A Guide to the History of Illinois

By John Hoffmann | Go to book overview

4
THE ERA OF THE CIVIL WAR, 1848-70

JOHN Y. SIMON

THE CIVIL WAR era brought Illinois to the height of its importance in the nation. Between 1850 and 1860, the population of Illinois increased from 851,470 to 1,711,951, and its ranking among the states advanced from eleventh to fourth. Four successive presidential elections beginning in 1860 placed an Illinois resident in the White House. A few miles of unprofitable railroad at the beginning of 1848 expanded to a comprehensive network by 1870. Chicago grew from a town to the capital of the Midwest.

Arthur Charles Cole, The Era of the Civil War, 1848-1870 ( Springfield, 1919) stands as the work that defines the period and still provides the best comprehensive survey. Prodigious research included use of nearly every extant Illinois newspaper. As Cole's work suggests, the Civil War generation cared passionately about politics, and later generations cared passionately about Abraham Lincoln. Much of Illinois history in this period is most easily accessible through the Lincoln literature, which is discussed in a later chapter.

Prominent Illinois Democrats of Lincoln's day have usually received inadequate treatment. The magnificent exception is Robert W. Johannsen, Stephen A. Douglas ( New York, 1973), which supplants all other Douglas biographies. Johannsen also edited The Letters of Stephen A. Douglas ( Urbana, 1961). Potential biographers might profitably look to other Democrats for a subject, despite the fact that Democrats are underrepresented in manuscript collections.

A Democratic convert to the Republican party fares better. Horace White, The Life of Lyman Trumbull ( Boston, 1913) was written by a friend and associate

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