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Lincoln's Greatest Journey: Sixteen Days that Changed a Presidency, March 24 - April 8, 1865

af Noah Andre Trudeau

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661406,571 (4.1)Ingen
FINALIST, 2017, RICHARD HARWELL AWARD, GIVEN BY THE CIVIL WAR ROUND TABLE OF ATLANTA March 1865: The United States was at a crossroads and, truth be told, Abraham Lincoln was a sick man. "I am very unwell," he confided to a close acquaintance. A vast and terrible civil war was winding down, leaving momentous questions for a war-weary president to address. A timely invitation from General U. S. Grant provided the impetus for an escape to City Point, Virginia, a journey from which Abraham Lincoln drew much more than he ever expected. Lincoln's Greatest Journey: Sixteen Days that Changed a Presidency, March 24 - April 8, 1865, by Noah Andre Trudeau offers the first comprehensive account of a momentous time. Lincoln traveled to City Point, Virginia, in late March 1865 to escape the constant interruptions in the nation's capital that were carrying off a portion of his "vitality," and to make his personal amends for having presided over the most destructive war in American history in order to save the nation. Lincoln returned to Washington sixteen days later with a renewed sense of purpose, urgency, and direction that would fundamentally shape his second term agenda. Previous coverage of this unprecedented trip--his longest break from the White House since he had taken office--has been sketchy at best, and often based on seriously flawed sources. Lincoln's Greatest Journey represents the most extensively researched and detailed story of these decisive sixteen days at City Point in a narrative laden with many heretofore unpublished accounts. The richly shaped prose, a hallmark of Trudeau's pen, rewrites much of the heretofore misunderstood story of what really happened to Lincoln during this time. A fresh, more complete picture of Lincoln emerges. This is Lincoln at a time of great personal and national change--the story of how he made peace with the past and became firmly future-focused, all set against a dramatically new narrative of what really happened during those last weeks of his life. It infuses the well-worn Lincoln narrative with fresh sources to fundamentally change an often-told story in ways large and small. Rather than treat Lincoln as a dead man walking when he returns to Washington, Trudeau paints him as he surely was--a changed man profoundly influenced by all that he experienced while at City Point. Lincoln's Greatest Journey represents an important addition to the Lincoln saga. The conventional wisdom that there's nothing new to be learned about Lincoln is due for a major reset.… (mere)
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Summary: A day by day account of the final trip Abraham Lincoln took for sixteen days at City Point, Virginia, the headquarters of Ulysses S. Grant, and how this transformed Lincoln.

It was Lincoln’s longest stay away from the White House during his presidency.. It didn’t start out that way. Lincoln, accompanied by his wife Mary, had planned a two day visit to Grant’s headquarters, beginning on March 24, 1865. Lee’s forces defending Richmond were slowly weakening as Grant extended his lines. The hope was that the decisive breakthrough ending the war was near. Phil Sheridan was rejoining Grant from the Shenandoah valley. Sherman, further off, was marching from the south.

Lincoln arrived as a war-weary president wanting to encourage Grant to finish the job. He described himself saying, “I am very unwell” and he looked it to observers who knew him. He ended up extending his stay for sixteen days and left a different man both physically and in outlook. Noah Andre Trudeau traces Lincoln’s day by day itinerary against the backdrop of the final days of the Civil War, filling in gaps in the somewhat sketchy outlines of Lincoln’s stay at City Point.

Perhaps the event that changed Lincoln’s plans was Grants repulse of the surprise attack on Fort Stedman on the second day. Grant realized that Lee was fatally weakened and further extended his own lines to the southwest and called on Sheridan to attack on Lee’s right flank. Lincoln attended the command summit a few days later that included Sherman as they readied the attack, encouraging them that “Your success is my success.”

As Grant moved west to be at the crucial point of attack, Lincoln was left with little to do but ride and walk, receive visits and visit field hospitals. Unwittingly, he became a war correspondent, passing news from Grant along to Washington, where his reports were disseminated to the public. In so doing, Lincoln broke new ground in media communications, changing the expectations of a president as public communicator to the nation.

