Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Lincoln's Bold Lion: The Life and Times of Union Brigadier General Martin Davis Hardin, 1837-1923

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Lincoln's Bold Lion: The Life and Times of Union Brigadier General Martin Davis Hardin, 1837-1923

Article excerpt

Lincoln's Bold Lion: The Life and Times of Union Brigadier General Martin Davis Hardin, 1837-1923. By James T. Huffstodt. (Philadelphia and Oxford, Eng.: Casemate, 2015. Pp. 432. $32.95, ISBN 978-1-61200-339-9.)

The life of General Martin Davis Hardin of Illinois offers a good perspective from which to view the Civil War era. A precocious young soldier, Hardin served as a brigadier general in the Union army in his twenties. The last survivor of West Point's class of 1859, he lived until 1923. In this well-researched and clearly written biography, James T. Huffstodt successfully rescues his subject from obscurity.

While many Civil War soldiers exhibited bravery and commitment to duty, Hardin's phenomenal devotion to the cause exemplified those qualities. While Hardin did not fight in every major battle in the eastern theater, he was so ubiquitous that one might think he had. In the course of the conflict, Hardin was wounded four times, most notably losing an arm fighting against John Singleton Mosby's raiders in 1863. In a remarkable illustration of personal bravery and commitment to the cause of the Union, Hardin continued to play a combat role until the end of the war.

The most original contribution this book makes is its emphasis on Hardin's relationship with Abraham Lincoln. The general's father was John J. Hardin, an Illinois Whig who was both a friend and a political competitor of Lincoln's. John Hardin died in the U.S.-Mexican War, but his family remained in contact with the future president. A lieutenant in the regular army when the Civil War broke out, Martin Hardin experienced a rapid promotion to brigadier general in part because he had earned a deservedly good reputation as a soldier. However, machinations behind the scenes by his mother, Sarah Smith Hardin, helped him up the chain of command. …

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