Tue February 19, 2013
"Abraham Lincoln and America's Most Perilous Year"
For this installment of ST, on the day after Presidents' Day, we are looking back on the war-torn tenure of our nation's greatest president, Abe Lincoln. Our guest is the author and journalist David Von Drehle, whose widely acclaimed and most recent book, "Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America's Most Perilous Year," was named one of the Kansas City Star's Top 100 Books of 2012. In an event presented by Book Smart Tulsa, Von Drehle will be reading and lecturing from, and signing copies of, this book tonight (Tuesday the 19th) at 7pm at the Gilcrease Museum here in Tulsa (at 1400 North Gilcrease Museum Road). As we learn on this edition of our show, Von Drehle argues that the truly pivotal year of the American Civil War was 1862 --- not 1863, as many historians have asserted in the past. As James McPherson has noted of this volume in The New York Review of Books: "Von Drehle recounts the dramatic military and political events of , interspersing them with human-interest stories of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary times.... These pages crackle with life and energy." And as a critic for Booklist has noted, further: "The year 1863 is often described as the decisive year of the Civil War, given the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Von Drehle, editor at large at Time and author of the widely acclaimed "Triangle" (2003), the story of the infamous 1911 New York factory fire, asserts that 1862 was the transformative year that led directly to the ultimate Union triumph. It commenced with Union fortunes appearing bleak. Confederate forces threatened Washington, and Union General McClellan had a bad case of the slows, despite his command of a huge army. In the political realm, Lincoln was struggling to master the strong egos in his cabinet, and he seemed to lack the will or confidence to demand more aggressive action from McClellan. As the year advanced, Von Drehle illustrates Lincoln's transformation into a great political and war leader, who learned to manage and effectively utilize the talents of his advisors and decisively assumed the role of commander in chief, dismissing McClellan and beginning the advancement of fighting officers, especially Grant. This is an excellently researched chronicle of the year that helped change the direction of the war."