Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Booknotes: Amiable Scoundrel

New Arrival:
Amiable Scoundrel: Simon Cameron, Lincoln's Scandalous Secretary of War by Paul Kahan (Potomac Books, 2016).

I don't "know" much about Simon Cameron's life and political career beyond broad brush strokes regarding his role in the emerging Republican party, his brief (and undistinguished) stint as Lincoln's first Secretary of War, and his reputation for mass corruption. According to Paul Kahan in his new full biography of Cameron, much of this conventional wisdom isn't really true. It looks like Amiable Scoundrel sets out to balance the books on a misunderstood man. The book description offers tantalizing hints at what lies within. Apparently, Kahan's research uncovered no direct evidence linking Cameron with corruption, and the author further believes that the secretary deserves more credit as "a key figure in designing and implementing the Union’s military strategy." Kahan mined Cameron archives at several locations and also consulted a large body of published primary and secondary sources. It probably disappoints some CWBA readers that I don't feature more biographies, but I definitely plan on reviewing this one.


  1. I'll be very interested to see your review of this one, should you review it. I can't speak to Cameron's corruption but from my research into his dealings with New York officials in the war's first year, it's clear he was in way over his head as Secretary of War. His indecision and contradictory orders caused a lot of confusion and discouragement.

    1. Kahan has me intrigued. I'm not aware of any other scholar who thinks Cameron's job performance as SoW was anything to write home about.


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