Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War
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Regarded by many critics as Edmund Wilson's greatest book, Patriotic Gore brilliantly portrays the vast political, spiritual, and material crisis of the Civil War as reflected in the lives and writings of some thirty representative Americans.
Critical/biographical portraits of such notable figures as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ambrose Bierce, Mary Chesnut, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Oliver Wendell Holmes prove Wilson to be the consummate witness to the most eloquently recorded era in American history.
religious mysticism? Whether or not it is true that Lincoln was troubled by the eloquence of the Methodist preacher mentioned by Francis Grierson, there is no evidence that, in early maturity, he ever saw the approaching crisis as an apocalyptic judgment or the possible war as a holy crusade. He was not a member of any church, and it is plain that in his earlier days, before he had become a great public figure, he was what was called a free-thinker. William Herndon, his law partner in
£rom his writings. ec1.bins that the lilaai~ ed•• a• m ~ I inroJn was a good de3l IIIDR thorough than used to be tbongbt. "'A aueful ecamina- I2I tion." he says, of the beaks on elocutior. and grammar "which Lincoln studied both in and out of school will not impress anyone v-vith Lincoln's poverty· of opport:u...'Tlit~r for the study cf grammar and rhetoric. I:: is safe to say u.Sar few children today learn as much thr'Jugh twelve years of formal schcoli:ng in these rnro subjects as one
suspect that the Lincoln myth is a backward-reading invention of others, a closer acquaintance with the subject will convince you that something like the reverse is true. Though Lincoln is not responsible for the element of exaggeration, humorous or sentimental, with which he himself has been treated, we come to feel that the mvsticism of a Grierson in his Lincoln and The Valley of Shadows, as well as the surprising nobility, at once classical and peculiarly American, of the Grant of the Personal
curious object of study among them all. About no one did opinions differ so widely. Adams had no opinion, or occasion to make one. A single word ·with Grant satisfied him that, for his own good, the fewer words he risked, the better. Thus far in life he had met with but one man of the same intellectual or unintellectual type- Garibaldi. Of the two, Garibaldi seemed to him a trifle the more intellectual, but, in both, the intellect counted for nothing; only the energy counted. The type was
betrayed the same intellectual commonplace, in a Virginian form, not to the same degree, but quite distinctly enough for one who knew the American. What worried Adams was not the commonplace; it was, as usual, his own education. Grant fretted and irritated him, like the T erebratula as a defiance of first principles. [The T erebratula was a kind of shellfish of which Adams had been told that it 11 appeared to be identical from the beginning to the end of geological time."] He had no right to