Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Booknotes III (Apr '15)

New Arrivals:

1. Dawn of Victory: Breakthrough at Petersburg, March 25 - April 2, 1865 by Edward S. Alexander (Savas Beatie, 2015).

A. Wilson Greene is the go-to guy for the full story of the final Union breakthrough that ended the long Petersburg-Richmond Campaign once and for all, but many readers will find Pamplin park ranger Edward Alexander's Dawn of Victory to be a suitable lighter alternative.

2. Lincoln's Autocrat: The Life of Edwin Stanton by William Marvel (UNC Pr, 2015).

There's another choice word beginning with the letter "A" that many Stanton critics would use, and this is William Marvel here so no one should be expecting a softball treatment of Lincoln's controversial Secretary of War. "In the first full biography of Stanton in more than fifty years, William Marvel offers a detailed reexamination of Stanton's life, career, and legacy. Marvel argues that while Stanton was a formidable advocate and politician, his character was hardly benign. Climbing from a difficult youth to the pinnacle of power, Stanton used his authority--and the public coffers--to pursue political vendettas, and he exercised sweeping wartime powers with a cavalier disregard for civil liberties." The author "suggests that Stanton's tenure raises important questions about Lincoln's actual control over the executive branch. This insightful biography also reveals why men like Ulysses S. Grant considered Stanton a coward and a bully, who was unashamed to use political power for partisan enforcement and personal preservation." Thick biographies tend to be CWBA kryponite but I'm sorely tempted by this one.

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