Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In Honor of President's Day - Abraham Lincoln

Last year was the bicentennial celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birth (1809-2009). Much was published about this extraordinary man who was our 16th president and presided over one of the most tumultuous periods of American history – the Civil War.

In honor of the Lincoln bicentennial and the President’s Day holiday, I highly recommend two books about Lincoln: one published a while ago (1992) and one published just recently (2008).

Lincoln at Gettysburg: the Words That Remade America by Garry Wills. This is not only a wonderful look at one of the most famous speeches Lincoln made, but also a close look at some unanticipated consequences of the Civil War, most especially the development of cemeteries and in particular the Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA. Garry Wills has writen many excellent histories (his latest one – Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State), but Lincoln at Gettysburg is a highly readable account that teaches the reader much about the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and the power of the word.

Lincoln and His Admirals by Craig L. Symonds is a newer addition to the Lincoln canon, and turns the spotlight on a fairly little known aspect of Lincoln’s presidency. Lincoln, who admitted he knew little about ships, came to be the commander in chief of one of the largest national armadas in US history. Symonds traces Lincoln’s slow beginnings and then steady growth as a wartime president. If you are interested in ships, the Civil War and the history of our Navy, then this is the book for you. Meg


Joe said...

In Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America Wills takes us back not only to the day that Lincoln gave this speech, but also he starts off crafting deftly, and laboriously, our experiences while visiting a cemetery such as this one. That realm between the living and the dead should be used to remember and commemorate those that have fallen so that we can finish the work before us. Our work to reinvent the Union should be founded upon giving new meaning to all men are created equal.

Also, Wills explains how revolutionary Lincoln's Gettysburg address really was. And he proposes why it was so short, and also why so much was left out of it... like the words "slavery", "the South", or even the word "Union". And finally he examines how the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln's Second Inaugural are so similar, and why the "sin of slavery" was not part of the Gettysburg Address but was able to be included in his Second Inaugural.

If there ever was a book that I should reread, this is one of them. It's a very good choice for President's Day.


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