Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography

Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography

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by William E. Gienapp

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In Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America, historian William Gienapp provides a remarkably concise, up-to-date, and vibrant biography of the most revered figure in United States history. While the heart of the book focuses on the Civil War, Gienapp begins with a finely etched portrait of Lincoln's early life, from pioneer farm boy to politician and lawyer in


In Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America, historian William Gienapp provides a remarkably concise, up-to-date, and vibrant biography of the most revered figure in United States history. While the heart of the book focuses on the Civil War, Gienapp begins with a finely etched portrait of Lincoln's early life, from pioneer farm boy to politician and lawyer in Springfield, to his stunning election as sixteenth president of the United States. Students will see how Lincoln grew during his years in office, how he developed a keen aptitude for military strategy and displayed enormous skill in dealing with his generals, and how his war strategy evolved from a desire to preserve the Union to emancipation and total war. Gienapp shows how Lincoln's early years influenced his skills as commander-in-chief and demonstrates that, throughout the stresses of the war years, Lincoln's basic character shone through: his good will and fundamental decency, his remarkable self-confidence matched with genuine humility, his immunity to the passions and hatreds the war spawned, his extraordinary patience, and his timeless devotion. A former backwoodsman and country lawyer, Abraham Lincoln rose to become one of our greatest presidents. This biography offers a vivid account of Lincoln's dramatic ascension to the pinnacle of American history.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Harvard history professor Gienapp (The Origins of the Republican Party) devotes a mere 70 pages of his brief new biography to Abraham Lincoln's prepresidential life; in a volume that "synthesizes modern scholarship about Lincoln" with the author's own studies, the Civil War years rightfully get most of the attention. At 51, Lincoln was one of the youngest men to be elected president, and he was also the first Westerner. Something of an unknown to Republican Party power brokers back east, Lincoln didn't have time to prove himself viable before South Carolina seceded from the Union and the Civil War loomed. Gienapp's primary ambition is to show how the green, upstart president handled the four years of crisis that followed and how he became such an "extraordinary war leader." Throughout the book, he reveals Lincoln as a shrewd arbitrator of political factions, armies and perhaps most importantly rhetoric and propaganda. Likewise, Gienapp shows Lincoln the man: the father grieving over the death of a cherished son, the husband dealing with a moody, combustible wife. Gienapp seems to especially relish accounts of the harried Lincoln's savvy PR moves throughout the war, as when, in 1864, he threw a bone to Northern pacifists and expressed his willingness to engage in peace talks with the Confederacy. At the same time, Lincoln set out rigid preconditions for the talks that he knew Jefferson Davis never could accept. This is the Lincoln Gienapp gives us: astute, subtle, incisive and tragic. Illus. (Apr.) Forecast: This is a fine intro for new browsers through the Lincoln bookshelf, though David Herbert Donald's work remains the definitive bio to date. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Not taking much stock in the genre, Lincoln tried to shield himself from biography by guarding his private self and carefully crafting his public words and image. Of course, so complex a man, who came to embody America in its ordeal by fire, has attracted scores of biographers hoping to solve the ultimate American enigma. Now Gienapp, author of the acclaimed Origins of the Republican Party, enters the crowded field. This biography neatly synthesizes much recent scholarship and makes Lincoln believable as a president struggling to defend the Union and define freedom. Rather than inventing a Lincoln psyche or persona, as some biographers have done, or trading in oft-recycled Lincoln myths, Giennap goes back to the primary sources to discover a Lincoln who was simultaneously principled and practical, confident of his ability to persuade (though too much so in dealing with generals) and assured in making policy (he was a loner who relied on his own judgment). He does not find the source of Lincoln's enormous ambition, but he does show why Lincoln etched his thought and character into Americans' understanding of themselves. In the public speeches Gienapp gathers in This Fiery Trail, the clarity and cadences of Lincoln's language resound. It is a most apt collection, useful to teachers and anyone wanting to know why Lincoln was our herald. These books in tandem are an excellent way to get hold of Lincoln. Highly recommended. Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"The best brief biography of Lincoln I have read. Briskly written, concise, and informed by the latest scholarship, it is destined to become a standard book in its field."—David Herbert Donald, Charles Warren Professor of American History Emeritus, Harvard University, and author of Lincoln

"In a notoriously crowded field, this book is something quite rare: a truly concise, authoritative overview of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. While scholars will admire its sure command of the subject and its deft treatment of complicated historical issues, this book will be particularly valuable for non-specialists. Written in clear and direct prose by one of the leading scholars in the field, it is an ideal choice for the student or general reader."—Douglas L. Wilson, author of Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln

"William Gienapp's Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America answers a longstanding need for a biography of Lincoln manageable in size, accessible in style, and wise and balanced in content. Lincoln appears on every page of the book and is never lost sight of in the welter of events. He emerges from the text a real and believable person, an individual and a great one. Gienapp also gives readers a well-considered, powerful and persuasive assessment of Lincoln's leadership abilities, the finest such appraisal available anywhere."—Mark E. Neely, Jr., McCabe-Greer Professor of History of the Civil War Era at Pennsylvania State University and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties

"When one of the best of our historians focuses on our greatest president, one expects remarkable results. Readers will not be disappointed. Gienapp's book fills well a long-felt need for a brief, first-rate biography of Lincoln."—Gabor Boritt, Director of the Civil War Institute, Gettysburg College

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Oxford University Press
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Meet the Author

William E. Gienapp is Professor of History at Harvard University. He is the author of the award-winning Origins of the Republican Party, co-author of one of the best-selling college texts for American history, Nation of Nations, and editor of The Civil War and Reconstruction: A Documentary Collection.

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Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America : A Biography 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Written in simple form for easy understanding....truly enjoyed it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is great if you like history, but i dont.