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.
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.
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.