1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History

1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History

by Charles Bracelen Flood
     
 

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In a masterful narrative, historian and biographer Charles Bracelen Flood brings to life the drama of Lincoln's final year, in which he oversaw the last campaigns of the Civil War, was reelected as president, and laid out his majestic vision for the nation's future in a reunified South and in the expanding West.

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Overview

In a masterful narrative, historian and biographer Charles Bracelen Flood brings to life the drama of Lincoln's final year, in which he oversaw the last campaigns of the Civil War, was reelected as president, and laid out his majestic vision for the nation's future in a reunified South and in the expanding West.

In 1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History, the reader is plunged into the heart of that crucial year as Lincoln faced enormous challenges. The Civil War was far from being won: as the year began, Lincoln had yet to appoint Ulysses S. Grant as the general-in-chief who would finally implement the bloody strategy and dramatic campaigns that would bring victory.

At the same time, with the North sick of the war, Lincoln was facing a reelection battle in which hundreds of thousands of "Peace Democrats" were ready to start negotiations that could leave the Confederacy as a separate American nation, free to continue the practice of slavery. In his personal life, he had to deal with the erratic behavior of his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and both Lincolns were haunted by the sudden death, two years before, of their beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie.

1864 is the story of Lincoln's struggle with all this -- the war on the battlefields and a political scene in which his own secretary of the treasury, Salmon P. Chase, was working against him in an effort to become the Republican candidate himself. The North was shocked by such events as Grant's attack at Cold Harbor, during which seven thousand Union soldiers were killed in twenty minutes, and the Battle of the Crater, where three thousand Union men died in a bungled attempt to blow up Confederate trenches. The year became so bleak that on August 23, Lincoln wrote in a memorandum, "This morning, as for several days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be reelected." But, with the increasing success of his generals, and a majority of the American public ready to place its faith in him, Lincoln and the nation ended 1864 with the close of the war in sight and slavery on the verge of extinction.

1864 presents the man who not only saved the nation, but also, despite the turmoil of the war and political infighting, set the stage for westward expansion through the Homestead Act, the railroads, and the Act to Encourage Immigration.

As 1864 ends and Lincoln, reelected, is planning to heal the nation, John Wilkes Booth, whose stalking of Lincoln through 1864 is one of this book's suspenseful subplots, is a few weeks away from killing him.

Editorial Reviews

Janet Maslin
By focusing a book entirely on the tactical maneuvers that got Lincoln through 1864, the historian Charles Bracelen Flood makes a smart tactical choice of his own…Mr. Flood's 1864 compresses the multiple demands upon Lincoln into a tight time frame and thus captures a dizzying, visceral sense of why this single year took such a heavy toll.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Critically acclaimed historian Flood (Grant and Sherman: The Friendship that Won the Civil War) provides a brilliant, compelling account of Lincoln's dramatic final full year of life-a year in which the war finally turned in the Union's favor and Lincoln faced a tough battle for re-election. After Union defeats at the Battle of Cold Harbor and the siege of Petersburg, Confederate General Jubal Early came within five miles of Washington, D.C., before he was beaten back; General Sherman's September victory at Atlanta followed, with his bloody march to the sea. At the same time, Lincoln found himself running against his own secretary of the treasury, Salmon Chase, for the Republican nomination, and then against the Democrat (and general) George B. McClellan for the presidency. Lincoln won by a narrow popular majority, but a significant electoral majority. At the close of 1864, as Lincoln celebrated both his re-election and the coming end of the war, John Wilkes Booth laid down an ambitious plan for kidnapping that soon evolved into a map for murder. Combining a novelist's flair with the authority and deep knowledge of a scholar, Flood artfully integrates this complex web of storylines. 16 pages of b&w photos, maps.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal

As 1864 dawned and the Civil War dragged on, war weariness swept the North. President Lincoln was faced with the duel task of turning the war toward a Union victory and being reelected to the presidency. Flood, who has written many previous studies of aspects of the Civil War era (e.g., Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the War), here turns to the personal and public story of Lincoln himself during his last full year of life. Drawing upon extensive primary and secondary sources, Flood weaves a compelling narrative of this brilliant, compassionate, but haunted leader as he deals with political rivals, military commanders, battlefield reverses, and his troubled personal life. Including as it does a mixture of military, social, and political history and many voices from the period, the tale is both engagingly spun and well documented. However, libraries that already have other recent, more rigorously focused books on these ultimate aspects of Lincoln's presidency, such as John Waugh's Reelecting Lincoln: The Battle for the 1864 Presidency, may choose to pass on this one. [See Prepub Alert, LJ10/15/08.]
—Theresa McDevitt

Kirkus Reviews
Historian Flood (Grant and Sherman, 2005, etc.) offers an inside view of the Lincoln White House during one of the most critical years of the Civil War, focusing on the president's battle for re-election. The author conveys the turmoil of a period when Lincoln spent almost as much time fighting his own Cabinet as his generals did fighting the Confederacy. Flood opens with the traditional White House New Year's Day reception, then follows all the major twists and turns of Lincoln's fortunes during the course of 1864. A key decision came in January, when McClellan was dropped from command. The general, who privately described Lincoln as "an idiot," became his Democratic opponent in the election. Meanwhile, Grant was transferred to the eastern front to apply new pressure to the still defiant South. The election and the war were inextricably bound; as the Union army's fortunes changed, so did Lincoln's prospects for returning to office. Both the Peace Democrats and the radical Republicans saw him as an enemy of their goals. Grant's first encounters with Lee's army led to long casualty lists, and Jubal Early's assault on Washington in July gave Lincoln reason to despair. By late summer, he was convinced the Democrats would oust him. But just before the election, Sherman's capture of Atlanta, backed by Sheridan's scourging of the Shenandoah Valley, gave Lincoln the boost he needed to win. Flood orchestrates the complex events of this roller-coaster year with a sure hand, taking plenty of time to look at individual dramas away from the main scene, such as the reporter who brought news of Grant's first Virginia battles to Washington but was nearly shot as a spy before Lincoln saved him. Theauthor does fair justice to all the astonishing events, closing with a poignant look ahead to the president's assassination and a letter from an admiring journalist wishing, "May God help you in the future as he has helped you in the past."Stirring history told in rich detail. Agent: John Taylor "Ike" Williams/Kneerim & Williams
From the Publisher
"The book is as adept at analyzing Lincoln's choices as at showing what they meant to his ravaged nation." —The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439156490
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
02/03/2009
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
544
Sales rank:
973,445
File size:
815 KB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"The book is as adept at analyzing Lincoln's choices as at showing what they meant to his ravaged nation." —-The New York Times

Meet the Author

Charles Bracelen Flood is the author of eleven previous books, including Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War. He is a past president of PEN America Center and has served on the governing bodies of the Authors League and the Authors Guild. Flood and his wife, Katherine, live in Richmond, Kentucky.

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