What brought about the Civil War? Leading historian Michael F. Holt convincingly offers a disturbingly contemporary answer: partisan politics. In this brilliant and succinct book, Holt distills a lifetime of scholarship to demonstrate that secession and war did not arise from two irreconcilable economies any more than from moral objections to slavery. Short-sighted politicians were to blame. Rarely looking beyond the next election, the two dominant political parties used the emotionally charged and largely chimerical issue of slavery's extension westward to pursue reelection and settle political scores, all the while inexorably dragging the nation towards disunion.
Despite the majority opinion (held in both the North and South) that slavery could never flourish in the areas that sparked the most contention from 1845 to 1861-the Mexican Cession, Oregon, and Kansas-politicians in Washington, especially members of Congress, realized the partisan value of the issue and acted on short-term political calculations with minimal regard for sectional comity. War was the result.
Including select speeches by Lincoln and others, The Fate of Their Country openly challenges us to rethink a seminal moment in America's history.
A Kirkus Best Book of 2013
A Bookpage Best Book of 2013
Dazzling in scope, Ecstatic Nation illuminates one of the most dramatic and momentous chapters in America's past, when the country dreamed big, craved new lands and new freedom, and was bitterly divided over its great moral wrong: slavery. With a canvas of extraordinary characters, such as P. T. Barnum, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, and L. C. Q. Lamar, Ecstatic Nation brilliantly balances cultural and political history: It's a riveting account of the sectional conflict that preceded the Civil War, and it astutely chronicles the complex aftermath of that war and Reconstruction, including the promise that women would share in a new definition of American citizenship. It takes us from photographic surveys of the Sierra Nevadas to the discovery of gold in the South Dakota hills, and it signals the painful, thrilling birth of modern America.
An epic tale by award-winning author Brenda Wineapple, Ecstatic Nation lyrically and with true originality captures the optimism, the failures, and the tragic exuberance of a renewed Republic.
From his homestead near Ripley on the Ohio River, patriarch Andrew Evans sent two sons to war, and from 1862 to 1866 father and sons wrote each other hundreds of letters. Called "the soldier's letters" by the family, this cache lay untouched in a barn until the 1980s, when Robert Engs was invited to edit them.
Here are 273 family letters, most between Andrew and son Samuel, that draw us into the complicated lives of a Midwestern family not just suffering the dislocations of war, but also experiencing--and describing in intimate detail--the sorrows and occasional joys of rural life in nineteenth-century America.
From the front lines with the 70th Ohio and, later, as an officer commanding a unit of "colored troops," Samuel writes of the horrors of Shiloh, of the loneliness and fear of patrolling Union lines in Tennessee. Andrew writes of the seasons of rural life, of illness and deaths in the family, of the complicated politics of this borderland where abolitionists and "Copperhead" pro-slavery voices shared daily debates.
One of the very few collections of Civil War letters from home front and front lines, this meticulously edited book is an engrossing chronicle of war and peace, family and country, and an indispensable addition to the history of the Civil War.
"Crisis of the House Divided has shaped the thought of a generation of Abraham Lincoln and Civil War scholars."—Mark E. Needly, Jr., Civil War History
"An important book about one of the great episodes in the history of the sectional controversy. It breaks new ground and opens a new view of Lincoln's significance as a political thinker."—T. Harry Williams, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences
"A searching and provocative analysis of the issues confronted and the ideas expounded in the great debates. . . . A book which displays such learning and insight that it cannot fail to excite the admiration even of scholars who disagree with its major arguments and conclusions."—D. E. Fehrenbacher, American Historical Review