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Lincoln's Forgotten Ally: Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of Kentucky

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Joseph Holt, the stern, brilliant, and deeply committed Unionist from Kentucky, spent the first several months of the American Civil War successfully laboring to maintain Kentucky's loyalty to the Union and then went on to serve as President Lincoln's judge advocate general. In Lincoln's Forgotten Ally, Elizabeth Leonard offers the first full-scale biography of Holt, who has long been overlooked and misunderstood by historians and students of the war.

In his capacity as the ...

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2011 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 417 p. Contains: Illustrations, black & white, Halftones, black & white, ... Frontispiece. Civil War America (Hardcover). Audience: General/trade. Fast shipping! Read more Show Less

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Lincoln's Forgotten Ally: Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of Kentucky

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Overview

Joseph Holt, the stern, brilliant, and deeply committed Unionist from Kentucky, spent the first several months of the American Civil War successfully laboring to maintain Kentucky's loyalty to the Union and then went on to serve as President Lincoln's judge advocate general. In Lincoln's Forgotten Ally, Elizabeth Leonard offers the first full-scale biography of Holt, who has long been overlooked and misunderstood by historians and students of the war.

In his capacity as the administration's chief arbiter and enforcer of military law, Holt strove tenaciously, often against strong resistance, to implement Lincoln's wartime policies, including emancipation. After Lincoln's assassination, Holt accepted responsibility for pursuing and bringing to justice everyone involved in John Wilkes Booth's conspiracy. It was because of this role, in which he is often portrayed as a brutal prosecutor, and because of his hard position toward the South, Leonard contends, that Holt's reputation suffered. Leonard argues, however, that Holt should not be defined by what Southern sympathizers and proponents of the Lost Cause came to think of him. Lincoln's Forgotten Ally seeks to restore Holt, who dedicated both his energy and his influence to ensuring that the Federal victory would bring about lasting positive change for the nation, to his rightful place in American memory.

Co-winner of the 2012 Lincoln Prize

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Leonard has done a great service to Holt and to modern readers by releasing his story from its reconciliationist captives. Holt's commitment to the Union. . . . reclaims the central tenet of Lincoln's willingness to go to war: preservation of the Union."—Journal of the North Carolina Association of Historians

"A captivating biography of Joseph Holt. . . . Displaying the dexterity of an accomplished historian, Leonard reconstructs Holt's personal life to reveal a fascinating portrait of the type of representative—but not "great"—man who was instrumental in constructing the modern American nation." —The Annals of Iowa

"A well-written and compelling biography. . . . Leonard skillfully illuminates, in a readable and engaging fashion, aspects of Holt and his world. . . . A useful book, both for the classroom and a popular audience."—Southern Historian

"A model of scholarly biography."—Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

"[A] well-written, scholarly, and well-documented book. . . . Highly recommended for both academic and general readers interested in the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Lincoln assassination, and legal history."—The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"[With] Leonard's skillful research and careful assessment. . . . Joseph Holt will no longer remain an obscure figure."—Journal of American History

"Leonard skillfully and meticulously reconstructs Holt's 87-year life. . . . Judge Advocate General Holt will no longer be forgotten."—Civil War Book Review

"An outstanding example of how even a diffident life like Holt's can be made emblematic of great themes in an era of great conflict."—Civil War News

"Leonard's book is biography at its best in that it illustrates, informs, and deepens the written history of the American people and one's understanding of human nature."—Journal of Illinois History

"[Leonard] has admirably brought Holt to life. . . . A sympathetic and sensible reading of a difficult personality and the making of federal legal power, recommended for serious readers and university libraries."—Library Journal

Library Journal
Leonard (history, Colby Coll.) encountered Joseph Holt while working on her Lincoln's Avengers: Justice, Revenge, and Reunion After the Civil War, and she recognized that such an important figure at the center of crucial legal, constitutional, and political concerns arising from secession and war demanded a close examination. She has admirably brought Holt to life, showing him as a prickly but principled advocate for the Union, even at the cost of dividing his Kentucky family and disrupting his friendships, and as a figure of considerable influence in shaping American patent practices, rules of war, and the application of military justice. Leonard's major contribution here is in going inside the workings of the government to track the competing interests and understandings of such issues as secession, dissent, the postwar prosecution of ex-rebels, and the arrest, trial, and execution of those involved in assassinating President Lincoln. VERDICT A sympathetic and sensible reading of a difficult personality and the making of federal legal power, recommended for serious readers and university libraries.—Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807835005
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 10/10/2011
  • Series: Civil War America Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth D. Leonard is the John J. and Cornelia V. Gibson Professor of History at Colby College. She is the author of several books, including Lincoln's Avengers: Justice, Revenge, and Reunion after the Civil War.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2013

    Holt Mansion location

    Holt Mansion is in Holt, Ky. Stephensport is several miles from Holt. I grew up within walking distance of the home.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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