Noted historians reflect on the life and presidency of Abraham Lincoln.
“Thousands of works have been written about Lincoln, and almost any Lincoln you want can be found in the literature,” writes contributor Eric Foner, and his contention is borne out by these recent papers from the Lincoln Forum, an annual scholarly event. Co-editors Holzer (Lincoln and the Power of the Press, 2014, etc.), Symonds (Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings, 2014, etc.) and Williams (Judging Lincoln, 2002, etc.) have gathered authoritative views of Lincoln as a leader whose many facets—military strategist, savvy politician, man of exceptional character, among others—have earned him admiration as our greatest president. Contributors examine Lincoln’s relationships, actions and beliefs; his views on slavery and race; and his deft politicking to win the 1860 presidential campaign. Many papers focus on issues of concern to specialists. Others will have far broader appeal: Michael J. Kline offers a detailed account of the so-called Baltimore Plot to kill the president-elect (and finds no convincing evidence for it); Barnet Schecter traces the complexities of the 1863 New York City Draft Riots, the largest civil insurrection in U.S. history (where emotions over the first federal conscription law and fears over the Emancipation Proclamation exploded in five days of arson, looting and lynching); and Jason Emerson describes his discovery of Mary Lincoln’s long-lost sanitarium letters, which confirm her serious mental illness. John Stauffer tells the fascinating story of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” an anthem that began as an early-19th-century Southern camp meeting spiritual and later became the theme song for Billy Sunday’s revivals. Catherine Clinton’s contribution on mourning is a moving portrait of grieving mothers, many of whom turned to mediums to communicate with the dead.
A thoughtful treat for the Lincoln and Civil War crowds.