too, Antietam is more relevant now than ever.

The epic battle, fought near Sharpsburg, Maryland, was a Civil War turning point. The South had just launched its first invasion of the North; victory for Robert E. Lee would almost certainly have ended the war on Confederate terms. If the Union prevailed, Lincoln stood ready to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. He knew that freeing the slaves would lend renewed energy and lofty purpose to the North’s war effort. Lincoln needed a victory to save the divided country, but victory would come at a price. Detailed here is the cannon din and desperation, the horrors and heroes of this monumental battle, one that killed 3,650 soldiers, still the highest single-day toll in American history.

Justin Martin, an acclaimed writer of narrative nonfiction, renders this landmark event in a revealing new way. More than in previous accounts, Lincoln is laced deeply into the story. Antietam represents Lincoln at his finest, as the grief-racked president–struggling with the recent death of his son, Willie–summoned the guile necessary to manage his reluctant general, George McClellan. The Emancipation Proclamation would be the greatest gambit of the nation’s most inspired leader. And, in fact, the battle’s impact extended far beyond the field; brilliant and lasting innovations in medicine, photography, and communications were given crucial real-world tests. No mere gunfight, Antietam rippled through politics and society, transforming history.

A Fierce Glory is a fresh and vibrant account of an event that had enduring consequences that still resonate today.

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Library Additions–August 2018 (1)

Thank you to my friends at Southern Illinois University Press for sending along a copy of Sixteenth President-in-Waiting: Abraham Lincoln and the Springfield Dispatches of Henry Villard, 1860–1861 edited/written by the very knowledgeable Lincoln scholar Michael Burlingame.

From the publisher website:

Between Abraham Lincoln’s election in November 1860 and his departure for Washington three months later, journalist Henry Villard sent scores of dispatches from Springfield, Illinois, to various newspapers describing the president-elect’s doings, quoting or paraphrasing his statements, chronicling events in the Illinois capital, and analyzing the city’s mood. With Sixteenth President-in-Waiting Michael Burlingame has collected all of these dispatches in one insightful and informative volume.

Best known as a successful nineteenth-century railroad promoter and financier, German-born Henry Villard (1835–1900) was also among the most conscientious and able journalists of the 1860s. The dispatches gathered in this volume constitute the most intensive journalistic coverage that Lincoln ever received, for Villard filed stories from the Illinois capital almost daily to the New York Herald, slightly less often to the Cincinnati Commercial, and occasionally to the San Francisco Bulletin.

Lincoln welcomed Villard and encouraged him to ask questions, as he was the only full-time correspondent for out-of-town papers. He spoke with inside sources, such as Lincoln’s private secretaries John G. Nicolay and John Hay, devoted friends like Jesse K. Dubois and Stephen T. Logan, political leaders like Governor Richard Yates, and journalists like William M. Springer and Robert R. Hitt.

Villard boasted that he did Lincoln a service by scaring off would-be office seekers who, fearing to see their names published in newspapers, gave up plans to visit the Illinois capital to badger the president-elect. Villard may have done an even greater service by publicizing Lincoln’s views on the secession crisis.

His little-known coverage of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas Senate race, translated from the German for the first time, is included as an appendix. At the time Villard was an ardent Douglas supporter, and his reports criticized Lincoln.

Not only informative but also highly readable, Villard’s vivid descriptions of Lincoln’s appearance, daily routine, and visitors, combined with fresh information about Springfielders, state political leaders, and the capital, constitute an invaluable resource.

Hardcover. ISBN 9780809336432, $45.50. 407 pages, index, notes.

Library Additions–June 2018 (1)

Thank you to my friends at Southern Illinois University Press for sending along a copy of their new release Lincoln and the Abolitionists (Concise Lincoln Library) written by Stanley Harrold.  I am a big fan of the Concise Lincoln Library . This wonderful series allows readers to learn more about Lincoln based upon their subject interest. The books are very reasonably priced as well; usually $25 or less for a hardcover.

