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Elihu Washburne : The Diary and Letters of America's Minister to France During the Siege and Commune of Paris

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  62 ratings  ·  33 reviews
The remarkable and inspiring story--told largely in his own words--of American diplomat Elihu Washburne, who heroically aided his countrymen and other nationals when Paris was devastated by war and revolution in 1870-1871. A former Congressman and friend of Presidents Lincoln and Grant, Elihu Washburne was appointed U.S. Minister to France just before the outbreak of the ...more
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published November 6th 2012 by Simon Schuster
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Start your review of Elihu Washburne : The Diary and Letters of America's Minister to France During the Siege and Commune of Paris
I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads' First Reads. It chronicles a really remarkable story. Michael Hill was David McCullough's research assistant, and this book came about as they were doing research for McCullough's book The Greater Journey. That research uncovered never-before-known journals of Washburne's that had been untouched in the Library of Congress. While McCullough quotes excerpts from those journals, it was great to read a much larger portion of them in Hill's book, ...more
Rob Slaven
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received this book as part of a GoodReads drawing and despite the low-low price of ‘absolutely nothing’ I give my candid opinions below.

When I first sat down with this book it was with a bit of concern. Having somewhat recently taken my hand at Samuel Pepys I was expecting a similar regurgitation of the day-to-day life of our subject diplomat. I was pleasantly and quickly relieved to find that unlike previous publishers of similar material, Michael Hill has taken much greater care to craft a
I won this book through the Goodreads giveaway. I don't enter every giveaway for the sake of getting free books. I enter only those that I truly want to win. So, in keeping with a promise to myself and the spirit of the giveaways, I will always write something about my fortune wins.

Being a history lover, I thought I would enjoy this but I found it dull reading. While I admire his service to our country during this time, I found the diary entries rather dull and the book did not pull me along and
Jim Chase
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Captured largely in his own words, this is a fascinating account of Elihu Washburne — the onetime friend and confidant of Presidents Lincoln and Grant, and ambassador to France during a time of tremendous tumult and drama in the streets of 1870's Paris. I find myself marveling at how unaware we are of what is an undeniably riveting story of American honor and personal sacrifice, embodied in the valiant actions of a dutiful public servant in a hotbed of chaos, disorder, and terror. Most ...more
Feb 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-histry
How many stars? A personal rating, based on whether I "liked" it would be 3 stars. However, the value of the book increases when it's value for historical purposes is considered. Larger public libraries and academic libraries should consider acquiring this little gem. Illinois high school libraries interested in native sons may find it of interest as will lay readers who enjoy primary source writing in the form of diary or letters.
Also, a little background knowledge of Paris and it's politics
Nov 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This is a fascinating biography based on historical documentation of a figure basically unknown in American schools. A rarity in any era is an honest politician with mid west hard work values and dedication to the office and people it serves.
Elihu's diary entries draw you into the conflict, on scene, on the ground, and in his mind for an enjoyable read. There is a tension in the atmosphere among the French people that hints at the attitude they convey for the next 100 years.
Kelli Lynn Dwyer
Nov 28, 2012 marked it as to-read
Shelves: giveaways-won

Once I read the short paragraph telling what this book was about, I knew I had to read it. I'm so excited to have won the giveaway and as soon as I receive the book in the mail and review it, I'll be sure to write a proper review. Thanks!
Nov 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Title: Elihu Washburne; The Diary and Letters of America's Minister to France During the Siege and Commune of Paris

Author: Elihu Washburne was writer, while Michael Hill and and David McCullough were possibly editors?

First Copyright Date: Letters and diary entries were from 1870-1871, while the story was put together and published in 2012

Type of Book: France, War, history, Commune, Diplomacy, Franco-Prussian relations, Paris, Siege, 1870-1871

General Subject Matter: France, Paris 1870-1871

Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great and well edited account of Mr. Washburne's journals and diaries during this time. I definitely think this is better served when reading it with something like The Greater Journey to supplement the understand of the situation, I don't know how well it would stand on it's own.
Nov 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Nerds like me
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Several years ago I read The Greater Journey by David McCullough, an author well known and whose books are well reviewed. It was a very enjoyable and enlightening book, and I especially was interested in the American writers, painters, physicians and thinkers who spent time in Paris.

Then I got to the third part of the book. I was totally ignorant of the Siege of Paris when the Prussian Army led by Bismarck surrounded the city for 131 days, nor had I known of the collapse of Napoleon III, the
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I got this book as a Goodreads giveaway.

I knew a little bit about Washburne due to my American Civil War investigations. Then a reading of David McCullough's 'The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris', my interest was further piqued, so I was quite excited to give this book a go.

At the time of the Civil War Washburne was an influential politician from Illinois, who was a strong supporter of Lincoln and was responsible for getting Grant a brigadier general's commission in the early days of the
Linda Bennett
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have loved everything David McCullough has written; however, he did not write this book, his research assistant, Michael Hill, did.

Michael Hilll knows how to tell an interesting story. The book flows even though, sometimes, Hill has to go back and forth a period of months or years to complete a thought. The book is mostly about the horrendous Franco-Prussian war which lead to the even more horrendous Siege of Paris and then the even more horrendous Commune of Paris. The United States
James Sorensen
Nov 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Disclaimer: I won this book as part of the Goodreads first-read program.

