Every Drop of Blood: Hatred and Healing at Lincoln’s Second Inauguration

Atlantic Monthly. Mar. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9780802148742. $28. HIST
Achorn (The Summer of Beer and Whiskey) enters the crowded field of Abraham Lincoln studies by focusing on the people in and around Washington, DC, during the immediate days of the president’s second inauguration in March 1865. The author provides rich description of a wide cast of people, including politicians, poets, soldiers, and nurses—both those had an interest in Lincoln and the prospects for his second term, as well as others who opposed Lincoln’s election in 1864 or sought to undo it in 1865. Achorn is especially insightful in setting the scene for the inaugural, going deep inside the social world of the capital and remarking on the constant positioning for favor or notice. His revealing exegesis of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural (shortly before his assassination), as a prayer and sermon more than an address, shows how Lincoln’s understanding of scripture informed his reading of the meaning of the Civil War and the nation’s obligations from it.
VERDICT Although Achorn doesn’t offer new interpretations of Lincoln or his speech, he does, however, provide the fullest accounting of the inauguration experience. A solid history that will allow readers to feel as if they are in the moment.

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