Many of Abraham Lincoln’s friends and associates claimed to have known and understood him well. Some, most notably William Herndon, his former law partner, wrote extensively about him. But Lincoln was deeply reticent about revealing details about his background, his personal feelings, and even some of his political motivations. Still, Hay and Nicolay, his young personal secretaries during his presidency, could certainly lay claim to a close and constant political relationship with him. Zeitz, who has taught American history at both Cambridge and Princeton, places the early life of Hay and Nicolay within the context of the intensifying dispute over slavery. The core of his account, however, is their service to Lincoln as president, followed by their effort to define Lincoln’s legacy by jointly writing a massive biography. That biography, done with input (or approval) of Lincoln’s son Robert, continues to influence current views of Lincoln, General McClellan, and various cabinet officers. This will be an excellent addition to Civil War collections. --Jay Freeman
"What a wonderful, welcome book. Zeitz has pulled off a difficult task -- revealing how the myth of Lincoln came to be without distorting the true greatness of our extraordinary 16th President."
-- Ken Burns (filmmaker)
"Joshua Zeitz's delightful study of John Hay and John Nicolay interweaves intimate biography, political drama, and the shaping of historical memory to produce an arresting and original narrative. Above all, it reminds us that, thanks to Lincoln's secretaries, the moral dimensions of the emancipationist Civil War could not be bleached from the historical record by an increasingly fashionable understanding of the struggle as a romantic 'brothers' conflict'."
--Richard Carwardine, author of Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power
“Abraham Lincoln was blessed with truly first-rate biographers in John Nicolay and John Hay, so it is ‘altogether fitting and proper’ that Nicolay and Hay have now attracted a terrific chronicler of their own life and times in Joshua Zeitz. This fine book traces the extraordinary evolution of Lincoln’s two private secretaries from clerks into tireless historians and rabid keepers of the flame. Historians have long remembered their roles as canny observers of the White House during the Civil War, but this study adds much fascinating new material about their peerless role in crafting and preserving the Lincoln image.”
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—Harold Holzer, author of The Civil War in 50 Objects