Thursday, December 21, 2017

I Held Lincoln

Richard Quest's I Held Lincoln: A Union Sailor's Journey Home (Potomac, May 2018) will examine the life of Union naval lieutenant Benjamin Loring, including his connection to one of the war's most infamous events. Loring was present at Ford's Theater on the night of April 14, 1865. "After the shot rang out, Loring climbed into the presidential box and assisted the dying president, helping to carry him across the street to the Peterson House. Using Loring’s recently discovered private journal, Richard E. Quest tells this astonishing lost story, giving insight into a little-known Confederate prison camp during the last days of the Civil War and providing much-deserved recognition to a man whose journey was nearly lost to American history."

Undoubtedly, that part of the book will interest many readers, but I'm much more intrigued by Loring's naval career. "Covering almost a year of Loring’s service, I Held Lincoln describes the lieutenant’s command of the gunboat USS Wave, the Battle of Calcasieu Pass, the surrender of his ship, and his capture by the Confederates. He was incarcerated in Camp Groce, a deadly Confederate prison where he endured horrific conditions and abuse. Loring attempted to escape, evading capture for ten days behind enemy lines, only to be recaptured just a few miles from freedom. After an arduous second escape, he finally reached the safety of Union lines and gained his freedom." The May 6, 1864 Battle of Calcasieu Pass in Louisiana has not been entirely overlooked in the literature, but it has certainly been overshadowed by other successful Confederate land attacks on Union coastal and river shipping (e.g. Sabine Pass). In terms of shaping its historical appreciation and remembrance, the battle had the additional misfortune of taking place at the same time as the news-absorbing Red River Campaign. I am very much looking forward to reading what the book has to say about this engagement.

Maybe it's just a random lull, but it seems like Nebraska's Civil War output has really dwindled in recent years, even with their acquisition of Potomac Books. Their Great Campaigns of the Civil War series has had only one first-run release over the past decade or so, and the This Hallowed Ground guidebook series that I like so much has slowed to a dribble as well. Hopefully, the press will get its own version of the Scott Frost effect going. GBR.

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