Well folks, I know its been awhile since I have popped on here. Now that the holidays are upon us I am hoping to do more posts. This book was chosen by my book club for our nonfiction pick of the month. I’d never heard of it before reading it. Typically, I steer clear of nonfiction as it just doesn’t grab me. I prefer to escape through fiction and enjoy characters growth inside new worlds. Now, I set a goal for myself that I’d finish this before Thanksgiving. I really didn’t want a weighty book for Thanksgiving break. I can say I accomplished this goal!!
Lincoln on the Verge Thirteen Days to Washington
by Ted Widmer
Genre – Nonfiction, Historical
Series – No
Rating – PG for mild discussions of slavery and mentions of assassination
Basically this covers the 13 days Lincoln traveled from Springfield to Washington before his inauguration. We see a bit about his election and just how close the race was. Widmer also discusses how dangerous these few days were for the president-elect. He ends with the impact that Lincoln’s death had on uniting the American people.
My Thoughts –
I’ll be honest. The start of the book was dull and felt like the author had just assembled facts together related to one individual’s election. After the first chapter which introduces us to Lincoln’s plan to meander across America, the author then launches into a whole chapter devoted to railroads and how travel became more accessible to the people. However, one the journey began it did get a bit more interesting. I will say that I learned quite a bit about Lincoln, particularly related to the multiple assassination attempts throughout his journey.
The focus of the book is Lincoln. We don’t really see much of his family life. Widmer uses many quotes from John Hay, who was Lincoln’s assistant secretary. Hay gives inside to Lincoln’s behavior. I was surprised at how melancholy Lincoln seemed throughout his journey to Washington. It it mentioned several times that Lincoln had a feeling that he’d never be back to his home in Springfield. Especially near the end of his life, the author indicates, “That night, as he headed to the theater, he said “good-bye” to Crook instead of the usual “good-night.” (Widmer p. 450). I cannot imagine the weight of being president entails.
This book does portray just how committed Lincoln was to the cause of freedom and following the founding fathers vision for this new country. Throughout the 13 days that Lincoln traveled, he willingly put himself in harms way. He shook thousands of hands and after one evening, his hands became painful. Even just by visiting these states on his path to Washington, Lincoln raised morale and united a nation on the brink of collapse. At one point Lincoln could barely speak and yet he still gave a speech.
Now, the author doesn’t mention it, but to me it felt that the Lord played a big part in protection Lincoln. He had many close calls even from his own fans. In one instance a cannonball hit the train and shattered a window close to the Lincoln family. Throughout his travels, Lincoln was up close and personal with crowds of people and very readily someone could have taken a shot at him. Without Lincoln, who knows where our country would be today. My opinion of Lincoln has definitely increased.
I have one complaint that bugged me quite a bit. Widmer repeated himself a lot. He truly nailed down how homely and tall Lincoln was. It got very repetitive! Same with the different cities Lincoln visited. The author rehashed the same thoughts – big crowds, speeches, late nights, and how tired Lincoln was throughout it all. I get the point. Being a president is tiresome and hard work, I just wish that the author could have written it a different way.
Lincoln on the Verge is long and at times tedious. However, it is very informative about this small section of Lincoln’s life. I learned more then I had anticipated I would. If you enjoy American history or look up to Abraham Lincoln, this gives an interesting look at this famous man’s travel to become president.
Up next – I’m rereading The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. After all these long books recently, I need something lighthearted! 😉
How about you? What books are you reading this November? Do you enjoy history?