- Paperback: 392 pages
- Publisher: University Press of Kentucky (February 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0813116872
- ISBN-13: 978-0813116877
- Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,068,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Lincoln and the Bluegrass: Slavery and Civil War in Kentucky Paperback – February, 1990
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This book could be read and enjoyed by most anyone who had at least a cursory knowledge of the Lincoln family and this period in U.S. history. You don't have to know too terribly much inasmuch as Townsend does give a good sketch of Lincoln and Todd family histories, as well as some good background regarding the growth and development of the city of Lexington, Kentucky.
I have read a rather great amount of Civil War era material, and I would rate this among my most interesting reads on this subject.
The reason this book rates so highly with me is that you are taken into the heart and soul of one of the crucibles of Civil War era debate, and political confusion--Kentucky and the Lexington region (the Bluegrass). This region is like a microcosm or concentrated version of the split that was occurring in the nation as a whole. This is the state that produced both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis and various other shades of political opinion at opposite extremes. Kentuckians fought for the Union and Confederacy in large numbers.
One of my most interesting discoveries in the book was that of Cassius M. Clay, who was a firebrand in the cause of emancipation of the slaves. The chapter titled "The True American" about Clay and his abolition-leaning newpaper would alone be worth the purchase of the book. Here is a real American original and one whose story should be known by more students of U.S. history, I feel.
In this well-written book, one discovers the political education gained by Abraham Lincoln in marrying Mary Todd, a member of one of Lexington's leading families. Other people of note in this time and place were Henry Clay--Lincoln's political idol who knew Mary and the Todds well; Dr. Robert J. Breckinridge, a pro-Union Presbyterian minister; and Judge George Robertson, who later served as Lincoln's counsel.
I highly recommend this book for its solid research and writing style, its interesting and well-described cast of characters and for giving us the kind of Civil War era view of Kentucky and the Bluegrass region which to my knowledge is almost unique in the literature of this setting.
Lincoln and the Bluegrass is an expanded version of a book he first published in 1929 called Lincoln and His Wife's Hometown. It was a pioneering study of Lincoln's contact with slavery in Kentucky. The Bluegrass had always been moderate on the slavery issue, and had even produced its own home-grown abolitionist, Cassius Clay. But in the 1840s and '50s, Kentuckians became more stridently committed to the institution, a development that alarmed Lincoln. In his few trips to the state to visit his wife's family, he not only witnessed the evils of slavery first-hand but was disturbed to see the moderate South openly embracing an evil the Founding Fathers had hoped to put on the road to ultimate extinction.
Townsend's book is still highly readable, and some of its insights have yet to be fully incorporated into Lincoln scholarship.