1858: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and the War they Failed to See by Bruce Chadwick

Read: June 7 - June 12
Format: Hardback 300 pages
Source: Barnes & Noble
Setting: USA
Category: Who/What/When/Where/How/Why? - Bios/history
Challenges: 101020, 75 Book, RTT
Stars: 2½

1858 was a turning point leading up to the American Civil War. So many issues were beginning to come to a crisis point and the leaders that should have taken action were looking elsewhere. Jefferson Davis was fighting a health crisis, Robert E. Lee was dealing with family issues and trying to decide whether to leave the army, William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses Grant were trying to find a way to make a living. At the same time Abraham Lincoln was trying to get elected to the Senate but Stephen Douglas stood in his way.

President Buchanan didn't exercise the "proper" influence. He worked to prevent Stephen Douglas' re-election which helped to bring Lincoln to National recognition. He also was attempting to increase the presence of the USA as a global authority with offers to buy Cuba from the Spanish and efforts to annex portions of Mexico and other Central American and South American nations. Buchanan had eyes on expansion and refused to acknowledge the problems related to the slavery question.

Several events by other individuals and groups acted as a catalyst. John Brown got into action, William Seward, senator from NY, gave several volatile speeches against slavery (“It {slavery} is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become either entirely a slaveholding nation or entirely a free labor nation.”), and a group of individuals openly thwarted law enforcers of the Fugitive Slave Act.

All of these actions and issues put together propelled a divided nation toward a Civil War that killed hundreds of thousands. Could it have been averted? We will never know.

I thought it was very interesting the way that the author had each of the events/individuals sectionalized very much as the North and the South had issues by section. However, I had difficulties with the title for several reasons. First, Ulysses Grant was hardly in this book, second, nowhere that I saw or read was there anything to explain a "war they failed see", third William Seward played a large part in this book but wasn't in the title, and lastly Buchanan's shortcomings were identified throughout the book, but he also wasn't in the title. I think a better title would have been - 1858 and the Men and events that provoked a war. But I'm sure the title was chosen because Lincoln, Grant, Lee's names would get your attention.

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