Lincoln’s Informer: Charles A. Dana and the Inside Story of the Union War

Univ. of Kansas. Oct. 2019. 520p. ISBN 9780700628469. $39.95. BIOG
Guarneri (history, Saint Mary’s Coll., MD) pores over Civil War–era newspapers, political campaigns, and presidential administrations to track the influence of 19th-century journalist, author, and government administrator Charles Anderson Dana (1819–97). A key figure in important events of the time, Dana advised Ulysses S. Grant on the battlefield, Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet in Washington, and Republicans reconsidering Reconstruction. He also served as aide to New York Tribune publisher Horace Greeley and later went on to found the New York Sun. Addressing the complexities of wartime military and political ambitions, the author sometimes loses sight of Dana with lengthy descriptions of various battles and campaigns yet provides plenty of perspective on how Dana gained and used insider information to advance careers, especially Grant's, and making himself indispensable. In Lincoln's telling, Dana was "the eyes of the government at the front." In Guarneri's compelling account, he was much more—a shrewd, sometimes ruthless, and always relentless reporter. Dana understood that knowing how things worked made it possible to make them work for you.
VERDICT An insightful work about an influential but often overlooked political figure.

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