From the publisher website:

Abraham Lincoln has often been called the “Great Emancipator.” But he was not among those Americans who, decades before the Civil War, favored immediate emancipation of all slaves inside the United States. Those who did were the abolitionists—the men and women who sought freedom and equal rights for all African Americans. Stanley Harrold traces how, despite Lincoln’s political distance from abolitionists, they influenced his evolving political orientation before and during the Civil War.

While explaining how the abolitionist movement evolved, Harrold also clarifies Lincoln’s connections with and his separation from this often fiery group. For most of his life Lincoln regarded abolitionists as dangerous fanatics. Like many northerners during his time, Lincoln sought compromise with the white South regarding slavery, opposed abolitionist radicalism, and doubted that free black people could have a positive role in America. Yet, during the 1840s and 1850s, conservative northern Democrats as well as slaveholders branded Lincoln an abolitionist because of his sympathy toward black people and opposition to the expansion of slavery.

Lincoln’s election to the presidency and the onslaught of the Civil War led to a transformation of his relationship with abolitionists. Lincoln’s original priority as president had been to preserve the Union, not to destroy slavery. Nevertheless many factors—including contacts with abolitionists—led Lincoln to favor ending slavery. After Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and raised black troops, many, though not all, abolitionists came to view him more favorably.

Providing insight into the stressful, evolving relationship between Lincoln and the abolitionists, and also into the complexities of northern politics, society, and culture during the Civil War era, this concise volume illuminates a central concern in Lincoln’s life and presidency.

Library Additions–June 2017 (1)

Dekle, George R. Prairie Defender: The Murder Trials of Abraham Lincoln. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 2017. 231 pages, index, bibliography, end notes, b/w photos. ISBN 978089335978, $34.50.

Thank you to Southern Illinois University Press for sending along a complimentary review copy. From their website:

According to conventional wisdom, Abraham Lincoln spent most of his law career collecting debt and representing railroads, and this focus made him inept at defending clients in homicide cases. In this unprecedented study of Lincoln’s criminal cases, George Dekle disproves these popular notions, showing that Lincoln was first and foremost a trial lawyer. Through careful examination of Lincoln’s homicide cases and evaluation of his legal skills, Dekle demonstrates that criminal law was an important part of Lincoln’s practice, and that he was quite capable of defending people accused of murder, trying approximately one such case per year.

Dekle begins by presenting the viewpoints of not only those who see Lincoln as a perfect lawyer whose only flaw was his inability to represent the wrong side of a case but also those who believe Lincoln was a less-than-honest legal hack. The author invites readers to compare these wildly different stereotypes with the flesh-and-blood Lincoln revealed in each case described in the book, including an axe murder suit in which Lincoln assisted the prosecution, a poisoning case he refused to prosecute for $200 but defended for $75, and a case he won by proving that a supposed murder victim was actually still alive.

For each case Dekle covers, he first tells the stories of the feuds, arguments, and insults that led to murder and other criminal activity, giving a gripping view of the seamy side of life in nineteenth-century Illinois. Then he traces the course of the pretrial litigation, describes the trials and the various tactics employed in the prosecution and defense, and critiques the performance of both Lincoln and his adversaries.

Dekle concludes that Lincoln was a competent, diligent criminal trial lawyer who knew the law, could argue it effectively to both judge and jury, and would use all lawful means to defend clients whether he believed them to be innocent or guilty. His trial record shows Lincoln to have been a formidable defense lawyer who won many seemingly hopeless cases through his skill as a courtroom tactician, cross-examiner, and orator. Criminal defendants who could retain Lincoln as a defense attorney were well represented, and criminal defense attorneys who sought him as co-counsel were well served. Providing insight into both Lincoln’s legal career and the culture in which he practiced law, Prairie Defender resolves a major misconception concerning one of our most important historical figures.

Book Review–Lincoln in Indiana

Dirck, Brian R. Lincoln in Indiana. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 2017. 132 pages, notes, bibliography, index, b/w photos. ISBN 9780809335657, $24.95.

