One Man Great Enough: Abraham Lincoln's Road to Civil War


How did Abraham Lincoln, long held as a paragon of presidential bravery and principled politics, find his way to the White House? How did he become this one man great enough to risk the fate of the nation on the well-worn but cast-off notion that all men are created equal?

Here award-winning historian John C. Waugh takes us on Lincoln’s road to the Civil War. From Lincoln's first public rejection of slavery to his secret arrival in the capital, from his stunning ...

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How did Abraham Lincoln, long held as a paragon of presidential bravery and principled politics, find his way to the White House? How did he become this one man great enough to risk the fate of the nation on the well-worn but cast-off notion that all men are created equal?

Here award-winning historian John C. Waugh takes us on Lincoln’s road to the Civil War. From Lincoln's first public rejection of slavery to his secret arrival in the capital, from his stunning debates with Stephen Douglas to his contemplative moments considering the state of the country he loved, Waugh shows us America as Lincoln saw it and as Lincoln described it. Much of this wonderful story is told by Lincoln himself, detailing through his own writing his emergence onto the political scene and the evolution of his beliefs about the Union, the Constitution, democracy, slavery, and civil war. Waugh brings Lincoln’s path into new reliefby letting the great man tell his own story, at a depth that brings us ever closer to understanding this mysterious, complicated, truly great man.

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Editorial Reviews

Michael F. Bishop
A swift-paced narrative of Lincoln's pre-presidential life, the book is a competent introduction to what George Will once called "the world's noblest political career." Waugh tells a thoroughly familiar story in a breezy, colloquial style.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Former Christian Science Monitorjournalist Waugh is the author of six books on the Civil War, including Re-electing Lincoln, perhaps the most accessible and complete volume on the pivotal presidential election of 1864. In his latest book, Waugh employs the same combination of lively prose backed with solid research to examine Lincoln's life story from birth to his first presidential inauguration, rarely straying from the themes of the future of the Union, impending Civil War and, more importantly, slavery. Waugh covers the events in Lincoln's pre-April 1861 life, making liberal use of Lincoln's own words, primarily from letters and speeches, and the reminiscences of one of Lincoln's closest friends and associates, his former law partner William Herndon. Waugh shows that although Lincoln embraced white supremacy and opposed interracial marriage and black suffrage during his early years as an Illinois state legislator, he managed to separate those views from his strong opposition to the institution of slavery. "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong," Lincoln later said. "I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel." Waugh is particular adept at weaving details of Lincoln's family life into the narrative, which focuses on decidedly political matters, including the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates and the 1860 presidential election campaign. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Journalist Waugh sketches Lincoln from his parentage up to the attack on Fort Sumpter. His easy and good-humored style will appeal to many readers. He does not forsake arguably unreliable narrators, such as Lincoln cousin Dennis Hanks and while some scholars might object, others will see the magic in keeping such voices with us in following Lincoln's journey. Recommended for public and undergraduate libraries.

—Margaret Heilbrun
Kirkus Reviews
Waugh (On the Brink of Civil War: The Compromise of 1850 and How It Changed the Course of American History, 2003, etc.), a Civil War historian and former bureau chief of the Christian Science Monitor, offers a lively biography of the Great Emancipator, from birth to first inauguration. Where Julie M. Fenster's recent The Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder and the Making of a Great President (2007) considered the personal, legal and political life of Lincoln through the prism of a single criminal case, Waugh's more conventional treatment offers nothing new either in approach or content. Still, his judicious use of the historical record and his dramatic prose make for an enjoyable read. He provides sufficient detail about Lincoln the impoverished youth, the striving young clerk, the busy lawyer and the harried family man, and he pauses frequently to analyze Lincoln's character and mind. But the emphasis here is on Lincoln the political animal, particularly his evolution from a little-known Illinois legislator to a one-term U.S. congressman, to a marginalized Whig Party operator, to national spokesman for and eventual nominee of the newly emerging Republican Party. Waugh presents Lincoln as a special product of mid-century Illinois, that critical swing state, a peculiar amalgam of sophistication and rusticity, of Northern and Southern sensibilities. By 1856, the state had produced only one universally recognized statesman-Stephen A. Douglas, too often portrayed as Lincoln's evil twin, but here rightly regarded as brilliantly able, caught in the same historical vise that held Lincoln fast: how to succeed politically in the face of a single explosive issue, slavery, thatthreatened to sunder the union. The author is especially good on the Lincoln/Douglas dynamic, following their parallel careers from their battles as young lawyers in Springfield to their epic 1858 senate race, to the presidential contest of 1860. In the end, Lincoln's sometimes slow but always careful reasoning, his eloquence and, above all, his ceaseless ambition brought him to power where his talent proved, indeed, great enough to ensure the republic's survival. Unlikely to impress jaded Lincoln devotees, but sure to charm newcomers. Agent: Mike Hamilburg/The Mitchell J. Hamilburg Agency
From the Publisher

"Reelecting Lincoln . . . brings a great deal of discrete information together in an informative fashion and it is, as Waugh well knows—and well tells it—a terrific story."—The Washington Post

"Waugh . . . recounts the 1864 election with great narrative skill. The story sweeps along, with brilliant vignettes of all the players in the drama and one vivid scene after another."—The New York Times Book Review

Thomas F. Schwartz
"General audiences will delight in Waugh's expansive narrative full of colorful anecdotes. This book vividly illustrates why Abraham Lincoln remains a touchstone for democracy."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781433205262
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/2007
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Pages: 7
  • Product dimensions: 6.61 (w) x 9.17 (h) x 2.37 (d)

Meet the Author

John C. Waugh is the award-winning author of four other books about the Civil War, two of which—Reelecting Lincoln and The Class of 1846—were Main Selections of the History Book Club. A former bureau chief of the Christian Science Monitor, his writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Civil War Times Illustrated. He lives in Pantego, Texas.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: The Uncoiling of the Serpent     1
Who He Was and Where He Came From     5
The Dark and Bloody Ground     7
The Hoosier Years     11
Making His Way     21
New Salem     23
Politics     33
Vandalia     39
The Issue's Dark Side     47
Death in Alton     49
Political Enemies and Female Enigmas     61
Springfield     63
Young Hickory     73
The Ballyhoo Campaign     85
Lincoln in Love     105
On the National Stage     117
The Steam Engine in Breeches and the Engine that Knew No Rest     119
"Who Is James K. Polk?"     129
Laying Congressional Pipe     143
Seeing Spots     153
Eclipse     165
Lincoln's Other Life     167
What He Had Become     183
Tempest     193
Clash of the Giants     201
Lincoln Emerges     203
Political Earthquake     221
At the Crossroads     233
Axe Handles and Wedges     239
A House Divided     249
The Debates     265
On the Glory Road     285
Spreading the Gospel     287
Cooper Union     295
Reaching for the Brass Ring     309
Chicago     319
From Ballots to Bullets     339
The Four Legged Race     341
Firebell in the Night     359
Getting There     377
The War Comes     397
Epilogue: Twilight of the Little Giant     413
In Appreciation     419
Notes     422
Sources Cited     455
Index     464
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