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Lincoln and the Decision for War: The Northern Response to Secession (Civil War America)
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"Those interested in better understanding Lincoln's role in the crucial period between his election and the call for volunteers in mid-April 1861 would do well to consult Russell McClintock's new book. . . . Does a fabulous job of uncovering the sense of contingency that existed throughout the nation in the early months."
"[A] splendid study. . . . The success of McClintock's book lies not only in its welcome reconsideration of Republican policy but also in its highlighting the crying need for a modern treatment of the secession winter as a national crisis, a climax of decades of sectional dynamics across the North's and the South's porous political and physical borders."
-Journal of Southern History
"[A] highly readable, thoroughly researched, and welcome narrative. . . . McClintock's book has set a high standard--indeed, a Lincolnian one."
-Civil War History
"McClintock contributes greatly to Civil War scholarship and perhaps even helps Army officers understand the current political climate. . . . McClintock has truly mastered his subject."
"In telling the story so thoughtfully and with such attention to detail, this fine piece of scholarship certainly deserves to take its place alongside the familiar historiographical landmarks."
-American Historical Review
"Tells this story in a straightforward manner with minimum back tracking. . . . Informative and enjoyable."
-James Durney, Independent Book Reviewer
"McClintock understands . . . the complexity of what was happening in the slave states."
-History News Network
"A fine study."
-Sean Wilentz, The New Republic
"It is the rare reader who will not find this an eminently satisfactory book. McClintock has consulted an impressive range of primary sources to construct his narrative, illustrate his points, and support his analysis, and [he] demonstrates a solid grasp of secondary literature."
-Journal of Illinois History
"Answers a question long understood to be central to any larger explanation of the Civil War. . . . A compelling account."
-Maryland Historical Magazine
"A worthy addition to Civil War scholarship."
"A balanced and erudite examination of the secession crisis from the all too neglected northern political angle. . . . [This] deeply researched study promotes fresh interpretations and insights that are deserving of a wide readership. The literature of the secession winter is appreciably richer for its existence. Highly recommended."
-Civil War Books and Authors
"[McClintock's] analysis is exceptionally clear and well written, easily accessible to the layperson as well as the scholar; it stimulates thought about the nature of leadership and crisis management."
"Ably researched and well-written."
-Bowling Green Daily News
"[This] work should . . . be the beginning of a reappraisal."
-The Journal of American History
"McClintock's vision of the period in which events led to a new president's decision to go to war to preserve a union is to comprehend the war, its causes and effects, more deeply, more complexly."
In Lincoln and the Decision for War, McClintock usefully changes the usual focus from Lincoln to a northern public worried about the possibility of war but uncertain how to avert it. . . . Intended to redress an oversight in scholarship, McClintock's study should find favor with general readers interested in the Civil War's immediate origins."
"Well-written, shows appreciation for the complexity of northern sentiment during the secession crisis, and treats the crisis for the essentially political drama it was."
-Civil War Book Review
In this 'gotcha' culture there are those who blame Abraham Lincoln for the secession of Southern states, but Russell McClintock presents the truth in his nuanced Lincoln and the Decision for War. While Lincoln's election provoked secession, there was nothing Lincoln could do to prevent it. McClintock's most important contribution is to show us how coincidence, accidents, and ignored factors, along with Abraham Lincoln's role, affected events. The book is an excellent reappraisal--sincere, intelligent, and absorbing.
-Frank J. Williams, Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and founding chair of The Lincoln Forum
"This fine analytic book anatomizes the currents of need at the time, the efforts of the many varied cultures to cope with them, and the results."
-Journal of American Cultures
"With deft strokes, McClintock describes the various competing concepts of union among Republicans, Democrats and others and discovers that in the end they agreed that representative democracy must oppose disunion or else self-government itself would be lost. . . . More than any other scholar, McClintock incisively shows that in the end the North and Lincoln simply could not let the South go. Highly recommended."
. . . [W]ell-written and brilliantly analyzed. . . .
-William C. Harris, author of Lincoln's Rise to the Presidency
"[A] most exhaustively researched, highly original, and persuasively argued interpretation by Russell McClintock, who views the secession crisis and the run-up to civil war through an entirely political lens. . . . This profoundly conceived and gracefully written book will rightfully be at the center of the [secession crisis] discussion for many years to come."
