The Presidents' War: Six American Presidents and the Civil War That Divided Them by Chris DeRose, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
The Presidents' War: Six American Presidents and the Civil War That Divided Them

The Presidents' War: Six American Presidents and the Civil War That Divided Them

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by Chris DeRose
     
 

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For the first time, readers will experience America's gravest crisis through the eyes of the five former presidents who lived it. Author and historian Chris DeRose chronicles history's most epic Presidential Royal Rumble, which culminated in a multi-front effort against Lincoln's reelection bid, but not before:
• John Tyler engaged in shuttle diplomacy

Overview

For the first time, readers will experience America's gravest crisis through the eyes of the five former presidents who lived it. Author and historian Chris DeRose chronicles history's most epic Presidential Royal Rumble, which culminated in a multi-front effort against Lincoln's reelection bid, but not before:
• John Tyler engaged in shuttle diplomacy between President Buchanan and the new Confederate Government. He chaired the Peace Convention of 1861, the last great hope for a political resolution to the crisis. When it failed, Tyler joined the Virginia Secession Convention, voted to leave the Union, and won election to the Confederate Congress.
• Van Buren, who had schemed to deny Lincoln the presidency, supported him in his efforts after Fort Sumter, and thwarted Franklin Pierce's attempt at a meeting of the ex-Presidents to undermine Lincoln.
• Millard Fillmore hosted Lincoln and Mary Todd on their way to Washington, initially supported the war effort, offered critical advice to keep Britain at bay, but turned on Lincoln over emancipation.
• Franklin Pierce, talked about as a Democratic candidate in 1860 and '64, was openly hostile to Lincoln and supportive of the South, an outspoken critic of Lincoln especially on civil liberties. After Vicksburg, when Jefferson Davis's home was raided, a secret correspondence between Pierce and the Confederate President was revealed.
• James Buchanan, who had left office as seven states had broken away from the Union, engaged in a frantic attempt to vindicate his administration, in part by tying himself to Lincoln and supporting the war, arguing that his successor had simply followed his policies. How Abraham Lincoln battled against his predecessors to preserve the Union and later to put an end to slavery is a thrilling tale of war waged at the top level of power.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
06/30/2014
At the time of Abraham Lincoln's election to president, five former presidents were still alive—an unprecedented and never-again achieved number. Derose (Congressman Lincoln) provides a fresh look at the politics of the Civil War by focusing on the interactions between the eloquent and passionate Illinoisan and predecessors John Tyler, Franklin Pierce, Martin Van Buren, James Buchanan, and Millard Fillmore. He reveals the former presidents' opposition to Lincoln's presidency and many of his now-historic positions, such as the Emancipation Proclamation, and their constant fight against Lincoln's administration. Derose sets this thorough and fascinating history in a well-developed and rich foundation of the presidencies and politics leading up to Lincoln's two terms, and he concludes by pointing out the way Lincoln changed the presidency as his predecessors had feared: into a "dynamic" and "powerful force for principle," which was for Lincoln the principle of freedom for all men. The number of names and complexity of details may be overwhelming for those unfamiliar with Antebellum period, but for those who are this book is a well-written, thorough, and engaging look into a unique political situation in American history. (June)
Civil War News
It is a masterful analysis. . . .The Presidents' War is well written and well researched. It addressed an interesting component of the Civil War that is sure to enlighten and entertain anyone interested in the war, politics or the presidency.
From the Publisher
"A history of the Civil War as told through the six American presidents that experienced it firsthand…. While discussing Jackson and Lincoln, DeRose smartly focuses his attention on a few of the lesser-known, but not less valuable presidents. The author's narrative . . . reveals eye-opening facts that are otherwise overlooked—e.g., John Tyler was the only president to die an enemy of his country…. [A]n informative compendium of the political struggles leading to the Civil War." —Kirkus Reviews"When Abraham Lincoln became president in 1861, five former presidents were still alive—a fact unique in American history. In this discerning book, Chris DeRose shows that all of them had opposed Lincoln's election, none supported his determination to resupply Fort Sumter, John Tyler became a Confederate and Franklin Pierce a Copperhead, Martin Van Buren's and James Buchanan's support for the Union war effort was lukewarm, and the three men still alive in 1864 (including Millard Fillmore) opposed the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln's re-election. In effect, Lincoln presided over the preservation of the Union and abolition of slavery without the support of his predecessors in the presidency." —James M. McPherson, Civil War historian, multi-volume author, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era "No American president ever came to office facing a graver crisis--or a larger group of unpredictable predecessors--than Abraham Lincoln. There have been thousands of books about Lincoln and the Civil War, but this is the first to explore these subjects through the ongoing stories of the ex-presidents who remained active, influential, and occasionally treacherous as the Union sought to save itself. Chris DeRose is to be congratulated for finding an entirely new way to revisit the Civil War." —Harold Holzer, chairman, Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation"When Abraham Lincoln took up residence in the White House in March 1861, he had five former occupants looking over his shoulder. No president ever had more. And what a motley crew they were…. While the Civil War is familiar ground to most readers, the story of how the living former