1858: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and the War They Failed to See
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"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.
themselves special agents commissioned by Providence for ‘a glorious work,’ and having set out with this idea are apt, like a ship with a twisted rudder, to go wider and wider from the direct course as they advance until they are finally shipwrecked.”674 THE CHRISTMAS RAID John Brown wanted to attack and seize the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, on the southern side of the Potomac River west of Washington, DC. Brown had targeted the area for over a year. He was certain that
wrote him of a general Southern invasion in December of 1839.679 Brown could not raise enough money and men, or procure enough weapons, for that Harper’s Ferry assault, or any other attack in the spring of 1858, though. Wrote Luke Parsons, one of the men who rode with him, “Brown failed to find the money to carry on our plans so the [Harper’s Ferry] raid was declared off for one year. Brown took three of the men back with him to Kansas.”680 Kansas was relatively quiet in the spring of 1858 as
warned Douglas not to debate Lincoln and to dismiss Republican charges that the Little Giant was afraid of an oratorical donnybrook with him. The editor of the Illinois State Register wrote that Douglas did not have to debate Lincoln at all, and that in so doing he would only help Lincoln’s campaign. “Mr. Lincoln’s political necessities may have needed this boosting of him into prominence…”294 Douglas had not only been goaded into the debates by Lincoln, but by the vitriolic Republican
tried to derail his crusade for the seat. Offering several other candidates, they charged that Seward was too radical on slavery and questioned his devotion to the national ticket. Weed, jockeying feverishly behind the scenes, made deals, twisted arms, and lined up votes for his friend and disparaged the skills and experience of Seward’s opponents. Seward wrote several letters reiterating his desire to maintain harmony between North and South. He wrote James Watson Webb, a friend of the
cast for the slavery version at all.55 Ignoring the January vote, Buchanan insisted that Congress had to approve the proslavery constitution that he had formally submitted in his annual message at the end of December. Republicans argued that they could vote it down in favor of the January legislative referendum. Tension over the divided territory was everywhere. Members of the territorial legislature issued a joint statement in which they “believed the peace of [Kansas] is in imminent danger.”