While not strictly Civil War related, this book – reviewed here in the NY Times – shows the legacy of at least one die-hard secessionist upon his daughters. This sounds like a fascinating family history.
These are just snapshots of a densely braided biography spanning eight decades, not counting the Lumpkins’ forebears and the rediscovery of the sisters’ work by late-20th-century feminists. The book also draws together the strands of Hall’s own career as a distinguished historian of Southern labor and an activist on behalf of women and civil rights.
Hall is a herculean researcher whose sources include security files she sued the Department of Justice to access. Her interviews with the elderly Lumpkins, and reflections on why and how she tracked the sisters over decades, lend an appealing journalistic and personal touch to what might otherwise be an unleavened diet of detailed scholarship.
Source: The Daughters of the Confederacy Who Turned Their Heritage to Political Ends – The New York Times
As they watch modern day Washington with a wary eye, Impeachment proponents can find some aspirational reading in a new book about Andrew Johnson’s proceedings. The Guardian reviews it here.
Implicit or not, parallels abound with current American life. Johnson’s “Swing Around the Circle” railroad trip featured rallies at which his language was (at best) strong and intemperate, including personal attacks on Congress. During the trip, the president even told a supporter: “I don’t care about my dignity.” Senator John Sherman of Illinois complained that Johnson had “sunk the presidential office to the level of a grog-house”.
Unsurprisingly, analogies to the current situation are emphasized, however subtly, throughout Wineapple’s book.
The author writes that “the highly unlikeable President Johnson was impeached … by men who could no longer stand his arrogance and bigotry, his apparent abuse of power, and most recently his violation of law.”/blockquote>
Source: The Impeachers review: Andrew Johnson and the men who nearly trumped him | Books | The Guardian
A glowing review for a new Civil War book, Armies of Deliverance, by Elizabeth Varon. I usually avoid quoting last paragraphs of the articles I link, but this is quite the parting comment by the reviewer.
While Varon doesn’t quite deliver on her argument about deliverance, she narrates battles and campaigns with an unusually deft, at times even gorgeous touch. This is some of the finest battle writing around, and a sweeping analysis of both United States and Confederate strategy and tactics. While the book can’t displace James M. McPherson’s “Battle Cry of Freedom,” still perhaps the single greatest volume ever written on the Civil War or even on United States history, it belongs beside it on the shelf. Give
Source: Book review of Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War by Elizabeth R. Varon – The Washington Post
There’s a new book about Andrew Johnson and his impeachment, and the New York Times has given it a rave review. I’ll have to pick it up, but I might wait to see how the current Constitutional crisis shakes out first. I’m not sure it’ll make for consolatory reading.
By February 1868, President Andrew Johnson had forced the moment to a crisis. As Brenda Wineapple recounts in her new book, “The Impeachers,” Johnson had been goading legislators with his accelerating attempts to rule by decree, daring them to “go ahead” and impeach him — which the House voted to do by an overwhelming majority, 126 to 47.
The author of award-winning works about Nathaniel Hawthorne and Emily Dickinson, among other books, Wineapple started to research her history of the country’s first impeachment trial six years ago; she briefly mentions Presidents Nixon and Clinton but not the current occupant of the White House. She doesn’t have to. The relevance of this riveting and absorbing book is clear enough, even if Wineapple’s approach is too literary and incisive to offer anything so obvious as a lesson.
Source: Impeachment, the First Time Around – The New York Times
I gave up on fiction a few years ago, but I’m curious about this new book. Lincoln’s live-in friendship with Joshua Speed is a topic I find endearing, and a great novelist can often make fiction feel like real history. (See also: Gore Vidal’s Lincoln.)
Abraham Lincoln is irresistible to writers. Historians have delved into Lincoln’s depression, his team of rivals and the hunt for his killer. Now, more than 150 years after Lincoln’s assassination, novelist Louis Bayard weighs in with “Courting Mr. Lincoln,” a rich, fascinating and romantic union of fact and imagination about young Lincoln, the woman he would marry and his beloved best friend.
Source: Book review | Abraham Lincoln, his suitors give heart to warm tale – Entertainment & Life – The Columbus Dispatch – Columbus, OH
There’s a new Grant biography for us all to enjoy. American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant is here reviewed very favourably by the Chicago Tribune. Given the fuss and fury of this year’s election campaign, it might be nice to spend 850 pages immersed in the company of a genuinely nice man. (Though the chapters dealing with corrupt and predatory businessmen might be a jarring reminder of our current situation.)
No presidential biography can avoid serving as a comment on its own time. In this regard, White’s book is an invaluable gift. The Grant he finds is, in every regard, the antithesis of what has come to be viewed as the modern politician — humble, modest, self-made; known as “the quiet man,” he spoke little, but thoughtfully and judiciously (he also wrote his own memoirs, of which Gore Vidal stated, “the author is a man of first-rate intelligence. … His book is a classic.”) He was fair, altruistic, loyal (sometimes to a fault and at his own expense), honest, decent, and deeply honorable. He was magnanimous in victory, concerned for the welfare of his country and his fellow citizens, open-minded, curious about the world and others. He fought against the nascent Ku Klux Klan, and for fair dealing with Native Americans, causing Frederick Douglass to conclude, “To him more than any other man the Negro owes his enfranchisement and the Indian a humane policy. … He was accessible to all men. … The black soldier was welcome in his tent, and the freedman in his house.”
