The Battle for the 1864 Presidency
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 A vigorous, detailed record of the crucial campaign for the presidency during the last bitter stages of the Civil War. Waugh, a journalist with the Christian Science Monitor and a historian (The Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomattox, 1994), brings the skills of both callings to bear on this somewhat unlikely subject and produces a surprisingly lively narrative. As he notes, there have been other studies of Lincoln's uncertain struggle for reelection. Waugh's stands out for its skillful marshalling of a huge cast of characters, from hard-bitten politicos to Confederate spies, some less-than-honorable journalists, and a wide variety of citizens and citizen-soldiers, all of them anxious and exhausted by the war, and for its savvy reading of the forces at work in American society. Startling as it may now seem, at the beginning of the campaign Lincoln was a long shot; many felt that the war had gone on too long and had been mishandled, and that too many freedoms had been abridged in the process. There was also the fact that his Democratic opponent, Gen. George McClellan, seemed to have been ordered from central casting for the part: A handsome ex-soldier, McClellan had gravity and a winning manner with the public. Nonetheless, Lincoln won by a margin of over 400,000 votes (and a staggering electoral college vote of 212 to 21). Waugh traces Lincoln's savvy campaign (which was also, as Lincoln saw it, a referendum on the conduct of the war) in great detail, and his portrait of 19th-century rough-and- tumble politics is fascinating. He points out that the soldiers may have made the difference: By an overwhelming majority, they voted for Lincoln over their former commander. Waugh has taken a frequently overlooked event in the Civil War and found the drama and importance in it. An entertaining and even moving work of popular history. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-517-59766-7
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1997


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