In Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America, historian William Gienapp provides a remarkably concise, up-to-date, and vibrant biography of the most revered figure in United States history.
While the heart of the book focuses on the Civil War, Gienapp begins with a finely etched portrait of Lincoln's early life, from pioneer farm boy, to politician and lawyer in Springfield, to his stunning election as sixteenth president of the United States. We see how Lincoln grew during his years in office, how he developed a keen aptitude for military strategy and displayed enormous skill in dealing with his generals, and also how his war strategy evolved from a desire to preserve the Union to emancipation and total war.
Gienapp shows how Lincoln's early years influenced his skills as commander-in-chief and also demonstrates that throughout the stresses of the war years, Lincoln's basic character shone through: his good will and fundamental decency, his remarkable self-confidence matched with genuine humility, his immunity to the passions and hatreds the war spawned, his extraordinary patience, and his timeless eloquence. A former backwoodsman and country lawyer, Abraham Lincoln rose to become one of our greatest presidents. This biography offers a vivid account of Lincoln's dramatic ascension to the pinnacle of American history.
Harvard history professor Gienapp (The Origins of the Republican Party) devotes a mere 70 pages of his brief new biography to Abraham Lincoln's prepresidential life; in a volume that "synthesizes modern scholarship about Lincoln" with the author's own studies, the Civil War years rightfully get most of the attention. At 51, Lincoln was one of the youngest men to be elected president, and he was also the first Westerner. Something of an unknown to Republican Party power brokers back east, Lincoln didn't have time to prove himself viable before South Carolina seceded from the Union and the Civil War loomed. Gienapp's primary ambition is to show how the green, upstart president handled the four years of crisis that followed and how he became such an "extraordinary war leader." Throughout the book, he reveals Lincoln as a shrewd arbitrator of political factions, armies and perhaps most importantly rhetoric and propaganda. Likewise, Gienapp shows Lincoln the man: the father grieving over the death of a cherished son, the husband dealing with a moody, combustible wife. Gienapp seems to especially relish accounts of the harried Lincoln's savvy PR moves throughout the war, as when, in 1864, he threw a bone to Northern pacifists and expressed his willingness to engage in peace talks with the Confederacy. At the same time, Lincoln set out rigid preconditions for the talks that he knew Jefferson Davis never could accept. This is the Lincoln Gienapp gives us: astute, subtle, incisive and tragic. Illus. (Apr.) Forecast: This is a fine intro for new browsers through the Lincoln bookshelf, though David Herbert Donald's work remains the definitive bio to date.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Oxford University Press, Incorporated
October 16, 2002
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