Lincoln's Men is the first narrative portrait of the three young men who served as Lincoln's secretaries during the Civil War. John Nicolay and John Hay lived in the White House, across the hall from the president's office, and they and William Stoddard spent more time with Lincoln than anyone else outside his immediate family.Lincoln used these three intelligent, articulate young men as a sounding board; they were the first audience for much of his writing from the period. From their unique vantage point, they had a front-row seat on the drama of war, but they also had a good time. Washington under siege was a city of endless receptions and parties. Daniel Mark Epstein captures the drama in each life. We see Nicolay, balancing his obligations to Lincoln with a long-distance engagement to his childhood sweetheart; Hay, the poet/amanuensis, in love with a famous and married actress; and Stoddard, a little too obsessed with gambling in the gold market.The secretaries left significant diaries, letters, and memoirs about Lincoln.
This meticulous triple biography looks at Lincoln's three private secretaries, John Nicolay, John Hay and William O. Stoddard. Closer to Lincoln than almost anyone else, these trusted confidantes and advisers handled all of the president's correspondence, acted occasionally as spies and, between Nicolay and Hay, penned the most famous "authorized" biography of Lincoln. Though their experiences in Lincoln's administration cast a poignant, personable light on the great president's working life, Epstein's work is far from accessible. The level of detail regarding the three secretaries is exhaustive beyond the interest of anyone but devoted American history scholars. Author and historian Epstein (Lincoln and Whitman, The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage) has intimate knowledge of his subjects but little to drive the story beyond the chronological push of history; meandering from man to man, his narrative isn't cohesive enough to hook casual history readers. Though obsessive Lincoln enthusiasts in search of a new perspective may be fascinated, any number of Lincoln books will offer casual history buffs a more engaging examination. (Feb.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
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January 01, 2010
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