Lincoln's Last Months

Lincoln's Last Months

Lincoln's Last Months

Lincoln's Last Months

Synopsis

Lincoln Prize winner William C. Harris turns to the last months of Abraham Lincoln's life in an attempt to penetrate this central figure of the Civil War, and arguably America's greatest president. Beginning with the presidential campaign of 1864 and ending with his shocking assassination, Lincoln's ability to master the daunting affairs of state during the final nine months of his life proved critical to his apotheosis as savior and saint of the nation.

In the fall of 1864, an exhausted president pursued the seemingly intractable end of the Civil War. After four years at the helm, Lincoln was struggling to save his presidency in an election that he almost lost because of military stalemate and his commitment to restore the Union without slavery. Lincoln's victory in the election not only ensured the success of his agenda but led to his transformation from a cautious, often hesitant president into a distinguished statesman. He moved quickly to defuse destructive partisan divisions and to secure the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment. And he skillfully advanced peace terms that did not involve the unconditional surrender of Confederate armies. Throughout this period of great trials, he managed to resist political pressure from Democrats and radical Republicans and from those seeking patronage and profit. By expanding the context of Lincoln's last months beyond the battlefield, Harris shows how the events of 1864-65 tested the president's life and leadership and how he ultimately emerged victorious, and became Father Abraham to a nation.

Excerpt

Abraham Lincoln is the central figure in America’s great epic— the Civil War. Lincoln’s rise from a hard frontier and a largely self-educated background to become the finest exemplar of America’s democratic and republican values has had an appeal for all generations, not only in the United States but also abroad. During the most critical period in American history, when the young republic and its democratic principles faced their greatest threat, this son of the West provided the leadership to preserve the Union. He eloquently expressed the universal ideals involved in the war and firmly took the steps necessary to end slavery. Lincoln himself came to believe he was the humble instrument of God in his struggle to achieve these purposes. Despite the bitter animosities generated by the war, Lincoln, with rare exception, lived the principles of magnanimity and tolerance toward his enemies in the South and his detractors in the North.

Lincoln’s integrity and his steadfastness in standing behind his promises became increasingly apparent during the later stages of the Civil War and contributed to his legendary stature in history. the aftermath of his assassination produced an even greater recognition of his virtuous character, humaneness, and statesmanship, raising him to a nearly godlike status in the minds of Americans and others. Years later, at the dawn of a century that witnessed horrible violations of the Lincolnian example, the eminent Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy proclaimed Lincoln “a Christ in miniature, a saint of humanity whose name will live thousands of years in the legends of future generations.” in our time, Lincoln’s life and character, in addition to his democratic . . .

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