Meanwhile, Trudeau also introduces us to the instabilty and vanity of Mary Lincoln and her dustups with Julia Grant. In the end, she returned early while Lincoln stayed on. The portrait of the First Lady is unflattering, suggesting what Lincoln and others who were around her suffered.

Trudeau covers Lincoln’s visits to Peterburg and Richmond, including the scant provisions for security on the first of these trips. A sniper could easily have ended his presidency right there. Instead, we see a president deeply moved both by war’s devastation and the joyful reception he received from emancipated former slaves.

Lincoln finally departs on April 8. One of the most moving descriptions in the book is Lincoln’s visit to the hospitals for each division, literally speaking to every wounded soldier, some who would die within days while others would carry memories of Lincolns attention and encouragement. Throughout the narrative, we hear of Lincoln’s concern to end the bloodshed. His visit reflected his awareness of the precious sacrifice these and many others had made. This included Confederate soldiers who Lincoln would welcome back to the Union without retribution.

And here we glimpse the transformation that Trudeau so skillfully traces. Lincoln came a weary commander-in-chief. He left anticipating the end of hostilities which came the next day. He returned to Washington committed to the task of reunifying a nation and embarking on a new era in the treatment of former slaves. He was physically restored, filled with a sense of fulfilled purpose, and ready for the new challenge of restoring the Union as a peace president. But first an evening’s entertainment at Ford’s Theater…

Trudeau offers us a well-rounded account of the sixteen days at City Point and how they changed Lincoln. Trudeau also reveals to us the depth of character of Lincoln, battered but resilient, firm in resolve, enthusiastic in support for Grant, and tender with the wounded. We see a man capable of growth as he meets former slaves. And we see a man with a far-reaching, magnanimous vision, one that would die with him. ( )
  BobonBooks | Dec 11, 2023 |
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FINALIST, 2017, RICHARD HARWELL AWARD, GIVEN BY THE CIVIL WAR ROUND TABLE OF ATLANTA March 1865: The United States was at a crossroads and, truth be told, Abraham Lincoln was a sick man. "I am very unwell," he confided to a close acquaintance. A vast and terrible civil war was winding down, leaving momentous questions for a war-weary president to address. A timely invitation from General U. S. Grant provided the impetus for an escape to City Point, Virginia, a journey from which Abraham Lincoln drew much more than he ever expected. Lincoln's Greatest Journey: Sixteen Days that Changed a Presidency, March 24 - April 8, 1865, by Noah Andre Trudeau offers the first comprehensive account of a momentous time. Lincoln traveled to City Point, Virginia, in late March 1865 to escape the constant interruptions in the nation's capital that were carrying off a portion of his "vitality," and to make his personal amends for having presided over the most destructive war in American history in order to save the nation. Lincoln returned to Washington sixteen days later with a renewed sense of purpose, urgency, and direction that would fundamentally shape his second term agenda. Previous coverage of this unprecedented trip--his longest break from the White House since he had taken office--has been sketchy at best, and often based on seriously flawed sources. Lincoln's Greatest Journey represents the most extensively researched and detailed story of these decisive sixteen days at City Point in a narrative laden with many heretofore unpublished accounts. The richly shaped prose, a hallmark of Trudeau's pen, rewrites much of the heretofore misunderstood story of what really happened to Lincoln during this time. A fresh, more complete picture of Lincoln emerges. This is Lincoln at a time of great personal and national change--the story of how he made peace with the past and became firmly future-focused, all set against a dramatically new narrative of what really happened during those last weeks of his life. It infuses the well-worn Lincoln narrative with fresh sources to fundamentally change an often-told story in ways large and small. Rather than treat Lincoln as a dead man walking when he returns to Washington, Trudeau paints him as he surely was--a changed man profoundly influenced by all that he experienced while at City Point. Lincoln's Greatest Journey represents an important addition to the Lincoln saga. The conventional wisdom that there's nothing new to be learned about Lincoln is due for a major reset.

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