Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography

Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography

Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography

Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography

Synopsis

In Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America, historian William Gienapp provides a remarkably concise, up-to-date, and vibrant biography of the most revered figure in United States history. While the heart of the book focuses on the Civil War, Gienapp begins with a finely etched portrait of Lincoln's early life, from pioneer farm boy, to politician and lawyer in Springfield, to his stunning election as sixteenth president of the United States. We see how Lincoln grew during his years in office, how he developed a keen aptitude for military strategy and displayed enormous skill in dealing with his generals, and also how his war strategy evolved from a desire to preserve the Union to emancipation and total war. Gienapp shows how Lincoln's early years influenced his skills as commander-in-chief and also demonstrates that throughout the stresses of the war years, Lincoln's basic character shone through: his good will and fundamental decency, his remarkable self-confidence matched with genuine humility, his immunity to the passions and hatreds the war spawned, his extraordinary patience, and his timeless eloquence. A former backwoodsman and country lawyer, Abraham Lincoln rose to become one of our greatest presidents. This biography offers a vivid account of Lincoln's dramatic ascension to the pinnacle of American history.

Excerpt

“Lincoln never poured out his soul to any mortal creature at anytime and on no subject,” his longtime law partner, William Herndon, once declared. “He was the most secretive—reticent—shut-mouthed man that ever existed.” Judge David Davis, who had known Lincoln for many years from his practice on the judicial circuit and who served as a close adviser in Illinois politics, agreed. Using almost the same words, Davis confirmed that, “he was the most reticent—Secretive man I Ever Saw—or Expect to See.” With considerable understatement, Lincoln himself conceded in 1861, “I am rather inclined to silence.”

Abraham Lincoln is a di Ycult subject for a biographer. Born into an undistinguished frontier family, he grew up in obscurity and left almost no written record until he entered politics as a young man. He said little about his family or youth, even to friends. Leonard Swett, who had practiced law with Lincoln on the judicial circuit and who was a longtime political associate, recalled that he “never heard himspeak of any relative, except as connected with his boy history.” Indeed, Swett sheepishly acknowledged that he did not even know Lincoln had had a step-brother. Our knowledge of his formative years comes almost entirely from the series of interviews and recollections that Herndon collected in the years after Lincoln's death. Most of these recollections were written down years after the events described, and while invaluable they are difficult to use as historical sources. Few of these early acquaintances were as candid as George Spears, who, when asked about Lincoln's career as a shopkeeper in New Salem, admitted, “At that time I had no idia of his ever being President therefore I did not notice his course as close as I should of had.”

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