Synopses & Reviews
andlt;Bandgt;This is the remarkable and inspiring storyand#8212;told largely in his own wordsand#8212;of American diplomat Elihu Washburne, who heroically aided his countrymen and other foreign nationals when Paris was devastated by war and revolution in 1870and#8211;71.andlt;/Bandgt;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;andlt;Bandgt;Elihu Washburne andlt;/Bandgt;rose from a hardscrabble existence in New England and the Midwest to become a congressman and diplomat. A confidante of Lincoln and Grant during the Civil War, Washburne was appointed Minister to France by Grant in 1869, arriving in Europe shortly before the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. When Bismarck ordered the Prussian army to lay siege to Paris, intent on forcing the French to surrender, Minister Washburneand#8212;alone among major power diplomatsand#8212;remained at his post, determined to protect Americans and German nationals trapped in Paris. After the French capitulation, new horrors struck Paris. The government was toppled by a band of violent revolutionaries, known as the Commune, who embarked on a reign of terror that filled the streets with blood. Once again, Washburne stepped forward to help wherever he could until the Commune collapsed and its bloody orgy ended.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;During his ordeal Washburne endured cannon bombardments, brutally cold weather, dwindling food supplies, bouts of ill health, and long separations from his family. He witnessed the plight of starving women and children, riots in the streets, senseless executions, and countless acts of unspeakable violence and bloodshed.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;In the midst of it all, Washburne kept a remarkable personal diary that chronicled the monumental events swirling about him. He knew he was at the center of history and was determined to record what he saw. The diaryand#8212;and letters he wrote to family and officials in Washingtonand#8212;provides a vivid personal account of life during some of Parisand#8217;s darkest days. Filled with political and military insight, Washburneand#8217;s writings also have an unmistakable charm, at times blending homespun expressions with quotations from Shakespeare and the Bible.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Michael Hill provides essential background information and historical context to the excerpts from Washburneand#8217;s diary and letters, which are drawn from the original manuscript sources and collected into one volume for the first time. Through his own words, we come to know and admire Washburne as he struggles to stay alive, perform his duty, and not let his country down. The story of Elihu Washburne is a great American storyand#8212;the tale of an American hero rising to greatness in the midst of difficult and extraordinary times.
"Hill, a historical researcher and frequent assistant to historian David McCullough, examines one of France's most tumultuous periods through the firsthand account of Elihu Washburne, then American minister to France. In diary entries, letters, and diplomatic dispatches, Washburne the only foreign diplomat to remain at his post during the turbulent events of 1870-1871 recounts the Prussians' siege of Paris during the final months of the Franco-Prussian War, which in turn led to the brief, violent uprising known as the Commune. Hill further explores his subject's early life and career both pre- and post-Paris, depicting Washburne as an American patriot, political mover and shaker, and man of accomplishments. Hill implies that Washburne, who felt it his duty to remain in Paris, endured separation from his family, illness, and danger not only to represent the United States but also to assist many other foreign nationals residing or trapped in the city. The combination of eyewitness accounts and Hill's own commentary provides a cohesive, intriguing picture of the desperate, bloody months. However, despite talking about starvation and slaughter, refugees and revolution, the book still feels dispassionate and detached, robbing it of its full impact. (Nov)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
and#8220;Elihu Washburne was the eloquent witness to one of the most horrifying sieges of the 19th century. Thanks to the archival and editorial wizardry of Michael Hill, Washburneand#8217;s long-forgotten account of the Siege and Commune of Paris is available at lastand#8212;a terrific and mesmerizing read."
and#8220;Michael Hill has made superb use of Elihu Washburneand#8217;s private diaries to bring us an unforgettable story of starvation, conflict, butchery and upheaval in the beleaguered Paris of the 1870sand#8212;and of the principled, courageous American who survived and recorded it all.and#8221;
and#8220;Elihu Washburne was the American ambassador to Paris but he might as well have been the ambassador to Hell. As Mike Hill shows us by skillfully editing and commenting on the ambassadorand#8217;s diary and personal letters, Washburne, a brave and sensitive man, was caught up in one of civilizationand#8217;s great disasters: the siege of Paris by the Prussian army in 1870-1871 and the even more awful grip of the Paris Commune that followed. A gripping, well-told tale.and#8221;
and#8220;Michael Hilland#8217;s engrossing, ground-breaking and fascinating book is both a journey of discoveryand#8212;the amazing diaries and letters of Elihu Washburne, the American Minister to France during the Siege and the Commune of Parisand#8212;and a wonderful portrait of the man who and#8216;discoveredand#8217; Ulysses S. Grant, was one of Lincolnand#8217;s closest collaborators, and set a benchmark for American diplomats in terms of courage and the alleviation of human suffering in a moment of great danger and crisis. It is riveting reading for anyone who loves history.and#8221;
andlt;divandgt;"A plucky spirit and revolutionary sympathy emerge from these richly detailed dispatches by America's intrepid minister to France during the Franco-Prussian War. . . .
