Gettysburg College has announced the winners of its annual Lincoln Prize, which honors the best scholarly work of the previous year on Abraham Lincoln or the Civil War era. The award has been given annually since 1991, and previous winners have included David Herbert Donald, Allen Guelzo, Douglas Wilson, Doris Kearns Goodwin, the late Don Fehrenbacher, and the late Philip Paludan.
This year's award honors two books, James McPherson's Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief and Craig Symonds' Lincoln and His Admirals. I have not read either book, but am looking forward to both of them. (Interestingly, I am currently reading the 2007 Lincoln Prize book, Lincoln's Sword by Douglas Wilson.) This prize shows the recent scholarly interest in Lincoln as a military leader, something that has been overlooked -- the last generation has really focused, I think, on Lincoln the political leader, certainly a related topic, but not identical.
Read the full news release here.
The awards, which have recognized truly outstanding work for almost two decades, are very prestigious -- and have financial repercussions. Not only do the award winners receive a cash prize, and a nice bronze Lincoln bust, but subsequent printings of their books are imprinted with the Lincoln Prize medal, which can spur sales. And while James McPherson is a well-known historian (and Pulitzer Prize winner), Symonds, a well-respected military historian who taught at the US Naval Academy, is not nearly so well known, even within the Lincoln community despite being a finalist for the Lincoln Prize in 1993.
The 2009 Lincoln Prizes will be officially awarded on April 7.