Lincoln and the Fight for Peace

S. & S. Feb. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9781982108120. $30. HIST
In this latest book, Avlon (Washington’s Farewell) argues that Abraham Lincoln thought as much about how to achieve peace as to how to win the Civil War. Lincoln knew that binding up the nation’s wounds from a civil war required more than raw power to impose on the defeated; it especially required magnanimity to bring the defeated back willingly to the national fold. But magnanimity would only count if it came from a position of strength and clear purpose. In Avlon’s telling, Lincoln’s approach to peace rested on three “indispensable conditions” that the Confederates were required to accept, from which he never deviated: unconditional surrender, restoration of the Union, and the end of slavery forever. In his very readable, if sometimes meandering, book, Avlon does not break new interpretive ground, but he does provide many personal, policy, and political details of Lincoln’s thought and actions.
VERDICT Avlon sometimes strains to make Lincoln’s Civil War–era approach to peace applicable to world wars, and relies too much on post-assassination memoirs for his Lincoln tales, but he does make the case that to win a war one must also know how to win the peace and invest in doing so.
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