Congress at War: How Republican Reformers Fought the Civil War, Defied Lincoln, Ended Slavery, and Remade America

Knopf. Feb. 2020. 480p. ISBN 9780451494443. $32.50. HIST
The latest work by Bordewich (The First Congress) offers insight into the overlooked legislative conflicts during the Civil War, deftly following legislators Thaddeus Stevens, Benjamin Wade, William P. Fessenden, and Clement Vallandigham, and bringing to life the personalities behind factions of Radical Republicans, Unionists, and Copperheads. Bordewich expertly shows how each faction wrestled with funding, equipping, and supplying manpower to what turned out to be a long and expensive war, and whether to authorize military enlistment and extend rights to African Americans. Also explained is the impact of Congress issuing the first paper currency, authorizing banks to facilitate bond issuance in order to finance unprecedented war debt. During this time, the nation saw the passage of the Homesteading Act and the Pacific Railroad Acts, legislation that would impact the United States for generations. The outcome of the struggle in Congress was as consequential as the military struggle on battlefields throughout the county.
VERDICT Bordewich contributes an entertaining, fresh perspective to our ever-evolving understanding and discussion of the Civil War. An important addition for both general readers of American history and scholars of the growing interpretations of Civil War studies.

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