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Every Drop of Blood - The Momentous Second Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln - cover

Every Drop of Blood - The Momentous Second Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln

Edward Achorn

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press

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Summary

A strikingly original book and the best kind of micro-history, in which one particular event illuminates a much wider world—in this case the era of the Civil War. Through the lens of certain key characters among the thousands in Washington, D.C. to witness Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address on March 4, 1865, Edward Achorn brings vividly to life the tensions that beset the nation before, during, and after the Civil War. Achorn fluidly weaves quotations from letters, diaries, and other accounts of those who were in Washington into his own elegant narrative, pulling readers close to the scenes he describes. Achorn’s rich cast of characters includes Salmon P. Chase, recently appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court but ever-yearning to be president; wounded colonel Selden Connor of Maine in one of D.C.’s 21 horrifying hospitals; young nurse Clara Barton intent on gaining presidential approval of her plan to identify tens of thousands of unidentified dead soldiers on both sides; Frederick Douglass, whose earlier anger at Lincoln’s hesitancy to abolish slavery had gradually warmed to respect for his tenacity; Noah Brooks, close friend of Lincoln’s and perceptive D.C. correspondent for the Sacramento Daily Union; photographer Alexander Gardner, whose pathbreaking images of the dead at Antietam had brought the horror of war into homes across the country; Walt Whitman, correspondent for the New York Times and ever-present consoler of the wounded in D.C. hospitals; and John Wilkes Booth, consumed by hatred of what Lincoln’s war had done to the old South he loved, yet also deeply in love with Lucy Hale, daughter of a northern senator. The book contains many indelible scenes: The President’s Room at the Capitol on the eve of the inauguration, where Lincoln signed last-minute legislation into law and received the stunning telegram from Grant saying that Lee had requested a meeting to discuss terms of peace; Lincoln’s bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon lecturing the president on his habit of going to the theatre without a security detail; John Wilkes Booth almost getting to Lincoln during the inauguration and later admitting to a friend he could have killed Lincoln that day and would have “lived in history”; and Frederick Douglass’s presence among the estimated 10,000 people who shook Lincoln’s hand at the White House the evening of the inauguration and later proclaimed his speech “a sacred effort.” However much we revere Lincoln’s memory today, Achorn makes clear that at the time he was reviled as much in the North as he was in the South. It is miraculous that he was elected twice, and stunning to consider how much was lost and how history was altered by his assassination. Jacket quotes have been promised by a number of well-known historians, including James McPherson, Gordon Wood, and Harold Holzer. We are also soliciting Drew Gilpin Faust, among others. We will publish on March 4, 2020, the 155th anniversary of Lincoln’s famous speech—and at the start of a hugely consequential American election season.

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