i often joke that i intend to be buried with my copy of this book. for lincoln enthusiasts/historians (and assassination ghouls) it's singularly indis...morei often joke that i intend to be buried with my copy of this book. for lincoln enthusiasts/historians (and assassination ghouls) it's singularly indispensable.
wayne mahood (author of General Wadsworth: the life and times of Brevet Major General James S. Wadsworth) called william doster the "ultimate political insider". doster's position as provost marshall in washington d.c. at the height of the war (at the scandalously young age of 25) gave him the opportunity to observe a good deal of the goings-on in the capitol both militarily and politically. his subsequent role as defense attorney for ill-fated lewis powell and george atzerodt in the lincoln assassination conspiracy trial likewise allotted him a unique perspective.
doster didn't want to write this memoir and his lack of enthusiasm sometimes shows (particularly in the organization of this manuscript ~ could he be more random?). while his insights are hardly exhaustive, what little he chooses to reveal about some of the major players of the civil war are well worth his occasional maddeningly oblique and/or offhand commentary. his opening essay on lincoln (reproduced from a presentation delivered in 1909 at lehigh university) is probably the single most influential piece of writing with regard to my personal opinion about the man in the funny hat.
the lincoln assassination may have been my entry into learning more about the civil war, but doster (and particularly his bizarre, but eloquent defense of lewis powell) is what has kept me engaged for more than twenty years.(less)
**spoiler alert** The story is not badly written, but is bad in general. It's a fictional account of Lincoln's day at Gettysburg and how insecure he f...more**spoiler alert** The story is not badly written, but is bad in general. It's a fictional account of Lincoln's day at Gettysburg and how insecure he feels about his pithy little speech and how no one applauds and therefore it was a complete failure. Scholars have interesting things to say about why no one applauded, but I will leave it at Andrews' interpretation for the purpose of this review.
The story goes from there back to Washington where Lincoln runs headlong into a young boy in a dither over his dying brother: a Confederate prisoner who needs a will so that he can leave his property to his sweetheart and she will therefore be forced to accept it (otherwise she's too prideful). Lincoln, being a lawyer, volunteers his services and they go to the prison where he draws up the business for the bravely suffering young man. In the course of their conversation, the soldier brings up the Gettysburg speech, which is in all the papers, and he talks about how astonishing it is, blah blah blah. And of course he says that not clapping was the perfect tribute because the words were so perfect and so solemn. He talks about how he'd like to shake the President's hand, he's so dern grateful. Then the fella kicks the bucket holding Lincoln's hand, never knowing it's him.
The story works, even if it is melodrama. Its apotheosic (is that a word? I doubt it) bent is only mildly disturbing and the depiction of the two southern boys as righteous, indignant, but well-meaning is a rather dull stereotype. But in 1906 I can certainly see the appeal and I enjoyed the story despite my own prejudices.
So happy birthday, Mr. Lincoln. Enjoy your celebration year!(less)
lowry does it again: compiles an endless parade of the most interesting, bizarre, and positively human anecdotes from a period in history that likes t...morelowry does it again: compiles an endless parade of the most interesting, bizarre, and positively human anecdotes from a period in history that likes to feign a lot of modesty, chivalry, and sexual naivete.
while it may be maddening to some to read through endless snippets of stories and courts martial which often have no resolution or conclusion, the sheer quantity and variety of activity encompassed provides evidence that the world now is not so much different than it was then ~ and that's really all lowry's after.
read along with lowry's Stories the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell.(less)
this book is neither exhaustive nor eloquent. in fact, the narrative is plain and straightforward, but the story it tells is absolutely and profoundly...morethis book is neither exhaustive nor eloquent. in fact, the narrative is plain and straightforward, but the story it tells is absolutely and profoundly heartbreaking.
through Angelo Crapsey's letters, diary, and a host of depositions from his pension inquiries, you see his horrifying degeneration into despair and self-destruction. And all the while his family and friends scratch their heads and helplessly watch him fall to pieces: scratching at phantom lice, flying into violent fits, withdrawing into protracted silences, rambling incoherently, paranoia, loss of appetite, moments of strange lucidity, and all the while making attempts on his life until he finally succeeds ~ all symptoms of what we now recognize as post-traumatic stress disorder.
there are very few references to the psychological effects of the Civil War on its combatants (something that has always been a source of fascination to me personally). mental illness was little understood and shameful for those who experienced it. while the Union kept some record of wartime suicides, it's impossible to know how many veterans on either side died after the fact as a result of deliberately self-destructive behavior.
brandt does well to organize the material and facilitate our understanding of the story from Angelo's enlistment (too young, but managing with a lie, like many boys then), through his imprisonment, his return to battle already unfit for duty, and his eventual collapse and hospitalization in an asylum. But even brandt, ultimately can't make much more of it than what's baldy there: the boy was severely damaged. he went to war young and idealistic and never really came back at all. if he had more support and less condemnation when he got home, would he have made it? impossible to tell.
at just a little over 200 pages, this book is a quick read, but a very painful one. not recommended if you're in a funk.(less)
aimed at young audiences, this short volume is a nice overview of a complex battle. it has all the fine presence of kantor's fine style, but nothing t...moreaimed at young audiences, this short volume is a nice overview of a complex battle. it has all the fine presence of kantor's fine style, but nothing terribly new for anyone well-versed in the subject matter. i picked this up sight-unseen without knowing anything about it and enjoyed it as a quick read. probably if i had seen it in a book store and flipped through it first, i would not have purchased it, but oh well. probably if i were 12 and interested, this would be a very fine book.
anti-Catholicism was quite the national pastime in antebellum America and here's a great book that demonstrates how and why that prevalent attitude sl...moreanti-Catholicism was quite the national pastime in antebellum America and here's a great book that demonstrates how and why that prevalent attitude slowly began turning around in the 19th century.
here is a book full of real heroes; nurses, student soldiers, and clergy who rendered aid to a country that didn't want them; helping to alleviate prejudices through their dedication and service. there are some great portraits throughout and excellent details not only of those who left Notre Dame to assist in the fields, but also those who remained at the college. it was especially interesting to read about the aftermath of the war.
a great overview of an underwritten subject, with numerous interesting anecdotes and quotes from primary source documents. one description of a general absolution before battle at Gettysburg was especially affecting.
also a nice starting place for those interested in reading more about general w. t. sherman, whose Catholic wife insisted on raising their many children in the faith (and whose son Tom eventually entered the priesthood despite his father's objections).
excellent photos and notes round this book out very well. as with schmidt's other book (Lincoln's Labels), i only wish it could have been longer!(less)