Source: ‘American Ulysses’ tries to set the record straight on the Civil War general – Chicago Tribune
A new book deals with a subject I’ve been musing on lately: The effects of the war on the social life of postbellum America. Millions of men coming home – some with severe physical and emotional scars – to a world that was profoundly changed. This one sounds like a good read.
Jordan’s handling of civilian behavior toward Union veterans amounts to an unsparing indictment. Widespread callousness consigned former soldiers to “a living ‘republic of suffering.’ . . . Suspended between the dead and the living, the rest of their days were disturbed by memories of the war.” He allocates considerable attention to amputees and former prisoners of war. “Legions of men missing arms and legs,” he contends, posed a special problem for civilians because “throbbing stumps weeping a foul brew of pus and blood were hardly an advertisement for the kind of glorious, sanitized war the public wanted to remember.” Ex-prisoners suffered “enduring psychological injuries” and sought help from comrades who had shared their wartime nightmare. But “while ex-prisoner-of-war associations sustained prison survivors, they had scarcely moved the hearts and minds of the northern public. If anything, ex-prisoner meetings contributed to even greater public suspicion and scorn.” A reluctant nation did create a pension system (though many Americans came to view it “as a problem — not a paradigm”), and national and state soldiers’ homes assisted some of the poorest and least functional veterans.
Former soldiers offered one another empathy and help. They created the Grand Army of the Republic , the largest veterans’ organization and an increasingly powerful lobbying group, which Jordan describes as “one of the most significant social-welfare organizations of the nineteenth century.” They also wrote memoirs and unit histories, gathered at reunions, and erected monuments on battlefields and elsewhere — all to keep alive the memory of their sacrifice.
via Book review: Marching Home, by Brian Matthew Jordan – The Washington Post.
Speaking of Hay and Nicolay, I finished an excellent book about the secretaries a few months ago: Lincoln’s Men: The President and His Private Secretaries. It’s a delightful look at the boys who ran the White House and kept Lincoln company in the best and worst moments of his Presidency. It’s thanks to their labor of love history (and Hay’s private diaries) that we have the backstage glimpses of life in the Executive Mansion. Hay and Nicolay’s best-friendship lasted nearly half a century, and they were linked in their love for Lincoln.
Lincoln’s Men: The President and His Private Secretaries: Daniel Mark Epstein: Amazon.com: Books.
There’s a new Grant biography out, and this review makes it sound like a worthwhile read. Personally, I’m not sure I need another biography, his memoirs are well written and informative enough to provide me with most of the details of his life worth knowing. I did, though, love this summary of the Grant’s Tomb quandary: How did he end up buried in New York, and in a crappy part of town, at that?
That his tomb is there in the first place is typical of Grant’s poor judgment about matters off the battlefield. If it had been placed in Washington, it would be a gleaming national tourist attraction, perhaps placed close to the Lincoln or the Jefferson memorial, where he belongs, but the president and Mrs. Grant did not care for Washington, D.C. Galena, Ill., was eager to have Grant’s tomb, but the Grants did not think Galena was the right place to bury America’s most successful general and did not look back with pleasure on the years during which Grant, having resigned from the Army and failed at several professions, worked as clerk in his father’s harness store in Galena wrapping parcels and was ridiculed as the town drunk. Grant rejected West Point, his alma mater, because regulations precluded Mrs. Grant from being buried beside him when her time came, and since Grant was never happy when separated from Julia (he did not drink when they were together), he was unwilling to be separated from her in death. They chose New York City instead, and with the mournful lack of judgment that afflicted Grant whenever real estate or money were concerned, they made the mistake of believing that the Upper West Side was the coming neighborhood and with its view over the Hudson was sure to be the most elegant part of the city, the equivalent of Paris’s 16eme arrondisement or London’s Belgravia, not imagining that they were consigning their remains to a part of New York that would become famous for gang warfare and drug dealing, where no sensible person goes out for a walk at night.
via ‘The Man Who Saved the Union’ by H.W. Brands: The Forgotten General Grant – The Daily Beast.
There’s a new biography of William H. Seward, and it sounds excellent. Seward is presented in a heroic trajectory from snooty jerk to warm, winning statesman. Much as Team of Rivals gave an extensive biography of Seward to the night of his assassination, Kearns Goodwin ends his story with the death of Lincoln. I’m looking forward to learning how he contributed to the country in the post-bellum years.
Walter Stahr’s biography of Lincoln’s Secretary of State, "Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man," takes a while to attract. Though Seward was personally energetic, though he fully documented his own life with letters and dispatches from his political career, Stahr proceeds cautiously, as if he were Lincoln’s slowpoke General George B. McClellan assembling his myriads of troops but rarely advancing. In Stahr’s defense, William Henry Seward (1801-1872) is and was not, from a distance, easy to like or admire. Once we know him, however, just as it happened with his contemporaries, his depth and high spirits win us over; he sparkles, pleases, and charms. A sharp politician of great skill, always clever, never resentful, Seward, through persistent compromising, before, during and after the Civil War helped steer the United States forward.
via New biography of man who purchased Alaska for $7.2 million in 1867 | Alaska Dispatch.