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1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 3, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Critically acclaimed historian Flood (Grant and Sherman: The Friendship that Won the Civil War) provides a brilliant, compelling account of Lincoln's dramatic final full year of life-a year in which the war finally turned in the Union's favor and Lincoln faced a tough battle for re-election. After Union defeats at the Battle of Cold Harbor and the siege of Petersburg, Confederate General Jubal Early came within five miles of Washington, D.C., before he was beaten back; General Sherman's September victory at Atlanta followed, with his bloody march to the sea. At the same time, Lincoln found himself running against his own secretary of the treasury, Salmon Chase, for the Republican nomination, and then against the Democrat (and general) George B. McClellan for the presidency. Lincoln won by a narrow popular majority, but a significant electoral majority. At the close of 1864, as Lincoln celebrated both his re-election and the coming end of the war, John Wilkes Booth laid down an ambitious plan for kidnapping that soon evolved into a map for murder. Combining a novelist's flair with the authority and deep knowledge of a scholar, Flood artfully integrates this complex web of storylines. 16 pages of b&w photos, maps.
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From Booklist

Flood follows Abraham Lincoln’s fourth year as president, ranging across matters that arose in his office, in person, or on paper, whether of minor or major importance. Securing his readers’ engagement with a detailed account of business Lincoln conducted on January 1, 1864, Flood depicts for them the appearance of Lincoln’s workplace, to which access was extraordinarily easy to obtain. Petitioners and their pleas—for government posts, for stays of execution, for an autograph—parade through Flood’s chronicle, as do bringers of tidings connected with the two biggest things on Lincoln’s mind during 1864: winning reelection and winning the Civil War. Flood’s overall effect shows how contingent each was: he recounts Lincoln’s hardheaded electioneering actions—involving money, political favors, and sidetracking rivals such as Salmon Chase—alongside Lincoln’s exercise of his commander-in-chief role. Neither objective was entirely separable, and there’s a sophistication in Flood’s portrayal that shows how Lincoln’s actions to further one furthered the other, as in his furlough of Union soldiers to vote for him. Flood’s high-quality historical narrative will capture the Civil War readership. --Gilbert Taylor

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416552286
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416552284
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,516,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Charles Bracelen Flood graduated from Harvard with ambitions to become a creative writer. After writing two early novels, he began to write history and biography. In recent years, Flood has turned his formidable writing skills to the American Civil War, writing a moving biography of the final years of Robert E. Lee and, in 2006, his "Grant and Sherman: the Friendship that Won the Civil War." Flood is an outstanding popular historian who uses his literary skills, interest in character, and ability to tell a story, to educate and to entertain.

Flood's latest book "1864:Lincoln at the Gates" begins slowly, but it soon gathers momentum as Flood ties together the threads of Lincoln's life and the progress of the Nation's life during the momentous year of 1864. In 1864, Lincoln stood for reelection to the presidency. The military aspect of the Civil War also came to a climax as Ulysses Grant became commander of the Union armies. Political and military affairs both took see-saw courses during 1864. Flood's book, with its novelistic skill in plots and sub-plots admirably ties together politics and military affairs together with much more about Lincoln's life and character.

The book shows Lincoln both as an idealist and as a consummately masterful politician. At the beginning of 1864, Lincoln's renomination was much in doubt. He was under attack from the radical wing of his party, including his Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, who wished a more aggressive prosecution of the war. Chase worked surreptitiously and feverishly to secure the presidential nomination for himself. Lincoln was also under attack from the various wings of the Democratic party, both those which supported the war effort and those which favored an immediate end to the conflict and a peace with the South.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Flood doesn't admire Lincoln. And I suspect he does not tell a fair tale. Nicely written with moments of extraordinary clarity (particularly battles), Flood nonetheless seems to suggests that Lincoln is not only not the perfect man mainstream history adores -- a perfectly legitimate view -- but rather a man content with scheming and at times shaky ethics. He works with innuendo, using language to raise questions about Lincoln's ethics, but never takes the topic on to prove, disprove or wrestle with the question.

A long time ago I learned that you can't give THE definitive history of anything from a single source, and my solution (as a non-scholar) was to read as many books as possible to get a variety of views, and try to find my own conclusions. You learn, along the way, that historians have points of view (it is not "Just the facts, ma'am"). Reading history should be as done as critical reading, much as reading a newspaper or a blog should be. I apologize because the point is obvious, but this book brought the lesson home.

In the first couple of pages, I thought Lincoln at the Gates might be useless as too adoring of its subject, but I quickly changed my mind. Nearly every description of the Lincoln's politics are cast in negative terms. He uses phrases like 'back room deals', and Lincoln 'manipulating' others. He describes politicking practices in a tone that encourages the modern reader to believe the Republicans of 1860 and 1864 were engaging in underhanded and unusual scheming, sort of sotto voce suggesting such things had never been practiced before or since.
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Format: Hardcover
I have to start off by saying that this was far from the first book I had read on the Civil War...but it was the first book that I have read that was solely devoted to Lincoln. And I have to say that Flood really paints a personal portrait of a man that few people really know outside of his iconic image in American history. Lincoln the politician was so much smarter and better at political maneuvering than I think people have ever given him credit for...Lincoln the man was so unassuming in his interactions with the public - he seemed to care deeply for, and carry the burdens of, his constituents with him at all times...something that weighed heavily on his mind towards the end of the war. The best part of this book to me is that Flood's portrait of Lincoln is painted, not only with historical facts, but also with anecdotes and stories from the folks who actually had interactions with Lincoln during the last full year of his life.

This book also sheds light on many of the brilliant (and often on the Union side, the unfortunately misguided) military leaders on both sides of the conflict...but without getting into accounts of the battles that are too detailed so as to detract from the overall flow of the story that takes the reader through the full year of 1864.

Flood is a truly a first class writer...for a book of considerable length, I couldn't put it down. By the time I reached the end of this book, I'll be honest - we all know how Lincoln's story ends...but there was a part of me that wanted history to be re-written...a part of me that hoped that an assassin's bullet wouldn't have taken this great leader, this great man, from his country when it needed him the most. As illogical as that may initially appear, once you spend so many pages delving into the character and personality of someone such as Lincoln, you can't help but feel the loss all over again.

All in all, a highly enjoyable read...and one that is HIGHLY recommended!
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