LINCOLN'S BOYS by Joshua Zeitz


John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln's Image
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Zeitz (Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern, 2006, etc.) approaches the already overloaded realm of Abraham Lincoln studies from a fresh direction.

John Nicolay (1832–1901) and John Hay (1838–1905) were young, intelligent, ambitious men who became acquainted with Lincoln during his pre-presidential years in Springfield, Ill. When Lincoln shifted from obscure Illinois lawyer-legislator to the presidency within a four-year span, Nicolay and Hay became the key members of his staff, controlling access to him in the White House, drafting policy memos, traveling with him around the nation and attending to many of his personal needs. During the Civil War, Nicolay and Hay knew more about Lincoln's thoughts and actions than anybody else. After the assassination, they had to figure out what to reveal about the president they considered a great patriot and in what form to do the revealing. Both experienced distinguished careers inside and outside government, married happily and raised families, but they knew implicitly that they would have to face up to the task of extending the Lincoln legacy. The result: two decades of extensive research with unparalleled access to Lincoln's personal and presidential papers, culminating in a 10-volume, admiring biography. Zeitz does a masterful job delineating the lives of Nicolay and Hay, explaining their roles in political contests, narrating their interactions with Lincoln and placing the Nicolay-Hay biography within the larger context of Lincoln studies. The author is mostly admiring of Nicolay and Hay, while simultaneously factoring in their biases in the service of American history. Readers will quite likely realize the vital role of the massive biography in understanding the seemingly simple man who became a complicated national touchstone.

Fascinating scholarship from Zeitz, who knows how to present history to an audience of nonspecialists.

Pub Date: Feb. 3rd, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-670-02566-4
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2013


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