The newest title in the Concise Lincoln Library series is Lincoln in Indiana written by Anderson University history professor Brian R. Dirck. Dr. Dirck has written several other books on Lincoln and received the Barondess Award from the Civil War Roundtable of New York for his book Lincoln the Lawyer. Here in a few short pages, Dirck confirms his spot as a strong Lincoln scholar.

Slim in pages this book packs a pop when it comes to the understudied period of 1816-1830 when Lincoln was molded by his years in Indiana. As Dr. Dirck points out there is little material to work with on these years. Lincoln himself left a sparse 800 written words about this time. For other sources questions have to be asked. Are these memories correct, what biases and agendas might the person have had, and finally does martyrdom play a role in the views people put forth.

It is in the seeming wilds of Indiana that the anti-slavery Thomas Lincoln took his family in order to escape the peculiar institution, which he felt he could not compete against. Free whites could not compete with farmers who owned African slaves. It was here that Lincoln learned about hard physical labor; grubbing and   log-rolling were not what the young Lincoln ultimately wanted out of life however. He also learned of loss with the death of his mother, Nancy, due to milk sickness.

While Thomas did not fail as a farmer it can not be said that he was successful either. The farm teetered and Thomas used his marginal skills as a carpenter to bring in extra for the family.

As young Abraham grew up the bonds between father and son grew strained despite a good relationship with his stepmother Sarah. Thomas needed the young, strong Abraham to help provide labor. While education was important it was not a priority for the elder Lincoln. Abraham had an overriding interest in accomplishing more than his father. His lack of a formal education haunted Abraham in many ways as an adult.

By 1829 Abraham wanted out of Indiana. He was  tired of his labors supporting his father. Intellectually he was moving on as well. He became interested in politics and was often found at the local courthouse when court was in session. Despite his yearnings Abraham followed his family to Illinois where Thomas failed miserably. Within a year Thomas has returned in Indiana.

By this time Abraham was gone. The gulf between father and son had developed such that the younger Lincoln did not visit his dying father nor did he attend Thomas’s funeral in 1851.

Dr. Dirck has written a book that is easily readable and digestible. The length of books in this series make it easy to consume them in a couple of brief sittings. The research looks to be of high quality and the notes and bibliography are extensive for those looking to follow-up on source material.

Highly recommended for not just an introductory level work but even for those with a deeper knowledge of Lincoln. This developmental period in Lincoln’s life is important and this volume helps explain why.

Library Additions–February 2017 (1)

Dirck, Brian R. Lincoln in Indiana. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 2017. Index, notes, bibliography, b/w photos. 132 pages, 92 pages text. ISBN 9780809335657, $24.95.

Abraham Lincoln, born in Kentucky in 1809, moved with his parents, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, and his older sister, Sarah, to the Pigeon Creek area of southern Indiana in 1816. There Lincoln spent more than a quarter of his life. It was in Indiana that he developed a complicated and often troubled relationship with his father, exhibited his now-famous penchant for self-education, and formed a restless ambition to rise above his origins. Although some questions about these years are unanswerable due to a scarcity of reliable sources, Brian R. Dirck’s fascinating account of Lincoln’s boyhood sets what is known about the relationships, values, and environment that fundamentally shaped Lincoln’s character within the context of frontier and farm life in early nineteenth-century midwestern America.

Lincoln in Indiana tells the story of Lincoln’s life in Indiana, from his family’s arrival to their departure. Dirck explains the Lincoln family’s ancestry and how they and their relatives came to settle near Pigeon Creek. He shows how frontier families like the Lincolns created complex farms out of wooded areas, fashioned rough livelihoods, and developed tight-knit communities in the unforgiving Indiana wilderness. With evocative prose, he describes the youthful Lincoln’s relationship with members of his immediate and extended family. Dirck illuminates Thomas Lincoln by setting him into his era, revealing the concept of frontier manhood, and showing the increasingly strained relationship between father and son. He illustrates how pioneer women faced difficulties as he explores Nancy Lincoln’s work and her death from milk sickness; how Lincoln’s stepmother, Sarah Bush, fit into the family; and how Lincoln’s sister died in childbirth. Dirck examines Abraham’s education and reading habits, showing how a farming community could see him as lazy for preferring book learning over farmwork. While explaining how he was both similar to and different from his peers, Dirck includes stories of Lincoln’s occasional rash behavior toward those who offended him. As Lincoln grew up, his ambitions led him away from the family farm, and Dirck tells how Lincoln chafed at his father’s restrictions, why the Lincolns decided to leave Indiana in 1830, and how Lincoln eventually broke away from his family.

