Monday, May 13, 2019

Book News: Lincoln's Informer

Start grabbing Civil War books at random and odds are it won't take long before you encounter the personage of Charles A. Dana, either through his early-war journalistic influences as New York Tribune editor or most likely his role as the Lincoln's administration's roving agent and spy at the front (which became official with his appointment as Asst. Secretary of War). Most are familiar with Dana's far from furtive placement at Grant's headquarters, where his investigative mission quickly transformed into one of admirer and promoter of Grant's career. I am looking forward to learning much more about the man and his outsized impact on the war later this year when University of Kansas Press releases Carl Guarneri's Lincoln's Informer: Charles A. Dana and the Inside Story of the Union War (October).

From the description: "Dana didn’t just record history, Carl J. Guarneri notes: he made it. Starting out as managing editor of Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, he led the newspaper’s charge against proslavery forces in Congress and the Kansas territory. When his criticism of the Union’s prosecution of the war became too much for Greeley, Dana was drafted by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to be a special agent—and it was in this capacity that he truly made his mark."

More: "Drawing on Dana’s reports, letters, and telegrams—'the most remarkable, interesting, and instructive collection of official documents relating to the Rebellion,' according to the custodian of the Union war records—Guarneri reconstructs the Civil War as Dana experienced and observed it: as a journalist, a confidential informant to Stanton and Lincoln, and, most controversially, an administration insider with surprising influence. While reporting most of the war’s major events, Dana also had a hand in military investigations, the cotton trade, Lincoln’s reelection, passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, and, most notably, the making of Ulysses S. Grant and the breaking of other generals." General Rosecrans certainly didn't enjoy as rosy an outcome as Grant did when Dana set up camp at his headquarters!

"Dana’s reporting and Guarneri’s lively narrative provide fresh impressions of Lincoln, Stanton, Grant, and other Union war leaders. Lincoln’s Informer shows us the unlikely role of a little-known confidant and informant in the Lincoln administration’s military and political successes. A remarkable inside look at history unfolding, this book draws the first complete picture of a fascinating character writing his chapter in the story of the Civil War."

UPK is on a roll when it comes to publishing major works on topics that interest me. I am just now getting to Hampton Newsome's study of the late-war action in North Carolina and I still have Huston Horn's Polk biography waiting in the wings.

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