Lincoln vs. Davis

The War of the Presidents

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By Nigel Hamilton

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From renowned biographer­­­ Nigel Hamilton, author of the epic FDR at War trilogy and the bestselling JFK: Reckless Youth, comes the greatest untold story of the Civil War: how two American presidents faced off as the fate of the nation hung in the balance — and how Abraham Lincoln came to embrace emancipation as the last, best chance to save the Union.

Of all the books written on Abraham Lincoln, there has been one surprising gap: the drama of how the “railsplitter” from Illinois grew into his critical role as U.S. commander-in-chief, and managed to outwit his formidable opponent, Jefferson Davis, in what remains history's only military faceoff between rival American presidents. Davis was a trained soldier and war hero; Lincoln a country lawyer who had only briefly served in the militia. Confronted with the most violent and challenging war ever seen on American soil, Lincoln seemed ill-suited to the task: inexperienced, indecisive, and a poor judge of people’s motives, he allowed his administration's war policies to be sabotaged by fickle, faithless cabinet officials while entrusting command of his army to a preening young officer named George McClellan – whose defeat in battle left Washington, the nation’s capital, at the mercy of General Robert E. Lee, Davis’s star performer.
 
The war almost ended there. But in a Shakespearean twist, Lincoln summoned the courage to make, at last, a climactic decision: issuing as a “military necessity” a proclamation freeing the 3.5 million enslaved Americans without whom the South could not feed or fund their armed insurrection. The new war policy doomed the rebellion—which was in dire need of support from Europe, none of whose governments now would dare to recognize rebel “independence” in a war openly fought over slavery. The fate of President Davis was sealed.
 
With a cast of unforgettable characters, from first ladies to fugitive coachmen to treasonous cabinet officials, Lincoln vs. Davis is a spellbinding dual biography from renowned presidential chronicler Nigel Hamilton: a saga that will surprise, touch, and enthrall.
 

Genre:

  • "A worthy companion to his magisterial trilogy on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s leadership in World War II, Nigel Hamilton’s similar study of Abraham Lincoln (a born politician) and Jefferson Davis (a born soldier) is chock full of vivid character sketches and trenchant analysis, showing how and why these two leaders each came, via different routes during the first year and a half of the Civil War, to make a momentous decision in September 1862—choices that, as Lincoln vs. Davis convincingly argues, fatefully determined the outcome of the conflict."
    Michael Burlingame, author of Abraham Lincoln: A Life
  • “In today’s bitterly divided America, ever more of us find ourselves thinking of the fateful moment when this country did divide in two. You will find no better guide for a journey back to that era than expert biographer Nigel Hamilton. He has found a fresh and intriguing way of framing the story in his absorbing tale of the two principal antagonists—and of some remarkable parallels between them.”
    Adam Hochschild, New York Times bestselling author of Spain in Our Hearts and American Midnight
  • “This split-screen biopic of two presidents waging war ‘under false pretenses’—while first ladies Mary Lincoln and Varina Davis lift up their voices and an offstage chorus grumbles and applauds and gnashes their teeth—achieves something I wouldn’t have thought possible given the buckets of ink that have been spilt pondering how this divided country inched toward emancipation: fresh and sometimes startling insights, in a book that is hard to put down.”
    Lawrence N. Powell, Professor Emeritus, Tulane University

On Sale
Nov 5, 2024
Page Count
800 pages
ISBN-13
9780316564632

Nigel Hamilton

About the Author

Historian Nigel Hamilton is a New York Times best-selling biographer of General Bernard “Monty” Montgomery, President John F. Kennedy, President Bill Clinton, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, among other subjects. He has won multiple awards, including the Whitbread Prize and the Templer Medal for Military History. The first volume of his FDR a War trilogy, The Mantle of Command, was longlisted for the National Book Award. He is a senior fellow at the McCormack Graduate School, University of Massachusetts Boston, and splits his time between Boston, Massachusetts, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

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