In a triumph of research, Dirck cuts through the myths about Lincoln’s early life, and along the way he explores the social, cultural, and economic issues of early nineteenth-century Indiana. The result is a realistic portrait of the youthful Lincoln set against the backdrop of American frontier culture.

Thank you to Southern Illinois University Press for sending a complimentary review copy.

Gettysburg Address November 19, 1863

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863
Alexander Bliss Copy

Library Additions: September 2015 (1)

One of the regular features I will be including here are listings of books that I have added to my personal library. These may be purchases, gifts, or copies generously provided by a publisher for review and/or promotion. This type of post will run on an as needed basis and will be marked by month, year, and post number for the month.

Thank you to my good friends at Southern Illinois University Press for sending complimentary review copies of two of their new releases. SIU Press has been a long time supporter and I appreciate their partnership.

lincoln immigrant

Silverman, Jason H. Lincoln and the Immigrant (Concise Lincoln Library). Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2015. 159 pages, index, notes, b/w photos. ISBN 9780809334346, $24.95.

Between 1840 and 1860, America received more than four and a half million people from foreign countries as permanent residents, including a huge influx of newcomers from northern and western Europe, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans who became U.S. citizens with the annexation of Texas and the Mexican Cession, and a smaller number of Chinese immigrants. While some Americans sought to make immigration more difficult and to curtail the rights afforded to immigrants, Abraham Lincoln advocated for the rights of all classes of citizens. In this succinct study, Jason H. Silverman investigates Lincoln’s evolving personal, professional, and political relationship with the wide variety of immigrant groups he encountered throughout his life, revealing that Lincoln related to the immigrant in a manner few of his contemporaries would or could emulate.

From an early age, Silverman shows, Lincoln developed an awareness of and a tolerance for different peoples and their cultures, and he displayed an affinity for immigrants throughout his legal and political career. Silverman reveals how immigrants affected not only Lincoln’s day-to-day life but also his presidential policies and details Lincoln’s opposition to the Know Nothing Party and the antiforeign attitudes in his own Republican Party, his reliance on German support for his 1860 presidential victory, his appointment of political generals of varying ethnicities, and his reliance on an immigrant for the literal rules of war.

Examining Lincoln’s views on the place of the immigrant in America’s society and economy, Silverman’s pioneering work offers a rare new perspective on the renowned sixteenth president.

 villianous compounds
Hasegawa, Guy R. Villainous Compounds: Chemical Weapons and the American Civil War. Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, 2015. 182 pages, index, notes, glossary, b/w photos. ISBN 9780809334308, $29.50.
Most studies of modern chemical warfare begin with World War I and the widespread use of poison gas by both sides in the conflict. However, as Guy R. Hasegawa reveals in this fascinating study, numerous chemical agents were proposed during the Civil War era. As combat commenced, Hasegawa shows, a few forward-thinking chemists recognized the advantages of weaponizing the noxious, sometimes deadly aspects of certain chemical concoctions. They and numerous ordinary citizens proposed a host of chemical weapons, from liquid chlorine in artillery shells to cayenne pepper solution sprayed from fire engines. In chilling detail, Hasegawa describes the potential weapons, the people behind the concepts, and the evolution of some chemical weapon concepts into armaments employed in future wars. As he explains, bureaucrats in the war departments of both armies either delayed or rejected outright most of these unusual weapons, viewing them as unneeded or unworkable. Nevertheless, many of the proposed armaments presaged the widespread use of chemical weapons in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Especially timely with today’s increased chemical threats from terrorists and the alleged use of chemical agents in the Syrian Civil War, Villainous Compounds: Chemical Weapons and the American Civil War expands the history of chemical warfare and exposes a disturbing new facet of the Civil War.