TEAM OF RIVALS, The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. ISBN 978-0-684-82490-1.
The years 1850 to 1865 were a wild time for our country. One person, Abraham Lincoln, looms large over the landscape of those years. This is his story -- and the nation's story, told by a masterful historian and fascinating story-teller. Doris Kearns Goodwin, a Pulitzer Prize winner, brings joy to her work, and the result is a captivating tale of not only Lincoln, but also the men around him, all both rivals and supporters, Edward Bates, Edwin M. Stanton, Salmon P. Chase and William H. Steward. Kearns writes about the complex beginnings of Lincoln's political life, the unexpected circumstances that won him the nomination for president in 1860, defeating Bates, Chase and Steward, the beginnings of the War Between the States, the appointment of his political rivals to cabinet positions, the ineptitude and political maneuvers of General McClellan, the battles that almost lost the nation's capital, and the personal tragedies across the land as over 300,000 young men died in conflict. She particularly focuses on the evolution of Lincoln's thought processes on slavery, as the goals of the war moved to embrace the 13th amendment and the complete abolition of that cursed condition.
What comes through so forcefully in this volume is Lincoln's character. People would do him ill, castigate him when he was not around, oppose him with all sorts of intemperate language. He never retaliated. When his chief rival, Salmon Chase, finally had to be removed from the cabinet, Lincoln, recognizing Chase's ability, appointed him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court!
The events of April 14, 1865, the assassination, are covered only in brief, for they are not the main story. Excluding notes, the book runs 757 pages, about 300,000 words, which will, unfortunately, turn some faint-hearted away. It will be their loss, for this is not only a crucial part of American history portrayed excellently, but the reader will come away with a deep appreciation of what "character" is really all about. George Washington had it; Abraham Lincoln had it; they both left tough acts to follow. No President since them, not even Teddy Roosevelt, has come close.
There is not a slow moving page in the book. And what you read is meticulously researched; it really happened just about this way. There are several pages of intriguing photographs, and maps of the battlefield areas which are very helpful, Among all the books I have reviewed in this year and last, this one is the most deserving of your time.
John W. Burgeson, Rico, Colorado, April 6, 2006