Monday, September 5, 2016

Booknotes: Lincoln's Greatest Journey

New Arrival:
Lincoln's Greatest Journey: Sixteen Days that Changed a Presidency, March 24 - April 8, 1865 by Noah Andre Trudeau (Savas Beatie, 2016).

Readers who have been following this site since its inception would probably guess that this isn't really the type of book that I'm generally interested in. I received an ARC a while back and fully expected to put it away after reading a few chapters. Instead, I found the writing surprisingly engrossing and quickly finished it. The book is an almost moment-by-moment recounting of Lincoln's famous City Point visit, replete with multitudinous personal anecdotes related by numerous sources (many of which I hadn't read before, though others my have). Another interesting feature of the visit was Lincoln's practice of taking Grant's dispatches from the front, rewriting their contents, and forwarding them to the press, the president's 'dispatches from the front' being popular reading material (though the cynical among us might huff a bit at the motivation behind them). 

Trudeau views the sixteen days spent in Virginia with the army as a major restorative event (he uses the word "(re)-energizing" quite a bit) that refocused and cleared the president's mind regarding his plans for Reconstruction during his second term and the future of the millions of freed people. From the description: "Previous coverage of this unprecedented trip―his longest break from the White House since he had taken office―has been sketchy at best, and often based on seriously flawed sources. Lincoln’s Greatest Journey represents the most extensively researched and detailed story of these decisive sixteen days at City Point in a narrative laden with many heretofore unpublished accounts." In addition to those interested in all things Lincoln, readers wanting to read something fresh about the closing moments of the war in the East should find the book well worth their time.


  1. Thanks for your review, Drew.

    I am glad you liked it after you waded in shoe-top deep and then needed a snorkel to reach the far bank. We think it is a real contribution to the literature, and as Andy explained to me beforehand, there is much new here, and much corrected that was simply wrong.

    We hope our readers will support the book and enjoy it.

  2. Having just finished this book, I thought I'd report that I enjoyed it tremendously. Trudeau's thoughts on the importance of the trip to Lincoln's plans for reconstruction are necessarily speculative and, I think, unproven. However, the detailed portraits of Lincoln, Grant and others as they anticipate and experience events during that momentous period are superb, as are the you-are-there descriptions of the president's trips to Petersburg and Richmond. As a bonus, I now know why Mrs. Grant detested Mary Lincoln so much that she refused to accompany the president and his wife to Ford's Theater on that fateful evening. Highly recommended.


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