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Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography Paperback – October 17, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0195151008 ISBN-10: 0195151003 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

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
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195151003
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195151008
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.7 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It is an easy read that took me only three days to finish.
HistoryGradStudent
We always read snippets about Lincoln in history books or other works on the civil war.
William
For a short biography, Gienapp's work is insightful, thorough, and a great read.
Great American History

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Bill Shepherd on March 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is a welcome addition ot the already crowded Lincolnia bookself. The author is the presumed successor to the retired David Herbert Donald at Harvard University. Gienapp has produced a highly readable and concise version of a Lincoln biography that can be completed on a moderately long airplane trip(and it's quite portable unlike most hardcover books). While relatively short,this book is a sufficiently thorough treatment of the Civil War Lincoln. I especially enjoyed the author's analysis of the politician Lincoln who mastered his rivals, both Republican and Democrat. This a good book for either a new Lincoln /Civil War "buff" or a good refresher for a scholar of the times.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By alz on January 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
Gienapp, William E. 'Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America; A Biography.' Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

The recently deceased, William Gienapp's brief biography of Abraham Lincoln is in great need to be revisited. Since the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth, nearly 50 new Lincoln books are set to come out, yet few will be as concise and well organized as Gienapps.

While Gienapp offers few new quotations in his work, his use of them as well as more well known ones is unparalleled; making for a new and refreshing read. Along the same lines as James M McPherson's Tried by War, Gienapp (6 years earlier) attempted to explain "why this man [Abraham Lincoln] turned out to be such an extraordinary war leader." (x)

Gienapp starts his book with Lincolns obscured early years. This section, nearly 80 pages worth of reading, seems characterless and stale. He merely follows the chronology of Lincoln, leaving the reader with an almost obsolete knowledge of the antebellum period. However, once Lincoln is elected president in 1860, the remaining of the book is a marvelous read.

Gienapp devotes large sections of his book to tracing the development and concept of Total War. Believing that the Civil War was the first total war, Gienapp writes that by 1864, "the Union army had confiscated private property in the South, expelled disloyal civilians from Union lines, emancipated slaves, utilized black soldiers, and waged a grinding, all-out form of warfare. To this mix was now added the dimension of psychological warfare designed to break the will of southern civilians. This was the nineteenth-century equivalent of the strategy of total war." (177) Gienapp's definition of total war is near the best offered.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
William Gienapp's Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America answers a longstanding need for a biography of Lincoln manageable in size, accessible in style, and wise and balanced in content. Lincoln appers on every page of the book and is never lost sight of in the welter of events. He emerges from the text a real believable person, an individual and persuasive assessment of Lincoln's leadership abilities, the finest such appraisal avilable anywhere.
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Format: Paperback
Writing a biography of Abraham Lincoln is no easy task. The amount of primary sources, secondary sources, photographs, and topics within the subject can be overwhelming and tiring. If you don't believe me, just ask Lincoln Scholar Michael Burlingame, who wrote a two volume massive history of Lincoln in 2009.

The late William E. Gienapp's Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America is an great introductory biography of Abraham Lincoln. This book was the main textbook assigned by Dr. Rietveld at CSUF in his course, "Abraham Lincoln and His Era."

The book is really short, which makes it even better. I have always argued that it is much more difficult to write history books in shorter length than long, and Gienapp does a wonderful job of this here. It is an easy read that took me only three days to finish.

This is primarily a biography of Lincoln during the Civil War. However, Gienapp does spend the first three chapters telling a brief history of the 16th President's early life. His "setting up" Lincoln for the war years is really well done without spending too much time on the Ann Rutledge controversy, or the annoying accusations of his law partner, William Herndon, made about Lincoln's early life and peccadilloes.

Overall, this is a great book to recommend to anyone interested in Abraham Lincoln. I would even say it is the best "first book" on Lincoln that any interested party should read. I would it as Dr. Rietveld used it--as a good short textbook on a Lincoln course or Civil War course. While it is not as amazingly comprehensive biography like David Donald's famous biography, it is a great place to start to learn about our greatest President.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rod M on July 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a well written, easy to follow and understand book for anyone beginning their journey through civil war history.
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By Lorna D. on January 13, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has enriched my understanding of Lincoln in many ways. The author's writing style is superb. He gives new life to this pivotal figure in American history to such a degree that enables the reader to have a clear and concise picture of the man who is often portrayed as a super hero, neglecting to remind the reader how plain and ordinary he was throughout most of his life.
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