2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
"Abraham Lincoln: The War Years" is the second volume of Carl Sandberg's epic biography of Lincoln. It picks up with the trip to Washington and goes to the end of 1863. Author Carl Sandberg does an excellent job of weaving Lincoln's story into that of his times. As the reader progresses through this book, he is taken to the White House, the battlefield, the home front and foreign countries. At times the narrative diverts into a study of military and political figures and scenes which affect, but do not directly involve, Lincoln himself. The transition is often so smooth that the reader barely notices that he has moved from Lincoln, to others and back again.
This volume tells the story of the land Lincoln left and the people he met along the way. The pressure exerted on Lincoln from all sides is fascinating. We read of abolitionists, pro-slavery Unionists, job seekers and many others who all demanded the time and attention of the president. The access to Lincoln is unbelievable. The idea that almost anyone could walk into his office and ask for an appointment, a commission or a discharge for a family member or just to chat boggles the mind.
Many of the events of Lincoln's presidency are covered in this volume. We read about the battles of Fort Sumter, Bull Run, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Gettysburg and others, both from the perspectives of the battles themselves and the reception their news had in Washington and the effect they had on the political pressures brought to bear on Lincoln. We follow the succession of generals, including McClellan, Burnside, Meade, Sherman and Grant. The steps leading to the Emancipation Proclamation show it to have been a much more complicated process than many of its admirers or detractors appreciate.
Sandburg's writing style emphasizes anecdotes and stories. In this volume he does a better job at weaving them into a compelling story line than he did in the first volume. This may be explained by the greater availability of information pertaining to the time period covered. I read this book in order to get a better understanding of Lincoln. I am satisfied and look forward to the next volume.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2009
I'm focusing my comments on the complete Sandburg biography ("The Prarie Years" and "The War Years" Volumes)For a man who is widely reguarded as our greatest President, the single most influential Chief Executive -- arguably even more influential than George Washington -- in our history, there is a shocking lack of a detailed, painstakingly researched, well-written biography of the man. Sandburg's volumes stand alone in this reguard. There any number of one volume revisionist rants, or study's on narrow Lincolnalia, such as his humor, his mental health, his evolution as the commander-in-chief, or quick, pollyannish hagiographies. What's shocklingly lacking is a deeply, thoroughly researched, well-written, modern multi-volume biography of this truly incredible, complex man who ended up shaping the future couse of this country more profoundly than even Washington. Until (If) that voluminous biography comes along, Sandburg's work is the best we have, and it's very good indeed. It is amazingly thorough, and tries not to become mere hagiography -- no mean feat for a poet so clearly enamoured of his subject -- at which he largely succeeds. His writing style is slightly dated for our era, yet it remains highly readable. He offers much rich detail, tackling many of the political battles Lincoln had to fight with clarity and drama.
His earlier Prarie Years volumes are approaching 100 years old. A lot of Lincolnian research has gone on since then, offering a gold mine of new information for a modern day, would-be Lincoln biographer to tap into. Until that happens, Sandburg's Volumes remains the sine qua non. It is well worth tackling the whole series if for no other reasons than to get a solid idea of who Lincoln was and how he got to be the near mythical figure he is, written by a skilled writer. I can't help but think that an updated voluminous biography in the hands of Stephan Ambrose, David McCullough, or (more realistically given that Ambrose is dead, McCullough too old to tackle such a project) Stephen Sears or James McPherson would be absoltely riveting.