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Reassessing Lincoln and the Civil War Era

by Childers, Christopher Issue: Spring 2009

In this issue of CWBR, we continue our celebration of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The bicentennial year has prompted scores of historians to reassess the life of the sixteenth president, the world he lived in, and the nation he reshaped over the course of his presidential administration. The efforts of scholars to once again “get right with Lincoln”—as historian David Herbert Donald so colorfully put it—in turn prompts their readers to reassess what they know and believe about Lincoln. Writers always hope that their work will provoke thought and foster dialogue. And in this year, when we celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, and as we approach the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, what better time is there to revisit what we believe we know about Lincoln and the Civil War era?

Lincoln scholar Frank Williams gives our readers an excellent précis of the latest Lincoln scholarship in his column “Abraham Lincoln at 200: A Bicentennial Survey.” And Eric Foner’s new edited collection of essays on Lincoln provides fresh answers to many questions old and new about the man from Illinois. Chris Meyers reviews Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World. Finally, our CWBR Author Interview features Paul D. Escott of Wake Forest University, whose new book “What Shall We Do with the Negro?”: Lincoln, White Racism, and Civil War America reassesses the president’s conflicting feelings about race and slavery and the tragic persistence of racism after the Civil War.

This issue also contains reviews of some significant new releases. The University of North Carolina Press has launched its new series “The Littlefield History of the Civil War Era” with Elizabeth R. Varon’s Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859. Manisha Sinha reviews this title, the first of a projected fifteen books encompassing the history of the Civil War era. And Susannah J. Ural reviews Joseph T. Glatthaar’s General Lee’s Army: From Victory to Collapse, a massive reassessment of the Confederacy’s greatest general and his army.

Civil War naval warfare has recently received the attention of several prominent scholars. Tom Chaffin’s The H.L. Hunley: The Secret Hope of the Confederacy probes the history of the famous Confederate submarine, from its conceptualization to its untimely demise. Steven Ramold reviews Chaffin’s latest book. And Craig L. Symonds, a veteran naval historian, examines how Abraham Lincoln managed and used his navy in Lincoln and His Admirals. Kurt Hackemer reviews this new release.

Our latest issue features a broad array of books that cover most all the facets of Civil War studies, a timely reminder that even in this year of Lincoln, historians and scholars are hard at work finding new stories to tell and new explanations for old questions. As always, enjoy studying the rich history of the Civil War era.

review of EDITORIAL:
Reassessing Lincoln and the Civil War Era
, by Childers, Christopher, Civil War Book Review, (Spring 2009).