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A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexicoby Amy S. Greenberg
Synopses & Reviews
Often forgotten and overlooked, the U.S.-Mexican War featured false starts, atrocities, and daring back-channel negotiations as it divided the nation, paved the way for the Civil War a generation later, and launched the career of Abraham Lincoln. Amy S. Greenberg’s skilled storytelling and rigorous scholarship bring this American war for empire to life with memorable characters, plotlines, and legacies.
When President James K. Polk compelled a divided Congress to support his war with Mexico, it was the first time that the young American nation would engage another republic in battle. Caught up in the conflict and the political furor surrounding it were Abraham Lincoln, then a new congressman; Polk, the dour president committed to territorial expansion at any cost; and Henry Clay, the aging statesman whose presidential hopes had been frustrated once again, but who still harbored influence and had one last great speech up his sleeve. Beyond these illustrious figures, A Wicked War follows several fascinating and long-neglected characters: Lincoln’s archrival John Hardin, whose death opened the door to Lincoln’s rise; Nicholas Trist, gentleman diplomat and secret negotiator, who broke with his president to negotiate a fair peace; and Polk’s wife, Sarah, whose shrewd politicking was crucial in the Oval Office.
This definitive history of the 1846 conflict paints an intimate portrait of the major players and their world. It is a story of Indian fights, Manifest Destiny, secret military maneuvers, gunshot wounds, and political spin. Along the way it captures a young Lincoln mismatching his clothes, the lasting influence of the Founding Fathers, the birth of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and America’s first national antiwar movement. A key chapter in the creation of the United States, it is the story of a burgeoning nation and an unforgettable conflict that has shaped American history.
"The seldom-sung Mexican War emerges as one of America's most morally ambiguous and divisive conflicts in this illuminating history by historian Greenberg (Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire), who gives sketchy, colorful recaps of the battlefield highlights, but focuses on the war's politics and shifting ideological currents. Provoked by President James K. Polk to further his expansionist program and silence Whig critics, the war began as a wildly popular vehicle for manifest destiny and American fantasies of martial vigor. But Greenberg demonstrates the rapid spread of public disillusionment and opposition, despite triumphant victories, as casualties and desertion took their toll on war-weary soldiers; press reports of American atrocities tarnished the war's glamour, and a nationwide antiwar movement condemned the invasion as an unjust landgrab. The author arranges her lucid narrative around vivid profiles of central and marginal figures, including first lady Sarah Polk, an influential adviser to her husband; Abraham Lincoln, whose politics were galvanized by the war; and envoy Nicholas Trist, who was so ashamed of the war that he disobeyed Polk's orders and negotiated a relatively lenient peace treaty. Greenberg's probing account of this war reveals its drama — and its very modern complexity. Photos, illus., maps. Agents: Sydelle Kramer and Susan Rabiner, Susan Rabiner Literary Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The story of the Mexican-American war—one of the most controversial events in nineteenth-century American history—and of how it divided the country and profoundly impacted the political lives of James Polk, Henry Clay, and Abraham Lincoln.
Our 1846 war with Mexico was a blatant land grab provoked by President James Polk. And while it secured the entire Southwest and California for America, it also exacerbated regional tensions over slavery, created the first significant antiwar movement in America, and helped lead the nation into civil war. A Wicked War is the definitive history of this conflict that turned America into a continental power. Amy Greenberg describes the battles between American and Mexican armies, but also delineates the political battles between Democrats and Whigs—the former led by the ruthless Polk, the latter by the charismatic Henry Clay, and a young representative from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln, who initially drew national attention as a critic of the war. Greenberg brilliantly recounts this key chapter in the creation of the United States, evoking time, place, event, and personality with equal parts authority and narrative flair.
About the Author
Amy S. Greenberg is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of History and Women's Studies at Penn State University. She is a leading scholar of Manifest Destiny and has held fellowships from the Huntington Library, the New-York Historical Society, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the American Philosophical Society. Her previous books include Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire and Cause for Alarm: The Volunteer Fire Department in the Nineteenth-Century City.
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