Author Michael Hill has done extensive research into the life of Elihu Washburne in preparation for writing this biography. Hill has chosen to focus on Washburne's life during his tenure as American Minister to France. Hill takes a close look at Washburne as he stays in Paris during both the Franco-Prussian War and the ensuing siege of Paris and then the following insurrection of the Communards(Reds)and the Reign of
Ashlea (
Nov 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Despite a very scanty knowledge of French history, I thoroughly enjoyed this book on a noteworthy American in Paris during a difficult time. This is a good mix of exposition and excerpts from Washburne's letters and diary.

Mr. Washburne, a contemporary of Lincoln and Grant, was appointed American Minister in France. Just after he arrived in Paris, the French decided for not particularly good reasons to declare war on Prussia, who shortly thereafter besieged Paris because they were the military
Jul 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Michael Hill 's "Elihu Washburne : The Diary and Letters of America's Minister to France During the Siege and Commune of Paris" is a well edited compendium of Elihu Washburne's letters, diary, and other sources mixed with the editor's judicious providing of context. The book covers Washburne's tenure just before and during the Franco-Prussian War and ensuing siege of Paris.

I found the book well written, easy to read and quite informative. Washburne had access to all the major participants on
The length of time it took me to read this book, which I got through FirstReads, should not be taken as a reflection on the book itself.

Hill has done a good job not only with the editing, but with filling in information that casual readers might need about Paris, France, and the relevant European situation at the time. In other words, one definitely does not have to be an academic to enjoy or learn from this book. The reasonable length contributes to that benefit.

Despite my own knowledge of
Lucy Paquette
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
This absolutely fascinating account of America's minister to France, in Paris during the Siege and Commune, is long overdue. Elihu Washburne exerted himself to keep a detailed journal of all he did and saw during this terrible episode in history. One of the only diplomats to remain in the city, he suffered from the cold and dwindling food supply while helping over 3,000 Americans, Germans and other civilians to escape. The safety of his home and his family were threatened, but he tried to save ...more
Deale Hutton
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Elihu Washburne was US ambassador to France during the Franco-Prussian War, the siege of Paris and the second commune. The late 1871+ He was not your typical ambassador. Thought uncultured by some on Washington, he managed to evacuate, feed and house many innocent German families during the War. He rescued many Americans. In a nutshell, he was great.
I read about him in The Greater Journey by McCullough and had to read the diary. It is wonderful . It does drag in parts as did the 132 day siege
Tom Darrow
Dec 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Franco-Prussian War is an often forgotten, but very important, conflict in European history. US diplomat Elihu Washburne was stationed in Paris during the war and the revolution that occurred afterwards. While there, he actively kept a diary and sent hundreds of letters to his family and US Secretary of State Hamilton Fish.

Michael Hill takes the letters and diary entries and weaves them together into a story of this conflict through Washburne's perspective. Over all, the book is very well
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"The new quotations for today are as follows: For cats; a common cat, eight francs, a Thomas cat, ten francs; for rats, a common rat, two francs, long-tailed rat, two francs and a half; for dogs ... two francs a pound; for a fat dog, two and a half francs." (87)

"At first the [Prussian] troops were met with hisses, cat calls, and all sorts of insulting cries, but as they poured in thicker and faster and forming by companies, as they swept down the avenue to the strains of martial music, the crowd
Susana Pierce
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
After reading "The Greater Journey" by David McCullough I wanted to know more about Elihu Washburne, America's ambassador to Paris during France's war with Prussia in 1870 and during the Commune. Without giving too much away, I can see why his was a household name in the US after his term of service was over; it's amazing to me that our national consciousness no longer holds the memory of this man who seemed to exemplify upstanding common sense and decency.
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I was nervous about the format but it works out rather well. It was fascinating reading about a man this amazing. This area of history has not really been in my interest, but this book has shown me how fascinating it is. I will definitely recommend this book to my friends and family that like to read history.

*** I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads ***
May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
A man I had never heard of comes vividly to life through his longlost diary entries and the graceful narrative by Mike Hill. Washburne was a kind, compassionate and responsible man who could not turn his back on the suffering caused by the siege of Paris. A fascinating look at a time and place I knew little about.
Robert B.  B.
Apr 30, 2013 rated it liked it
An interesting account of an unjustly overlooked figure from the middle of the 19th century and his heroism as a diplomat in revolution-wracked France. The decision to base this account almost entirely on Washburne's diary entries was unfortunate and reminds readers (and writers) why narrative is so important. Still, a worthwhile contribution to the literature.
L.R Winford
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-my-library
I havent read it yet. It was a gift of my uncle to me. Its kinda boring outside coz' I hate history, makes me sleep in class. but this book is an eye opener I think for those who dont know a thing about the sacrifices of Elihu Washburne.
Aug 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting bit of history. Gaps
Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very interesting account of a period of French history I was totally unaware of.
Victoria Grusing
Feb 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-donate
This introduced me to history I had never learned. I read this after reading David McCullough's "The Greater Journey". Quite an amazing account of a terrible period in Parisian history.
Jan 06, 2013 rated it liked it
It's a good book. A little dry but very interesting. I think we all should be very proud of his service.
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