Many good studies about the [Civil War] will be published, but few will be as exhilarating as 1861: The Civil War Awakening. Like many of the best works of history, 1861 creates the uncanny illusion that the reader has stepped into a time machine…Goodheart's version is at once more panoramic and more intimate than most standard accounts, and more inspiring. This is fundamentally a history of hearts and minds, rather than of legislative bills and battles.
The New York Times
Goodheart, a historian and journalist who will be writing a column on the Civil War for the New York Times online, makes sophisticated use of a broad spectrum of sources for an evocative reinterpretation of the Civil War's beginnings. Wanting to retrieve the war from recent critics who dismiss the importance of slavery in the Union's aims, he reframes the war as "not just a Southern rebellion but a nationwide revolution" to free the country of slavery and paralyzing attempts to compromise over it. The revolution began long before the war's first shots were fired. But it worked on the minds and hearts of average whites and blacks, slaves and free men. By 1861 it had attained an irresistible momentum. Goodheart shifts focus away from the power centers of Washington and Charleston to look at the actions and reactions of citizens from Boston to New York City, from Hampton Roads, Va., to St. Louis, Mo., and San Francisco, emphasizing the cultural, rather than military, clash between those wanting the country to move forward and those clinging to the old ways. War would be waged for four bitter years, with enduring seriousness, intensity, and great heroism, Goodheart emphasizes. 15 illus. (Apr.)
A New York Times Notable Book
Praise for Adam Goodheart’s 1861
“Exhilarating. . . . Inspiring. . . . Irresistible. . . . 1861 creates the uncanny illusion that the reader has stepped into a time machine.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“A huge contribution. . . . Hardly a page of this book lacks an insight of importance or a fact that beguiles the reader.”
—The Boston Globe
“Adam Goodheart is a Monet with a pen instead of a paintbrush.”
—James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom
“Goodheart writes with precision, beauty and understanding. The books will renew one’s excitement about reading history.”
—The Albuquerque Journal
“Rich, multitiered history.”
—The New York Review of Books
“Goodheart shows us that even at 150 years’ distance there are new voices, and new stories, to be heard about the Civil War, and that together they can have real meaning. . . . He takes what is known, breaks it down to its elemental parts and rearranges it, giving us a different view entirely of something we thought we understood entirely.”
—The Boston Globe
“1861 is the best book I have ever read on the start of the Civil War. . . . Penetrating, eloquent, and deeply moving, this is a classic introduction to the nation’s greatest conflict.”
—Tony Horwitz, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Confederates in the Attic
“Eloquent. . . . Gripping. . . . Goodheart gives readers a sense of what it was like to have been there.”
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Marvelous. . . . Goodheart brings us into the world of mid-nineteenth-century America, as ambiguous and ambitious and fractured as the times we live in now, and he brings to pulsing life the hearts and minds of its American citizens.”
—The Huffington Post
“Exceptional historical reporting. . . . Enlightening, insightful, and yes, entertaining.”
—The Tucson Citizen
“Doing what David McCullough’s 1776 did for the American Revolution, Goodheart’s book delivers a remarkably original and gripping account of the year the Civil War began.”
—History Book Club
“Goodheart is an elegant writer and this is a highly readable introduction to America’s great civil conflict.”
—The Seattle Times
“A compelling look at the country’s dawning realization that this would be much more than a quickly resolved conflict over slavery, through the experiences of a fascinating cast of characters given short shrift (if any shrift at all) in previous Civil War books.”
“Goodheart’s book stands out . . . for the author’s deft narrative style and vivid description. . . . [He] conjures a remarkable cast of individual Americans—from slaves and foot soldiers to the occupant of the Oval Office—using their stories to evoke a national watershed.”
“An impressive accomplishment, a delightful read, and a valuable contribution that will entertain and challenge popular and professional audiences alike.”
“With boundless verve, Adam Goodheart has sketched an uncommonly rich tableau of America on the cusp of the Civil War. The research is impeccable, the cast of little-known characters we are introduced to is thoroughly fascinating, the book is utterly thought-provoking, and the story is luminescent. What a triumph.”
—Jay Winik, author of April 1865 and The Great Upheaval
Goodheart delves into the origins of the Civil War with a series of fascinating character studies and deep dives into the culture of the time. Ably narrated by Jonathan Davis.
A penetrating look at the crowded moment when the antebellum world began to turn.
Thezeitgeistis by definition ephemeral and difficult to recapture—think, for example, of a period as recent as America before 9/11—but that's the neat trick splendidly accomplished here by journalist and historian Goodheart, now director of Washington College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. History, he reminds us, is composed not merely of the momentous judgments of government ministers and generals, but also of the countless decisions of ordinary people. These responses to unexpected challenges are complicated, not always predictable and, taken together, have the power to shift events decisively. Such a time was 1861, when the "Old Gentlemen" (the likes of Buchanan, Tyler and Crittenden) gave way to the self-made men (exemplified by Lincoln, multiplied by a still younger generation of strivers like James Garfield and Elmer Ellsworth); when the Republican marching clubs, the Wide Awakes, and the exotic Zouave drill team became something more than quasi-military; when the transcontinental telegraph replaced the Pony Express; when trolley-car executive William Sherman and shop clerk Ulysses Grant looked on as two unsavory men preserved Missouri for the Union; when fugitive slaves suddenly became "contrabands"; when a general in San Francisco and a major at Fort Sumter, notwithstanding their Southern sympathies, remained faithful to their military oath; when surging patriotism and romantic notions of war turned to hatred and bloodlust; when an unfolding national crisis required people to choose sides, sweep away old assumptions and rattle categories long deemed unshakeable, and bring forth something new. Whether limning the likes of Benjamin "Spoons" Butler, abolitionist Abby Kelley Foster or the young Abner Doubleday, explaining something as seemingly inconsequential as the fashion for men's beards or unpacking Lincoln's profound understanding of the nature and unacceptable consequences of the rebellion, Goodheart's sure grasp never falters.
Beautifully written and thoroughly original—quite unlike any other Civil War book out there.