"A plucky spirit and revolutionary sympathy emerge from these richly detailed dispatches by Americaand#8217;s intrepid minister to France during the Franco-Prussian War. . . . Evocative, immensely readable. . . . A wealth of historical and personal detail builds a suspenseful story."
The remarkable and inspiring story—told largely in his own words—of American diplomat Elihu Washburne, who heroically aided his countrymen and other nationals when Paris was devastated by war and revolution in 1870-1871.
A former Congressman and friend of Presidents Lincoln and Grant, Elihu Washburne was appointed U.S. Minister to France just before the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war. Alone among major-power foreign diplomats, Washburne remained in Paris throughout a siege by Prussian forces. As Parisians starved and shivered through the winter, Washburne aided Americans and other nationals with food and fuel. When the siege ended, the government fell to radicals who instituted a brutal new regime, the Commune, slaughtering innocent people, among them the Catholic archbishop. Once again Washburne helped wherever he could, earning commendation not only from his own government but from the Prussians and French as well.
Washburne’s letters and diaries from the time vividly describe the horrors he witnessed. Accompanied by Michael Hill’s invaluable commentary, they form the best firsthand account we have of these terrible events. They also quietly inspire us with the example of what one person can do in the worst circumstances to aid those in need and earn admiration for himself and his country.
About the Author
andlt;Bandgt;Michael Hill andlt;/Bandgt;worked in politics and government before establishing himself as an independent historical researcher. He was a co-producer for Ken Burnsand#8217;s andlt;iandgt;The Civil Warandlt;/iandgt; series for PBS, a coordinating producer for the andlt;iandgt;Baseball andlt;/iandgt;series, and served as a historical consultant for the HBO production of David McCulloughand#8217;s andlt;iandgt;John Adamsandlt;/iandgt;. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia.David McCullough has been widely acclaimed as a and#8220;master of the art of narrative historyand#8221; and and#8220;a matchless writer.and#8221; He is twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, twice winner of the National Book Award, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nationand#8217;s highest civilian award.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Mr. McCulloughand#8217;s most recent book, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, the #1 New York Times bestseller, has been called and#8220;dazzling,and#8221; and#8220;an epic of ideasand#8230;history to be savored.and#8221; His previous work, 1776, has been acclaimed and#8220;a classic,and#8221; while John Adams, published in 2001, remains one of the most praised and widely read American biographies of all time. More than three million copies are in print and it is presently in its eighty-second printing.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;In the words of the citation accompanying his honorary degree from Yale, and#8220;As an historian, he paints with words, giving us pictures of the American people that live, breathe, and above all, confront the fundamental issues of courage, achievement, and moral character.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Mr. McCulloughand#8217;s other books include The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, The Path between the Seas, Mornings on Horseback, Brave Companions, and Truman. His work has been published in ten languages and, in all, more than 9,500,000 copies are in print. As may be said of few writers, none of his books has ever been out of print.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Mr. McCullough is also twice winner of the prestigious Francis Parkman Prize, and for his work overall, he has been honored by the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award and the National Humanities Medal. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has received forty-seven honorary degrees.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;In a crowded, productive career, he has been an editor, essayist, teacher, lecturer, and familiar presence on public televisionand#8212;as host of Smithsonian World, The American Experience, and narrator of numerous documentaries, including Ken Burnsand#8217;s The Civil War. His is also the narratorand#8217;s voice in the movie Seabiscuit.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;John Adams, the seven-part mini-series on HBO, produced by Tom Hanks and starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, was one of the most acclaimed and talked about television events of recent years.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;A gifted speaker, Mr. McCullough has lectured in all parts of the country and abroad, as well as at the White House. He is also one of the few private citizens to speak before a joint session of Congress.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Born in Pittsburgh in 1933, Mr. McCullough was educated there and at Yale, where he graduated with honors in English literature. He is an avid reader and traveler, and has enjoyed a lifelong interest in art and architecture. He is a devoted painter as well. Mr. McCullough and his wife, Rosalee Barnes McCullough, have five children and eighteen grandchildren.