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Abe Lincoln Speaks His Mind,
This review is from: I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War (Hardcover)
What kind of mind could pen the immortal words of The Gettysburg Address? What kind of man could guide a nation knifing itself as he watched? What kind of husband could weather the eruptions of a wife, battering the encroaching downward slope of lunacy? Jerome Charyn’s I Am Abraham paints a potent portrait of this gaunt, ungainly but fatherly man with words that will survive his own time.
I Am Abraham is an excellent book—a true 5 star read. It was written by Abraham Lincoln’s mind! From his early years when the males of New Salem pulled him drowning, from the waters of the Sangamon River, until his last quick thoughts as an assassin’s bullet ripped his skull, author Charyn’s saga illustrates the depth, devotion, compassion and philosophical mystique of Abraham Lincoln’s thinking.
Lincoln was an ambitious man given to melancholy. As the more industrialized North became cognizant and critical of the wealthy slave-held South, even as a young man, Abraham agonized over the animalistic treatment of blacks. He witnessed the bloody slashing of their bare backs—those who dared escape tyranny. Yet, there was little he could do. Years later during the Lincoln/Douglas debates, Abraham delicately tiptoed on a tightrope afraid to lose votes on either side. If he was to steer a nation, he must win big!
___"The greatest lie of all was that the colored man was not included in the Declaration of Independence (144)."___
While this dichotomy between right and wrong might have been the main cause of Lincoln’s melancholic depression, for sure, I Am Abraham exposes another cause: his worries about his wife’s mental condition. Thoughts of committing her to a mental institution tore at his deep revered love.
___"I knew mother was dancing at some edge, on her velvet slippers. I didn’t want those slippers to crash—and imagine her in the mad house."___ (348)
Mary had an inborn tendency to neurosis. When, as First Lady, her maternal instincts endured the despicable knowledge of enormous numbers of young soldiers—crying out, suffering, limbless, dead, she insisted that no son of hers would ever become “cannon fodder.”
As I read I Am Abraham, I became aware of Lincoln’s faltering doubts about signing the Emancipation Proclamation. He did not want history’s judgment to show he signed the document so blacks could somehow join the anti-slavery movement to revenge the South. No, he wanted a death blow dealt to slavery itself, because it was unjust, unnatural, immoral and ungodly. He genuinely believed in freedom for all people documented by America’s founding fathers: “… all men are created equal…." He wanted slavery suffocated because a united American people recognized it as its most heinous evil—not because blacks had to gain it for themselves.
Lincoln’s deeply torn mind longed for a decisive Union battle win that was so significant that he could foresee an end to the war.
—And it happened!
It happened at tiny Gettysburg. It happened when Lee made a fatal tactical error. It happened because buoyed up idolized Lee tossed aside known battle engagement strategy. He dared encounter an entrenched battle line of Union troops on an upward slope. This overwhelming northern victory was the pinnacle Lincoln longed for. It finally provoked him to sign the Emancipation Proclamation.
In I Am Abraham, Lincoln reveals his thoughts of replacing General George McClelland, his own appointed Commander of all Union troops. What troubled Lincoln was this: Even with an overwhelming number of fresh fully armed men, McClelland appeared to falter when battling outnumbered Lee.
Lincoln sought a general with the guts to fight—and the one man who seemed to have an increasing number of victories was Ulysses Grant. He had none of the flamboyant excesses of McClelland. Rather, he was concerned with one end—win the war and do it quickly. Eventually, Lincoln replaced McClelland with Grant who won battles by persistence and attrition of southern troops. Grant's command did not escape criticism!
Why? The man was relentless. If he won a minor skirmish, he gave his enemy no time to recoup or regroup. Almost fanatically, he hounded the southern army with wave after wave of Union troops. There seemed to be no end to the number of youthful recruits who died in battle after battle. Not so for the South where the number of young and old, willing to fight, was quickly dwindling.
I Am Abraham is a book worth reading and worth remembering. I’ve often wondered how any person could have written the unforgettable words of the Gettysburg Address. But after following the mind of Abraham Lincoln through the challenges he faced during the time period author Charyn brought to life, I now see a great man, a very great man, a towering man, a gaunt soul, a prayerful man hovering over a lantern, trying to give birth to words that would praise every soul buried at Gettysburg. Thousands upon thousands died—their early deaths rested solely on the conscience of Abraham who often wondered about his own righteousness as he stared in a mirror:
___"I’d become a bag of bones. It was the terror on my brow—fierce and unfriendly as an open sore. My face was a silent scream that suddenly cracked open, shook the chandeliers, and shivered right through the glass (389).___
This book is as unforgettable as Lincoln’s famous address. As you read it you will visit the battlefield seen through his eyes. Can you imagine the rotting horrors of a war he could have prevented by tolerating southern secession? Visualize your loathing that might exist today if you hightailed through the South knowing that the extremely wealthy still ate food offered up by the blood of their enslaved.
And how did Lincoln favor his wife—dare he keep his son Robert out of combat? Could any man stay sane under the mountain of grief and hardship this lone man had caused because he felt it was right in the sight of our forefathers and his God?
Read this work. Keep it by your nightstand. Its haunting passages are worth reading again and again: “Forescore and seven years ago …”
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Initial post: Feb 28, 2014 11:20:30 PM PST
That does it! Most of the reviews I have read here are outstanding, but it's yours that has convinced me to purchase this book asap...well done!
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