Lin­coln’s Great­est Jour­ney: Six­teen Days that Changed a Pres­i­dency, March 24 - April 8, 1865

Noah An­dre Trudeau

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - LEE POLEVOI

Savas Beatie Hard­cover $32.95 (360pp) 978-1-61121-326-3 Trudeau’s deep knowl­edge shines through­out the book as he un­earths new in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing Lin­coln’s war-weary state of mind.

With thou­sands of works pub­lished on Abra­ham Lin­coln and the Civil War, his­tory buffs and “or­di­nary” readers alike would be for­given for think­ing there’s noth­ing new un­der the sun in this area. En­ter vet­eran Civil War his­to­rian Noah An­dre Trudeau, who in his new book, Lin­coln’s Great­est Jour­ney, fo­cuses on a lit­tle-known episode in this great man’s stormy and tragic pres­i­dency.

In the spring of 1865, Pres­i­dent Lin­coln trav­eled to City Point, Vir­ginia, at the in­vi­ta­tion of Gen­eral Grant. Partly to get a clearer idea of the war ef­fort in the wan­ing days of the Con­fed­er­acy, but also to es­cape the al­most unimag­in­able stress the war had brought to him and his ad­min­is­tra­tion, Lin­coln spent six­teen days close to the the­ater of bat­tle, many with the gen­eral.

As Trudeau vividly demon­strates, Lin­coln emerged from this ex­pe­ri­ence with an ac­cep­tance of past mis­takes and a re­newed fo­cus on the im­me­di­ate, post­war fu­ture. While con­duct­ing lit­tle in the way of ad­min­is­tra­tive du­ties, Lin­coln “came to un­der­stand the fears and un­cer­tain­ties of a de­feated so­ci­ety [and] re­set his in­ter­nal com­pass to be­gin to lead the coun­try out of the storm.”

Trudeau’s deep knowl­edge shines through­out the book as he un­earths new in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing Lin­coln’s war-weary state of mind. Draw­ing on a wealth of pri­mary sources, in­clud­ing a 1910 mem­oir by Cap­tain John S. Barnes, com­man­der of the es­cort ves­sel USS Bat, Trudeau cap­tures in com­pelling de­tail how this trip led Lin­coln to­ward “an amaz­ing, re­mark­able trans­for­ma­tion whose pos­si­bil­i­ties would soon be sub­merged in the tur­bu­lent waters of as­sas­si­na­tion, na­tional vengeance, and a power strug­gle be­tween branches of gov­ern­ment over the na­tion’s fu­ture di­rec­tion.”

Lin­coln’s Great­est Jour­ney proves yet again that, more than 150 years later, we have yet to fully un­der­stand all the di­men­sions of the life and think­ing of Amer­ica’s great­est states­man.

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