Washington City, 1862: The United States lies in tatters, and there seems no end to the war. Abraham Lincoln, the legitimate President of the United States, is using all his will to keep his beloved land together. But Lincoln’s will and soul are tested when tragedy strikes the White House as Willie Lincoln, the love and shining light in the president’s heart, is taken by typhoid fever.
But was this really the cause of his death? A message arrives, suggesting otherwise. Lincoln asks John Hay, his trusted aide—and almost a son—to investigate Willie’s death. Some see Hay as a gadfly--adventurous, incisive, lusty, reflective, skeptical, even cynical—but he loves the president and so seeks the truth behind the boy’s death.
And so, as we follow Hay in his investigation, we are shown the loftiest and lowest corners of Washington City, from the president’s office and the gentleman’s dining room at Willard’s Hotel to the alley hovels, wartime hospitals, and the dome-less Capitol’s vermin-infested subbasement. We see the unfamiliar sides of a grief-stricken president, his hellcat of a wife, and their two surviving and suffering sons, and Hay matches wits with such luminaries as General McClellan, William Seward, and the indomitable detective Allan Pinkerton.
What Hay discovers has the potential of not only destroying Lincoln, but a nation.
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Yet she was also a cosmopolitan, intellectual "New Woman" who earned a living as a journalist and novelist and traveled with the Joseph Pulitzers. Winnie's adoring followers often misread her steadfast love for her father as unconditional support of the failed Confederacy and the Old South's nostalgic ideals of womanhood. Julia Oliver explores these contradictions from several angles. Winnie speaks from the pages of her journal. Other narrators include Winnie's close friend Kate Pulitzer; her sister, Maggie Hayes; and the love of her life, Alfred Wilkinson, the grandson of a famous abolitionist.
From the portrayals of Winnie's romance, her relationships with her parents, her illness and depression, and her ambivalent role as torchbearer for the Lost Cause emerges a young woman whose conflicted existence reflects the tenor of the country in the aftermath of the Civil War. An intimate saga about a remarkable, star-crossed family, Devotion poignantly measures the massive weight of memory on individuals caught up in the sweep of history.