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

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

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by Elizabeth D. Leonard
     
 

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Co-winner of the 2012 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize

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, then went on to serve as President Lincoln's judge advocate general. In Lincoln's Forgotten Ally

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Overview

Co-winner of the 2012 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize

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, 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.

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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

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

[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

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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807869383
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
10/10/2011
Series:
Civil War America
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
972,777
File size:
4 MB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Joseph Holt was a fascinating fellow who found himself thrust into the midst of extraordinary events. A staunch Kentucky Unionist surrounded by secessionists, this brilliant attorney entered the public stage as part of the Buchanan administration, and rose to national prominence—and historic significance—as Abraham Lincoln's judge advocate general. For too long historians have neglected Holt's career. Until now. Elizabeth Leonard has done a superb job of capturing the life of one of the Civil War era's most significant and intriguing public men.—J. Matthew Gallman, University of Florida, author of Northerners at War: Reflections on the Civil War Home Front

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