1861 The Civil War awakening

Adam Goodheart

Book - 2011

Goodheart provides a new interpretation of what spurred the American Civil War. Here, he describes how cultural differences played surprising roles in the move toward war.

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New York : Alfred A. Knopf c2011.
1st ed
Physical Description
481 p. : ill., ports
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Adam Goodheart (-)
  • Prologue: a banner at daybreak: Charleston Harbor, December 1860
  • Wide awake: Boston, October 1860
  • The old gentlemen: Washington, January 1861
  • Forces of nature: central Ohio, February 1861
  • A shot in the dark: Charleston Harbor, April 1861
  • The volunteer: lower Manhattan, April 1861
  • Gateways to the west: Lower Carson River, Nevada Territory, May 1861
  • The crossing: Washington, May 1861
  • Freedom's fortress: Hampton Roads, Virginia, May 1861
  • Independence Day: Washington, D.C., July 1861.
Review by Booklist Reviews

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.

Review by Choice Reviews

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 Library Association.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

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.) [Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Chronicles the revolution of ideas that preceded--and led to--the start of the Civil War, looking at a diverse cast of characters and the actions of citizens throughout the country in their efforts to move beyond compromise and end slavery.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Chronicles the revolution of ideas that preceded--and led to--the start of the Civil War, looking at a diverse cast of characters, including an acrobatic militia colonel, a regiment of New York City firemen, a college professor who would one day be president, an explorer's wife and more.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

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 "...how 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 (booknews.com)

Review by Publisher Summary 4

As the United States marks the 150th anniversary of our defining national drama, 1861 presents a gripping and original account of how the Civil War began.1861 is an epic of courage and heroism beyond the battlefields. Early in that fateful year, a second American revolution unfolded, inspiring a new generation to reject their parents’ faith in compromise and appeasement, to do the unthinkable in the name of an ideal. It set Abraham Lincoln on the path to greatness and millions of slaves on the road to freedom.The book introduces us to a heretofore little-known cast of Civil War heroes—among them an acrobatic militia colonel, an explorer’s wife, an idealistic band of German immigrants, a regiment of New York City firemen, a community of Virginia slaves, and a young college professor who would one day become president. Adam Goodheart takes us from the corridors of the White House to the slums of Manhattan, from the mouth of the Chesapeake to the deserts of Nevada, from Boston Common to Alcatraz Island, vividly evoking the Union at this moment of ultimate crisis and decision.