Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Goodheart, 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 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." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“1861 is the best book I have ever read on the start of the Civil War. Sumter, secession, and Lincoln appear in a wonderfully fresh and illuminating light, supported by a cast of extraordinary players that few Americans know about. Penetrating, eloquent, and deeply moving, this is a classic introduction to the nation’s greatest conflict.” Tony Horwitz, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Confederates in the Attic
"Combining a master historian's sure command of original sources and a novelist’s deft touch with character and narrative, Adam Goodheart has produced the young century's liveliest book about how a generation of remarkable and ordinary Americans alike variously provoked, resisted, and endured the dissolution of their country and the tragic march toward civil war. Major and minor characters, political movements, and whole towns and villages come alive under Goodheart's expert scrutiny. The result is that rarest of history books: a work of remarkable original scholarship crafted into an irresistible read." Harold Holzer, chairman of The Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation and author of Lincoln President-Elect
About the Author
Adam Goodheart is a historian, journalist, and travel writer. He will be writing a regular column on the Civil War for The New York Times online. He has written for National Geographic, Outside, Smithsonian, The Atlantic, GQ, and The New York Times Magazine, among others, and has worked as an editor of the Op-Ed page of The New York Times. He is a book reviewer for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and the New York Observer. He lives in Washington, D.C., and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where he is director of Washington College's C. V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.
Table of Contents
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, July 1861.