Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Cambridge Companion to Abraham Lincoln

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Cambridge Companion to Abraham Lincoln

Article excerpt

The Cambridge Companion to Abraham Lincoln. Edited by Shirley Samuels. Cambridge Companions to American Studies. (New York and other cities: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. [xvi], 223. Paper, $28.99, ISBN 978-0-521-14573-2; cloth, $83.00, ISBN 978-0-521-19316-0.)

Despite the many studies about Abraham Lincoln published over the nearly 150 years since his assassination at Ford's Theatre, this collection of essays provides considerable new insight into Lincoln's rhetorical power. For this reviewer, the strong points of this book are the unique and sometimes overlooked rhetorical elements of Lincoln's oratory. Not only do these essays throw a focused light on Lincoln's best-known works such as the Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address, but they also examine lesser-known speeches like his address to the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, in 1838 and his 1852 eulogy on Henry Clay.

The first essay, by Ivy G. Wilson, illuminates Lincoln's "understanding of rhetoric and mid-nineteenth-century oratorical culture" (p. 9). Next, Faith Barrett discusses the poetry Lincoln read, and sometimes wrote, throughout his life and the way poetry shaped his oratory and his public image. Carol Payne's essay examines the new art of photography and shows how Lincoln's image shaped many Americans' perceptions and memories of him; she highlights the 1860 presidential campaign, which was the first time mass-produced photography was used as a campaign tool.

In the fourth essay, Stephen Cushman shows readers the manner in which the language in the Gettysburg Address and in Lincoln's second inaugural address shaped and reflected the wave of mourning that swept the nation as Americans tried to deal with the grief and shock over the incredible number of war deaths. Timothy Sweet's essay discusses Lincoln's wartime speeches, especially his first and second inaugural addresses, his second annual message to Congress, and the Gettysburg Address, to demonstrate in what ways the president countered the South's claims about the legality of secession.

Bethany Schneider presents a fascinating story of Lincoln's outlook on and rhetorical dealings with Native Americans during the Civil War. …

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