-Harold Holzer, Virginia Magazine
"McClintock transports the reader into the realm of antebellum American brinksmanship. . . . [A] satisfying account."
-Civil War Times
"McClintock's well-written and brilliantly analyzed account is a most important contribution to the study of the Civil War. . . . Illuminates the immediate origins. . . . Provides an intimate understanding of the antebellum political system."
-The McCormick Messenger
"A substantial contribution. . . . A fine study that deserves to be read along with the work of Daniel Crofts, Kenneth Stampp, and David Potter."
-Journal of Illinois History
"Indispensable for students of political history."
-Georgia Historical Quarterly
Top Customer Reviews
What about the North? How did the political, personal and public opinion shape a response to the crisis? This book tells that story and what a story it is. The Democrats, badly damaged by the events 1860, try to blame everything on the Republicans. While they work to construct a comprise to save the Union one more time. The Republicans are not united nor are they sure how to proceed. A substantial part of the party sides with the Democrats in trying to find a comprise. Another large faction is ready to allow the South to leave the Union. Large numbers feel that secession is wrong but that the Federal government lacks the authority to force states back into the Union. Many question if it is desirable to use force to maintain the Union and if doing so would not destroy the Union. Added is the plea of Southern Unionists for something to stop secession.
Lincoln, Douglas, Seward stride across these pages. Each man with multiple agendas that create and destroy alliances. Each man trying to lead his political party, maintain the Union and do what he feels is best for the nation.Read more ›
Oddly, President Lincoln seems to almost float above the contrevoursy between the time he is elected and the final decision to resupply Ft. Sumter. He evidently was greatly distracted by doling out patronage positions to Republican conies while the nation slid towards civil war. That's the impression one gets up until the final chapter or two, when McClintock seems to let Lincoln off the hook by inferring a higher purpose and reasoning behind his actions (or lack thereof).
Basically, McClintock makes the case that the immediate reason/cause of the war (not to be confused with the causes of secession) was that Lincoln and the Republican party felt that to surrender Ft. Sumter was to implicitly acknowledge secession and cede Federal authority in the South, and that in turn would lead to anarchy and the end of the government as other states went their own way. In other words, secession did not necessarily have to lead to war - the North (or more specifically the Republican Party) chose war rather than cede authority in the South. Ironically, Ft. Sumter, like most of the other coastal fortications built in the wake of the War of 1812, was functionally obsolete by 1861 and of little military value. Sumter's significance was mainly as a symbol of Federal authority.
Although McClintock acknowledges that the upper South did not secede until Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to put down the rebellion (in fact, the upper South had explicitly and overwhelmingly rejected secession), he seems to let Lincoln off the hook here.Read more ›
"Historiography" describes the changes in how historians and the public view past eras, actors and events. While this book is an unbiased recounting of such elements, rather than a polemic, it explores how these two men faced the same crisis of impending secession, one a lame duck President, the other a President-elect, during the fateful sixteen weeks between election and inauguration. In considering this one aspect of Buchanan's presidency alone, the author states (pp 205) After Lincoln's first week in office being finally briefed on the reality of the crisis, " Whether Lincoln knew it or not, in practical terms the policy he marked out was quite similar to Buchanan's."
It contrasts the new fragile anti-slavery Republic party which would control national policy under Lincoln, and the then bifurcated Democratic party, focusing on the individual who was elected by this party, James Buchanan who was required to actually make decision with not only limited information, but inability to convey specific orders by an incomplete telegraph system. After his inauguration. Lincoln was in this seat where reality, and the limits of action, caused such a shock that he almost physically collapsed within the first month.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Full of details, very well written, and he entirely misses the point.
You can have your own narrative, if you know, or at least suspect, a full set of facts. Read more
I found this an excellent post read to Bowman's, "At the Precipice:.. " for those that want to look at gaining an even better understand of the Secession Crisis.Published on August 30, 2013 by Michael A. Turner
Lincoln and the Decision of War examines a lot of events, some of them huge and well remembered and others seemingly insignificant. Read morePublished on June 18, 2012 by Alan Dale Daniel
The period between the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 and the bombardment of Fort Sumter in April 1861 is one of the most heavily covered in American history. Read morePublished on March 20, 2011 by MarkK