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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Booknotes: The Last Weeks of Abraham Lincoln

New Arrival:
The Last Weeks of Abraham Lincoln: A Day-by-Day Account of His Personal, Political, and Military Challenges by David Alan Johnson (Prometheus Books, 2018).

With existing works from Starr, Trudeau, Harris, Reck and probably more I don't know about, the last hours, days, weeks, and months of Abraham Lincoln's life and presidency have been pretty popular book-length topics of study over the years. The newest entry is David Alan Johnson's The Last Weeks of Abraham Lincoln: A Day-by-Day Account of His Personal, Political, and Military Challenges, which examines the period March 4 to April 15.

During this time, Lincoln "delivered his second inaugural address, supervised climatic battles leading up to the end of the Civil War, learned that Robert E. Lee had surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, and finally was killed by assassin John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre."

With the information presented in forty-one mostly daily chapters (two combine dates), "(t)he reader follows the president as he greets visitors at the inaugural ball, asks abolitionist Frederick Douglass's opinion of the inaugural address, confers with Generals Grant and Sherman on the final stages of the war, visits a field hospital for wounded outside City Point, Virginia, and attempts to calm his high-strung wife Mary, who appears on the verge of nervous collapse. We read excerpts from press reviews of Lincoln's second inaugural address, learn that Mrs. Lincoln's ball gown created a sensation, and are given eye-witness accounts of the celebrations and drunken revelry that broke out in Washington when the end of the war was announced." The epilogue briefly discusses the aftermath of the assassination and the troubled Andrew Johnson presidency. Rounding out the book's contents is an appendix section that contains the text of a number of remarks, proclamations, and official addresses originating from the period, mostly from Lincoln but also from Johnson and Jefferson Davis.

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