1858: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and the War They Failed to See

1858: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and the War They Failed to See

Bruce Chadwick

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 140220941X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


"Highly recommended–a gripping narrative of the critical year of 1858 and the nation's slide toward disunion and war. Chadwick is especially adept at retelling the intense emotions of this critical time, particularly especially in recounting abolitionist opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act and Jefferson Davis's passionate defense of this institution. For readers seeking to understand how individuals are agents of historical change will find Chadwick's account of the failed leadership of President James Buchanan, especially compelling."

-G. Kurt Piehler, author of "Remembering War the American Way" and Associate Professor of History, The University of Tennessee

1858 explores the events and personalities of the year that would send the America's North and South on a collision course culminating in the slaughter of 630,000 of the nation's young men, a greater number than died in any other American conflict. The record of that year is told in seven separate stories, each participant, though unaware, is linked to the oncoming tragedy by the central, though ineffective, figure of that time, the man in the White House, President James Buchanan.

The seven figures who suddenly leap onto history's stage and shape the great moments to come are: Jefferson Davis, who lived a life out of a Romantic novel, and who almost died from herpes simplex of the eye; the disgruntled Col. Robert E. Lee, who had to decide whether he would stay in the military or return to Virginia to run his family's plantation; William Tecumseh Sherman, one of the great Union generals, who had been reduced to running a roadside food stand in Kansas; the uprising of eight abolitionists in Oberlin, Ohio, who freed a slave apprehended by slave catchers, and set off a fiery debate across America; a dramatic speech by New York Senator William Seward in Rochester, which foreshadowed the civil war and which seemed to solidify his hold on the 1860 Republican Presidential nomination; John Brown's raid on a plantation in Missouri, where he freed several slaves, and marched them eleven hundred miles to Canada, to be followed a year later by his catastrophic attack on Harper's Ferry; and finally, Illinois Senator Steven Douglas' seven historic debates with little-known Abraham Lincoln in the Illinois Senate race, that would help bring the ambitious and determined Lincoln to the Presidency of the United States.

As these stories unfold, the reader learns how the country reluctantly stumbled towards that moment in April 1861 when the Southern army opened fire on Fort Sumter.

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sexual encounter, would be with him all of his life and would, at times, threaten to kill him. Over the next few years, Davis turned Brierfield into a successful cotton plantation. He built a larger home for himself, cabins for his 72 slaves (the number would rise to 106 by 1860), storehouses for baled cotton, corn, and other crops, warehouses, stables, and blacksmith shops. He developed Brierfield with the help of slaves with whom he shared a close relationship and was a benevolent master. He

earthquake. You know I worked as hard as anybody could, that my whole thoughts, too much so, were engrossed in this business, which kept getting worse and worse from the time Page and Bacon broke, till we got away. What I did and what dangers I avoided are of the past and must be forgotten. What I failed to do, and the bad debts that now stare me in the face, must stand forever as a monument of my want to sense and sagacity. I envy… the non-chalance of business men generally, who wipe out these

incapacitated his left eye, made his face swollen, drained his strength, and left him unable to function for weeks at a time. Sometime in the middle of that cold February, physically frail from the vigors of the lengthy and heated debates and always susceptible to illness, he caught a bad cold that quickly turned into laryngitis. Once his system was weakened by the cold and laryngitis, he was again vulnerable to neuralgia of the eye. It struck again—and hard. Neuralgia is a condition of the eye

deeply and missed desperately when he was away in the army, whether fighting Mexicans, chasing hostile Indians, training cavalry, or administering forts thousands of miles from home. His wife was stricken with rheumatism in 1835, when she was thirty-seven, and had suffered from lengthy bouts of it, plus arthritis, throughout the rest of her life. Her health had disintegrated rapidly since 1856, when she last saw her husband following the end of his tenure at West Point and transfer to the West.

after an hour or so to listen to him refute the Judge’s charges, or to return the next day. It was a very effective ploy because it not only gave him a chance to answer Douglas right away, but to add the sizable Douglas throngs to his own. Lincoln thought it was an almost perfect plan. He wrote later, “Speaking at the same place the next day after Douglas is the very thing—it is, in fact, a concluding speech on him.” To let Douglas know what he planned to do, Lincoln released a schedule of his

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