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Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861

by Harold Holzer

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7432-8947-4
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Award-winning Lincoln scholar Holzer (Lincoln at Cooper Union, 2004, etc.) meticulously examines the ominous period between the 16th president’s election and his swearing in.

In 1860 custom prevented Lincoln from taking the presidential oath until March, some four months after he won the office. This dangerously long interregnum—which Henry Adams called “The Great Secession Winter”—unfortunately coincided with the single greatest crisis in the nation’s history: the secession of southern states from the union. While the hapless incumbent James Buchanan dithered, Lincoln, without legal authority, maneuvered behind the scenes to stiffen his own supporters, assiduously avoiding needless offense to the South. From borrowed capitol offices in his hometown of Springfield, Ill., he faced the delicate political task of assembling his cabinet; answered torrents of mail from and met with hundreds of critics, well-wishers and office-seekers; sat for artists and photographers and began growing his iconic beard; worked on the most important speech of his life, his inaugural address; and contacted hundreds of opinion-makers, party leaders and members of Congress, attempting to contain the crisis. With a month to go before inauguration, he delivered his touching farewell address to his neighbors and set off on a 13-day trip to Washington. Relying on recollections by Lincoln’s contemporaries, newspaper and magazine accounts, Holzer turns in a learned chronicle of a massively significant few months.

Effectively brings this tense interlude to vivid life.