Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington

S. & S. Apr. 2020. 624p. ISBN 9781476739434. $35. BIOG
Widmer (Macaulay Honors Coll.; City Univ. of New York) takes readers along with Abraham Lincoln (1809–65), as the president-elect journeyed by train from Springfield, IL, to his inauguration in Washington, DC, in 1861. The author describes how Lincoln traveled almost 2,000 miles, through eight states, stopping to give speeches along the way. In statehouses and at whistle-stops, Lincoln made his case for the Union as the last best chance to show the world that democracy could, and must, succeed, and that he was the right person to lead in a difficult time. The trip was exhausting but also exhilarating, for it made Lincoln more aware of peoples’ interests, in addition to becoming more self-confident about his own maturing ideas. To reach his inauguration, he slipped past assassination plots and mob attacks, the author explains. Widmer offers riveting descriptions of the dangers on the journey, the many and varied people involved in Lincoln’s goals, the technological improvements of telegraph and railroad, and the larger historical context of the secession crisis. These all give his book resonance and insight into the man and the moment.
VERDICT Whether seasoned Lincoln scholars or interested general readers, all who pick up this book will learn much by going along for the ride with Widmer.
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