Reviews for 1861

Book News Reviews
Goodheart (Washington College, Maryland) and some of his students found an attic full of family papers spanning 13 generations of the owners' family, and among those papers was a bundle of documents tied up with a ribbon and labeled "1861." Those documents inspired his curiosity regarding what ordinary citizens and national leaders were thinking and how they were reacting to the shattering events that were unfolding. This study brings those questions to the forefront and offers a close look at " some people clung to the past, while others sought the future; how a new generation of Americans arose to throw aside the cautious ways of its parents and embrace the revolutionary ideals of it grandparents." Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Booklist Reviews 2011 April #2
In this high-quality history depicting the surge of patriotic feeling in the North between the summers of 1860 and 1861, Goodheart presents personalities critical to the course of events. Tracking their various routes to supporting the Union, routes proceeding from the many differences of opinion about its nature, Goodheart focuses on their characters and motivations, creatively yielding an active narrative with much stylistic vibrancy. Pro-Lincoln marchers in the North, the Wide Awakes and the Zouaves, furnish him with colorful material as he plumbs the stirrings of Northern resolve to preserve the Union; those organizations eventually transformed into militias active in the Civil War's initial fracases (save Fort Sumter) at St. Louis and Washington. Following a glance at California, held fast by one Unionist's oratory, Goodheart represents the issue causing sectional discord--slavery--through several blacks whose escapes from bondage forced Northern leaders to squarely face whether the war was solely to save the Union or for some greater cause. Goodheart's intelligent, literate book captures the emotions and enthusiasms that imbued the start of the Civil War. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Choice Reviews 2011 September
The sesquicentennial of the Civil War has resulted in a plethora of books. What more can be written that hasn't already been treated in the 60,000-plus titles about the war? Two recent books--Doris Kearns Goodwin's study of Lincoln and his cabinet (Team of Rivals, CH, Oct'06, 44-1125) and Harold Holzer's examination of Lincoln's activities between the election and the inauguration (Lincoln President-Elect, CH, Mar'09, 46-4039)--show that there is much that can be done. Those authors do not discuss anything previously unknown, but present it differently. Goodheart (Washington College, Maryland) takes a similar approach. The author looks at the period between the secession of South Carolina in December 1860 to the early summer of 1861. He addresses what was going on in both of the capitals, but also pays attention to a number of figures and places that other books usually skip over. The book's strongest point is the introduction of many of the characters from the last three months of Buchanan's presidency and the first three months of Lincoln's time in office. Among those who spring out at readers are Jessie Benton Fremont and General Benjamin Butler. A good book for most audiences. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. Copyright 2011 American Librar[Wed May 4 15:17:08 2016] Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\ line 249. y Association.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 March #2

A penetrating look at the crowded moment when the antebellum world began to turn.

The zeitgeist is by definition ephemeral and difficult to recapture—think, for example, of a period as recent as America before 9/11—but that's the neat trick splendidly accomplished here by journalist and historian Goodheart, now director of Washington College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. History, he reminds us, is composed not merely of the momentous judgments of government ministers and generals, but also of the countless decisions of ordinary people. These responses to unexpected challenges are complicated, not always predictable and, taken together, have the power to shift events decisively. Such a time was 1861, when the "Old Gentlemen" (the likes of Buchanan, Tyler and Crittenden) gave way to the self-made men (exemplified by Lincoln, multiplied by a still younger generation of strivers like James Garfield and Elmer Ellsworth); when the Republican marching clubs, the Wide Awakes, and the exotic Zouave drill team became something more than quasi-military; when the transcontinental telegraph replaced the Pony Express; when trolley-car executive William Sherman and shop clerk Ulysses Grant looked on as two unsavory men preserved Missouri for the Union; when fugitive slaves suddenly became "contrabands"; when a general in San Francisco and a major at Fort Sumter, notwithstanding their Southern sympathies, remained faithful to their military oath; when surging patriotism and romantic notions of war turned to hatred and bloodlust; when an unfolding national crisis required people to choose sides, sweep away old assumptions and rattle categories long deemed unshakeable, and bring forth something new. Whether limning the likes of Benjamin "Spoons" Butler, abolitionist Abby Kelley Foster or the young Abner Doubleday, explaining something as seemingly inconsequential as the fashion for men's beards or unpacking Lincoln's profound understanding of the nature and unacceptable consequences of the rebellion, Goodheart's sure grasp never falters.

Beautifully written and thoroughly original—quite unlike any other Civil War book out there.

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 February #4

Goodhart, a historian and journalist who will be writing a column on the Civil War for the New York Times online, makes sophisticated use of a broad spectrum of sources for an evocative reinterpretation of the Civil War's beginnings. Wanting to retrieve the war from recent critics who dismiss the importance of slavery in the Union's aims, he reframes the war as "not just a Southern rebellion but a nationwide revolution" to free the country of slavery and end paralyzing attempts to compromise over it. The revolution began long before the war's first shots were fired. But it worked on the minds and hearts of average whites and blacks, slaves and free men. By 1861 it had attained an irresistible momentum. Goodheart shifts focus away from the power centers of Washington and Charleston to look at the actions and reactions of citizens from Boston to New York City, from Hampton Roads, Va., to St. Louis, Mo., and San Francisco, emphasizing the cultural, rather than military, clash between those wanting the country to move forward and those clinging to the old ways. War would be waged for four bitter years, with enduring seriousness, intensity, and great heroism, Goodheart emphasizes. 15 illus. (Apr.)

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