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A Dual Biograpy of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis

by Bruce Chadwick

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-55972-462-5
Publisher: Birch Lane Press

Chadwick (Brother Against Brother, 1997) recounts what are by now well-known details in the lives of Lincoln, the prairie stalwart, and Davis, the gentleman farmer from Mississippi, who respectively led the United States and the Confederate States during the Civil War. His conclusion: that the two leaders were different, and that their personalities influenced the outcome of the conflict. Lincoln was stern, austere, in control of his emotions, although —ambition burned in him like an incandescent candle.— Davis, mercurial and violence-prone, was —a steaming cauldron,— although he —was governing as a humanitarian interested in preserving individual liberties and running the army as an enlightened commander.— Stir in cannons, and you have Appomattox. Chadwick does hit on a note of interest, for just a moment, when he briefly examines the unfolding scholarly literature on various attempts by the two leaders to have each other assassinated (one thinks of Kennedy and Castro); he cites Federal papers captured by Confederates at Richmond that ordered the immediate execution of Davis and his cabinet, and he suggests that John Wilkes Booth was under Davis’s orders, but only to kidnap Lincoln from the Ford Theatre. Chadwick’s unapologetic reversion to the Great Man theory of history will not impress professional historians, who have long since attributed to other causes’superior firepower, control of the seas—the eventual Union victory over the secessionists. Neither, because the book is so poorly written, will it likely impress Civil War buffs, who will already have almost all the information Chadwick presents. Relentlessly disappointing. (24 pages photos, not seen)