Cover image for Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America : a biography
Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America : a biography
Gienapp, William E.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
xiii, 239 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Reading Level:
1330 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E457 .G46 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America, historian William Gienapp provides a remarkably concise, up-to-date, and vibrant biography of the most revered figure in United States history. While the heart of the book focuses on the Civil War, Gienapp begins with a finely etched portrait of Lincoln's early life, from pioneer farm boy, to politician and lawyer in Springfield, to his stunning election as sixteenth president of the United States. We see how Lincoln grew during hisyears in office, how he developed a keen aptitude for military strategy and displayed enormous skill in dealing with his generals, and also how his war strategy evolved from a desire to preserve the Union to emancipation and total war. Gienapp shows how Lincoln's early years influenced his skills as commander-in-chief and also demonstrates that throughout the stresses of the war years, Lincoln's basic character shone through: his good will and fundamental decency, his remarkable self-confidence matched with genuine humility,his immunity to the passions and hatreds the war spawned, his extraordinary patience, and his timeless eloquence. A former backwoodsman and country lawyer, Abraham Lincoln rose to become one of our greatest presidents. This biography offers a vivid account of Lincoln's dramatic ascension to the pinnacle of American history.

Author Notes

William E. Gienapp is Professor of History at Harvard University

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Historians studying Lincoln still manage to find original avenues of approach (see William Lee Miller's recent Lincoln's Virtues [BKL Ja 1 & 15 02]), but otherwise, the roads are deeply rutted by steady scholarly and popular traffic, which feeds the need for the synthesizing overview. Harvard professor Gienapp competently fills this need with this Lincoln biography, which he deepens by gearing its contents to an anthology of Lincoln's writings. With exceptions, these were devoted to public affairs, which reflects Lincoln's most trenchant personal trait--reticence. The scarce material that does provide a glimpse of Lincoln's personal feelings, such as his written refusal to pay a visit to his father's deathbed in 1851, are not exactly flattering to the future paragon of virtue. Eschewing any interpretation of Lincoln's interior life (which Gienapp describes as "resorting to some dubious psychological theory"), he develops the sinuous course of Lincoln's political career. Parallel to his discussion of Lincoln's political ambition, acumen, and assiduity, Gienapp accents Lincoln's oratorical maturation. "Cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason" --a phrase from an early Lincoln speech--was apparent in much of his wartime leadership. Clarifying for new Lincolnphiles the immense demands on Lincoln may be the best aspect of Gienapp's synthesis. A perceptive introduction to the sixteenth president's significance. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

Harvard history professor Gienapp (The Origins of the Republican Party) devotes a mere 70 pages of his brief new biography to Abraham Lincoln's prepresidential life; in a volume that "synthesizes modern scholarship about Lincoln" with the author's own studies, the Civil War years rightfully get most of the attention. At 51, Lincoln was one of the youngest men to be elected president, and he was also the first Westerner. Something of an unknown to Republican Party power brokers back east, Lincoln didn't have time to prove himself viable before South Carolina seceded from the Union and the Civil War loomed. Gienapp's primary ambition is to show how the green, upstart president handled the four years of crisis that followed and how he became such an "extraordinary war leader." Throughout the book, he reveals Lincoln as a shrewd arbitrator of political factions, armies and perhaps most importantly rhetoric and propaganda. Likewise, Gienapp shows Lincoln the man: the father grieving over the death of a cherished son, the husband dealing with a moody, combustible wife. Gienapp seems to especially relish accounts of the harried Lincoln's savvy PR moves throughout the war, as when, in 1864, he threw a bone to Northern pacifists and expressed his willingness to engage in peace talks with the Confederacy. At the same time, Lincoln set out rigid preconditions for the talks that he knew Jefferson Davis never could accept. This is the Lincoln Gienapp gives us: astute, subtle, incisive and tragic. Illus. (Apr.) Forecast: This is a fine intro for new browsers through the Lincoln bookshelf, though David Herbert Donald's work remains the definitive bio to date. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Not taking much stock in the genre, Lincoln tried to shield himself from biography by guarding his private self and carefully crafting his public words and image. Of course, so complex a man, who came to embody America in its ordeal by fire, has attracted scores of biographers hoping to solve the ultimate American enigma. Now Gienapp, author of the acclaimed Origins of the Republican Party, enters the crowded field. This biography neatly synthesizes much recent scholarship and makes Lincoln believable as a president struggling to defend the Union and define freedom. Rather than inventing a Lincoln psyche or persona, as some biographers have done, or trading in oft-recycled Lincoln myths, Giennap goes back to the primary sources to discover a Lincoln who was simultaneously principled and practical, confident of his ability to persuade (though too much so in dealing with generals) and assured in making policy (he was a loner who relied on his own judgment). He does not find the source of Lincoln's enormous ambition, but he does show why Lincoln etched his thought and character into Americans' understanding of themselves. In the public speeches Gienapp gathers in This Fiery Trail, the clarity and cadences of Lincoln's language resound. It is a most apt collection, useful to teachers and anyone wanting to know why Lincoln was our herald. These books in tandem are an excellent way to get hold of Lincoln. Highly recommended. Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
1 A Son of the Frontierp. 1
2 Thwarted Ambitionp. 25
3 Rise to Powerp. 49
4 A People's Contestp. 72
5 From Limited War to Revolutionp. 99
6 Midstreamp. 126
7 To Finish the Taskp. 151
8 With Malice Toward Nonep. 177
Chronology of Abraham Lincolnp. 204
List of Abbreviationsp. 209
Notesp. 211
Bibliographical Essayp. 228
Indexp. 233