Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election that Brought on the Civil War
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Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election that Brought on the Civil War

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  95 ratings  ·  27 reviews
In early 1860, pundits across America confidently predicted the election of Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas in the coming presidential race. Douglas, after all, led the only party that bridged North and South. But the Democrats would split over the issue ofslavery, leading Southerners in the party to run their own presidential slate. This opened the door for the upstar...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Bloomsbury Press (first published August 24th 2010)
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Lauren Albert
How complicated it all was. The Southern extremists actually wanted Douglas to lose because he promoted compromise. They felt that Lincoln's election would scare the slave-holding states enough to secede--which is what they wanted in the first place. They thought that slavery would only be "safe" as an institution if they had their own country in which slavery was legal everywhere. Egerton doesn't believe the trade and tariff argument that takes the point of view that the South seceded in large...more
The United States presidential election of 1860 was possibly the most seminal in our history. Egerton follows the election with great care, giving the bulk of his attention to Democratic party politics. He articulates the positions of Stephen Douglas, John Breckenridge, and John Bell, and describes what happened at the various party conventions held to select these candidates.

This excellent book covers only a small slice of antebellum politics, but is rich in detail. It is especially valuable fo...more
Michael Austin
The Election of 1860 is one of the moments of our history that Americans need to understand before saying silly things like "the election between Obama and Romney reached new heights in nastiness and incivility." Every time I see a "secession petition" on Facebook, or read about somebody saying that the election/re-election of Barack Obama is the worst thing that has ever happened to the country, I sigh and think "somebody needs to read a history book." And, very likely, this is the history book...more
What an interesting read. It amazes me how history can repeat itself. I have to say parts were pretty dry, but I love history, and it was very interesting. If only history books could tell these stories in school!
LAPL Reads
I missed this book when it was published in 2010, but with the renewed interest in all things Lincoln, I was intrigued by the idea of a book about the backroom politics that resulted in Lincoln's election in 1860. Surprisingly, Lincoln is only a supporting character in Egerton's book; the main focus is on other important figures of the time, whom history has more or less forgotten in the wake of the 16th President's accomplishments.

The most important character in the book is Lincoln's Illinois r...more
Nov 04, 2010 Jerry is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Tremendous detail on the myriad political parties (and their agendas) in the 1860 presidential nominating process.
Shawn Connery
Still reading. Informative so far.....
I am of the generation that was taught that the Civil War was not about slavery – it was about “states’ rights.” Really. Now 150 years after the Civil War, let’s put that notion to rest at once and forever.

But, as the Year of Meteors points out, the Civil War was not about abolition in the South either. None of the major candidates (Democratic, Republican or Constitutional Union) of the 1860 election advocated the abolition of slavery in states where it existed. The southern states seceded becau...more
I had not come across this book when it was published back in 2010, but with the renewed interest in all things Lincoln, I was intrigued about a book about the backroom politics that resulted in Lincoln's election in 1860. Egerton's book though is not mostly about Lincoln, who is something of a supporting character, but rather on the important figures of the time, whom history has more or less forgotten in the wake of the 16th President's accomplishments.

The most important character in the book...more
Gerald Heath
The politics of the years 1860-61 were pivotal to the future of the United States. The year of Meteors explores the presidential race of 1860, and the subsequent formation of governments that followed in early 1861, after the inauguration, and the secession of southern states.

I was actually very interested in the details of the political conventions and how Lincoln, Douglas, and Breckinridge were nominated. I also was fascinated by the people behind the scenes in the south, who sabotaged the De...more
Gary Land
Year of Meteors is an excellent narrative history of the election year processes that brought about the American Civil War. William Yancey and Robert Barnwell Rhett wanted an independent South and helped destroy the Democrat's election chances to bring about that result, ultimately allowing Stephen Douglas a worthless nomination. Although William Seward was the expected Republican nominee in 1860, Abraham Lincoln's backers successfully promoted their candidate as the less radical choice. Meanwhi...more
Quinby6696 Frank
This was a very well-written and fascinating account of the tumultuous years of 1859-1861 and the incredible political machinations leading up to Lincoln's election and the beginning of the secessions of the southern states. Incredibly detailed, this book includes carefully researched details and interesting anecdotes about all the numerous players on the political stage at the time. It's written in a lively style and is quite readable, although for us non-history professors a time line would ha...more
Josh Liller
This book builds on Bruce Catton's "The Coming Fury", covering the events of 1860 and early 1861 in more detail and with better writing: the conventions, the candidates, the split of the Democrats, secession of the lower south, and the cabinet selections of Lincoln and Davis.

Egerton comes off as having an axe to grind, perhaps not surprising given many of his previous books were about African-American history. But he damns the South with their own words and history seems to have largely forgotte...more
Excellent account of the pivotal 1860 presidential election. The author does an especially fine job showing how certain Southern Democrats set out to deliberately sabotage their party's nominating convention, knowing full well their actions would most likely lead to secession. All in all, the 1860 election makes for a fascinating story, and no one has explained it better than Egerton.
This was a really interesting study of the political intrigues leading to the CIvil War. It includes many of the Southern disunionists who actually strategized to split the Democratic ticket and assure a Republican win in the 1860 election in order to guarentee to support of secession. It also explains how Lincoln came to be the Republican candidate instead of Seward.
It took me about 3 months to plow through this. The author is a college professor who is obviously a brilliant historian who covers the exact details behind all of the decisions that eventually led to the civil war. It it perfect reading for a political scientist, but was a bit dry for my taste.
Like other reviews here, I liked the detailed history and was struck by how similar the divisive debates of 1860 mirror our current political climate. The writing style is a little stiff at times, but for me the depth of the history makes this a goid recommendation.
I love history, and it is amazing to read it in a new light. I wish history books could teach some of this in schools. However, a little slow at times, this was an interesting read & I enjoyed it.
Sabra Kurth
This book was immensely readable and explained how the Fire Eaters with their determined goal of preserving and expanding slavery were in many ways the true architects of Lincoln's victory in 1860.
A very detailed account of the Election of 1860. It was very complicated and there were many players. This isn't light reading by any means. If you want all the details this is the book for you.
Matthew Marx
Great research into the political maneuvers of the 1860 election that led to Lincoln's success, Douglas/ Seward's downfall, and a splintered Union.
Jason Cecil
Really good book to explain the politics of 1860. Captures the panic and ultimately failure of political compromise of the winter of 1860-61.
A detailed account of the american presidential election leading up to the Civil War, with multiple conventions in the Democrat party.
A compelling history that shows how things in the political arena never really change. An excellent read but disheartening.
really engaging history ... powerful perspective on just how determined the radical southerners were to secede
A good review of the Politics of the 1860 Presidential elections. Sometimes it becomes too mired in details.
Tim Heggemeier
Very good insight on Sen. Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln, and Southern Illinois leading up to 1861.
Very informative, easy to read.
Eppie marked it as to-read
Apr 12, 2014
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