presidents met the challenge — or didn't — is a fresh and fascinating take." —Roll Call"The Presidents' War sheds new light on a forgotten aspect of America's national tragedy, chronicling a neglected but highly significant array of chief executives." —David Pietrusza, historian and award-wining author of 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents "As Abraham Lincoln struggled to save the union during his presidency, his predecessors looked on with a skeptical and sometimes critical eye. They, too, had addressed the issues of slavery, sectional stresses, and national unity. Their solutions had not stood the test of time, yet they had little empathy for their successor. In a gripping, lively narrative informed by current scholarship, Chris DeRose tells the story of how former presidents Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Milliard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan judged Lincoln and the war they had failed to prevent." —Brooks D. Simpson, Professor of History at Arizona State University and award-winning author of Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph over Adversity, 1822–1865 "If you think there is nothing new to say about the American Civil War, Chris DeRose, one of the most imaginative scholars of the period, will surprise you with this fresh look through the eyes, deeds, and words of the six American presidents living at the time shots were fired upon Fort Sumter. Exhaustively researched, elegantly written, DeRose's book offers discerning insights into the contributions and foibles of presidents you may have thought were familiar, but who in DeRose's skilled hands you discover you hardly knew. Superb history and a must-have addition to anyone's Civil War library!" —Scott Farris, author of Almost President: The Men Who Lost the Race but Changed the Nation and Kennedy and Reagan: Why Their Legacies Endure
Library Journal
06/15/2014
Lawyer and author DeRose (Congressman Lincoln) traces the events before, during, and following a distinct period in American history in which a presiding president (Abraham Lincoln) was in office (1861–65) while five former presidents (John Tyler, Martin Van Buren, James Buchanan, Millard Fillmore, and Franklin Pierce) were also alive and politically powerful. Incredibly, all five of the latter not only opposed Lincoln's election but also attempted to thwart him in all of his most famous historic endeavors, including the Emancipation Proclamation. In this book rife with intrigue, DeRose describes how each former president attempted to exert his influence in the face of the oncoming civil war—in order to avoid it, to support the secession, or for his own political gain. To call this subject matter "complex" would be a gross understatement. The political machinations of these six men during this period are massive and nuanced; fortunately DeRose untangles the web and ultimately provides a satisfying and accessible history. Also impressive is how he manages to keep the narrative thread of each president alive in nearly every chapter, from the whispers of the nullification at the start to the cacophonous anger directed at Lincoln's reelection in 1864 at the end. Following the Great Emancipator as he navigates seemingly impossible political minefields to accomplish his effective work is riveting, but, make no mistake, this is a book about six presidents and not only one. VERDICT For fans of Lincoln and the other five presidents and readers of U.S. and Civil War history, political science, and biography.—Benjamin Brudner, Curry Coll. Lib., Milton, MA
Kirkus Reviews
2014-05-17
A history of the Civil War as told through the six American presidents that experienced it firsthand.Only once have five former presidents been alive to look upon their successor. When Abraham Lincoln took office in 1861, these men were John Tyler, Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. DeRose (Law/Arizona Summit Law School; Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, the Bill of Rights, and the Election that Saved a Nation, 2011, etc.) carefully examines each president's role in the buildup to the Civil War and their respective differences in their approaches to the problem of slavery and secession. Precipitated by the tariffs of 1828 and 1832, the nullification crisis of 1832 proved an early test of the Union's resolve and willingness to assert its sovereignty. South Carolina declared both tariff bills null and void and would no longer remit federal duties. President Andrew Jackson, hardly one to recoil from this type of brazen insubordination, demanded local allies collect the duty by any means necessary and issued a statement asserting the power of the Union over the right of a state to annul federal law or secede. Ultimately, the nullification crisis was resolved through political compromise, but the pivotal issue of secession proved to have roots far deeper than many could have foreseen. Foreshadowing the Civil War nearly 40 years later, this crisis would shape the way future presidents forged their opinions on slavery and states' rights. While discussing Jackson and Lincoln, DeRose smartly focuses his attention on a few of the lesser-known, but not less valuable presidents. The author's narrative portraits of each president's often precarious relationship to the Union reveals eye-opening facts that are otherwise overlooked—e.g., John Tyler was the only president to die an enemy of his country.DeRose condenses half a century's worth of political history into an informative compendium of the political struggles leading to the Civil War.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780762796649
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
06/17/2014
Pages:
392
Sales rank:
539,712
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Chris DeRose is the author of Congressman Lincoln: The Making of America’s Greatest President and Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, the Bill of Rights, and the Election that Saved a Nation, named by the Washington Post as one of the Best Political Books of 2011. DeRose is an attorney and political strategist who, for the past seventeen years, has served in every capacity on campaigns up and down the ballot across five different states. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Visit chrisderosebooks.com.

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