Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Booknotes: Gathering to Save a Nation

New Arrival:
Gathering to Save a Nation: Lincoln and the Union's War Governors
by Stephen D. Engle (UNC Press, 2016).

Apparently, this is the first full-length treatment of the relationship between Lincoln and Union state governors to be published since William Hesseltine's 1948 study Lincoln and the War Governors. One of Engle's main goals is to challenge the popular image of Lincoln as a master orchestra leader and manipulator of lesser men. Instead, "Engle argues that the relationship between these loyal-state leaders and Lincoln's administration was far more collaborative than previously thought. While providing detailed and engaging portraits of these men, their state-level actions, and their collective cooperation, Engle brings into new focus the era's complex political history and shows how the Civil War tested and transformed the relationship between state and federal governments." 

Far from needing to be "handled," the war governors were often talented and effective lead actors in their own right and were absolutely essential to Union victory. "Charged with the difficult task of raising soldiers from their home states, these governors had to also rally political, economic, and popular support for the conflict, at times against a backdrop of significant local opposition." Engle's book is a massive tome, with the narrative running nearly 500 pages and a bibliography that suggests both mastery of the secondary literature and vast probing of manuscript collections located all across the country.

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