Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Lincoln and His Contemporaries

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Lincoln and His Contemporaries

Article excerpt

Lincoln and His Contemporaries. Edited by Charles M. Hubbard. (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, c. 1999. Pp. [viii], 167. $27.95, ISBN 0-86554-627-4.)

Part of the delight of Lincoln and His Contemporaries is that the eight thoughtful and knowledgeable essays that compose the book encompass three very different groups' views of Abraham Lincoln, his policies, and his assassination. Three of the essays describe the relationship between the president and his generals. Two have to do with African Americans' perceptions of Lincoln. The remaining three essays concern various views of the assassination. The essays often support different perceptions and interpretations of similar events. The reader therefore becomes aware of some of the debates that still rage over Lincoln and the Civil War.

Judge Frank Williams develops the thesis that many of the skills that Lincoln exhibited as president and commander-in-chief were skills that he developed as a practicing attorney. "Lincoln the lawyer-president avoided narrow overemphasis," Williams writes, "and understood the difference between Distortion and clarification for a higher purpose" (p. 36). Harold Holzer analyzes three stages in the public's perception of Lincoln as a war leader. At first he was viewed as weak, even cowardly by some. After Antietam the people viewed their commander-in-chief with respect. Following the assassination the public perceived Lincoln as a superhero. Holzer reinforces his essay with various depictions of Lincoln in lithographs, prints, and caricatures. John Y. Simon suggests that the incompetent General Henry Halleck rendered enormous benefits to Lincoln in that he "provided Lincoln with a buffer against senior commanders. …

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