Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New Lincoln Book

A new Lincoln-related book was released today, the second recent book focusing on the 1860 presidential election, which was a wild free-for-all, with no fewer than a dozen serious candidates for nominations and four candidates in the November election.

Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election that Brought on the Civil War by Douglas R. Egerton (Bloomsbury Press, hardcover, 416 pages)

Doris Kearns Goodwin's prize-winning Team of Rivals revealed to many that Lincoln faced several better known Republicans for the 1860 presidential nomination, before inviting several of them to serve in his cabinet after his election. It should come as no surprise that the Democratic nomination was just as fiercely contested -- so much so that the party actually split into regional factions, each nominating a candidate. Steven Douglas, who had worked tirelessly over the past decade to position himself as the front-runner (including his assertive chairmanship on the Senate committee on territories), had positioned himself as the only Democrat acceptable to both North and South, only to discover that he wasn't acceptable to both regions either.

This book has only gotten a couple of reviews today, but one is in The Wall Street Journal. It seems that Egerton focuses more on Douglas than Lincoln, which certainly is an accurate portrayal of the year 1860 -- Lincoln won the election, but Douglas was the central personality of the year.

John Waugh's Reelecting Lincoln offers an entertaining portrayal of the 1864 election. The 1860 contest was much more action packed, with plenty of tension and lots of big personalities. So Egerton has plenty of material to work with -- here's hoping that he does it justice.

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