Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Booknotes: I Held Lincoln

New Arrival:
I Held Lincoln: A Union Sailor's Journey Home by Richard E. Quest
  (Potomac Books, 2018).

Richard Quest's I Held Lincoln: A Union Sailor's Journey Home builds a Civil War naval service, prison, and prison escape narrative around the personal log of Lt. Benjamin Loring. Though the book utilizes this and other historical sources to tell the story, it quickly becomes apparent when reading the text that there is poetic license involved as well. As stated in the Author's Note, many "conversations throughout the book are representations based on documents, letters, and oral family history."

While the POW and escape experiences dominate the book, Loring's firsthand perspectives on lesser-known West Gulf naval events in and along NE Texas and SW Louisiana coastlines and inlets also might make for interesting reading. From the description: "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."

Still suffering from his ordeal, Loring remained in the service and reported to the Washington Navy Yard for duty. As referred to in the title, he had one final brush with history before the war ended. "On the night of April 14, 1865, Loring attended Ford’s Theater and witnessed one of the single most tragic events in American history: the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. 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."

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