As the United States marks the 150th anniversary of our defining national drama, 1861 presents a gripping and original account of how the Civil War began.
1861 is an epic of courage and heroism beyond the battlefields. Early in that fateful year, a second American revolution unfolded, inspiring a new generation to reject their parents' faith in compromise and appeasement, to do the unthinkable in the name of an ideal. It set Abraham Lincoln on the path to greatness and millions of slaves on the road to freedom.
The book introduces us to a heretofore little-known cast of Civil War heroes - among them an acrobatic militia colonel, an explorer's wife, an idealistic band of German immigrants, a regiment of New York City firemen, a community of Virginia slaves, and a young college professor who would one day become president. Adam Goodheart takes us from the corridors of the White House to the slums of Manhattan, from the mouth of the Chesapeake to the deserts of Nevada, from Boston Common to Alcatraz Island, vividly evoking the Union at this moment of ultimate crisis and decision.
©2011 Adam Goodheart (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
“With boundless verve, Adam Goodheart has sketched an uncommonly rich tableau of America on the cusp of the Civil War. The research is impeccable, the cast of little-known characters we are introduced to is thoroughly fascinating, the book is utterly thought-provoking, and the story is luminescent. What a triumph.” (Jay Winik, author of New York Times best-sellers April 1865 and The Great Upheaval)
"Engrossing .... Tension is palpable on every page .... Goodheart's book is an impressive accomplishment, a delightful read, and a valuable contribution that will entertain and challenge." (Harvard Magazine)
"Exhilarating ... inspiring ... irresistible ... 1861 creates the uncanny illusion that the reader has stepped into a time machine." (New York Times Book Review, cover review)
"In his marvelous book... Goodheart brings us into 19th-century America, as ambiguous, ambitious and fractured as the times we live in now, and he brings to pulsing life the hearts and minds of its American citizens." (Huffington Post)
“Jonathan Davis's narration sets the scene with hints of foreboding, creating a feeling of tension about the impending war. He draws listeners into stories of people like recaptured slave Lucy Bagby and future president James Garfield….Goodheart's meticulous research and lively writing will appeal to any history buff.” (AudioFile)
"Beautifully written and thoroughly original--quite unlike any other Civil War book out there." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
The author does an excellent job in focusing on persons who are bit players in most popular Civil War books. He writes about such people as Thomas Starr King, Jessie Fremont, Benjamin Butler, Elmer Elsworth, and James Garfield as a young man, and many others. By doing this, he is able to build up a very interesting snapshort of Northern opinion on the eve of the war and in its early months. He is also great at setting a scene through the use of small descriptive details.
He may not be for everyone, though. First, his is a very pro-Union perspective. He is openly contempuous of Southern views. The only prominent Confederate he profiles is Louis T. Wigfall, who appears to have been filled with equal parts liquor and bile. Second, he has the odd habit of making a sweeping pronunciamento from time to time, the decisiveness of which appears to be inversely related to the amount of evidence he produces for it. These include stating that Lincoln consciously tricked the South into attacking Sumter; (Perhaps a more nuanced assessment would have been better), and that if the North had had generals like Nathaniel Lyon and Frank Blair in the East, the rebellion would have been quashed much earlier (an absurdity.) Finally, if you want lots of Lincoln and details of battle (including First Bull Run), forget it. Lincoln is almost a bit player here, and Bull Run gets no detailed coverage.
In all, I would heartily recommend this book precisely because it is so different from the run-of-the-mill Civl War popular hstory.
I was expecting another Civil War shoot-em up, with endless battle details. This book was terrific and dealt with the deeply rooted causes of this war. I have read and listened to many books on this conflict, but I learned many things I had never known. One of the most surprising was that Northern abolitionists loved the Declaration of Independence, yet felt totally betrayed by the Constitution.
The author traces the progress of ideas through the lives and writings of important historical figures who we seldom hear about.
I don't know what to praise more- the info in this book, the narration, or the writing. After a while, you begin to ask how many Civil War books can a nation produce? What new can be said and done? This book is unique in that it focuses more on the attitudes and influences on the time leading up to the full-blown war. Yes, I knew what a Wide Awake was before reading this book, but this author succeeded in truly making me 'feel' what a seventeen year old kid in New England must have felt as he saw his friends donning capes and deciding to stand against disunion. This book has a sort of magic to it that other civil war books lack. I have enjoyed very much Battle Cry of Freedom, and books like it that lay out the battles and the results of each, but this book truly enriched my understanding of what someone like me (And very likely these people were my ancestors) felt as he/she had to choose whether to lay down their life to make way for a truly free America.
History as proven by Adam Goodheart is made up of people living ordinary lives in the right place and time, and who stepped forward to become natural leaders of change. Often emotionally charged dialog grips the mind of the listener--even over minute details. Clearly Goodheart found docuiments not used by other writers.
For me this was the best history because I already new the basics from ordinary historians. Too bad this is Goodhearts only work so far. The narrator is so professional you do not even think of him as an essential part of this fabulous experience.
At last an academic treatment of the historical context of the Civil War that is not a dry laundry list of dates and arcane details. Goodheart manages to bring historically accurate information together in such a way that the listener learns of the events of the day as if he or she were a well-informed and perhaps well-connected citizen of the period; someone who knows the backgrounds and personalities of the players involved and is privy to all the details of the events and their significance. This is everything a good history should be and is an invaluable resource for understanding this fascinating period of American history.
Goodheart has presented one of the best looks at the situation that gave rise to the Civil War that I have experienced. The narrative flowed like a novel. There are vital insights for the modern American political millieux as well. After many years of fascination with and reflexion on the Civil War, I gained a number of new ways of sorting out the "then and now" realities of a still divided nation. Kudos to the narrator for his skillful presentation of intricate, historical information. Well done!
I first learned of this book by hearing author Adam Goodheart interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air. My interest was immediately aroused, and I'm very glad I purchased "1861-The Civil War Awakening". To read this detailed account of the first year of the Civil War provided me with a fresh perspective. Adam Goodheart mentioned in his interview that he wished to shine a spotlight on the very beginning of a historic war, seeing parallels with 9/11. (In that what may be later viewed as a "natural unfolding of history" is, at the time, often chaotic and uncertain, and profoundly influenced by key individuals. A most colorful as well as eye-opening account, at least for history novices like myself.
I would listen again. Goodheart does a terrific job showing what people actually thought & felt, mostly in the north, as developments built toward a Civil War most did not want or anticipate, and none felt would turn out as a 4 year bloodbath.
Usually we think about history, without much intellectual effort, as if the participants knew what was going to happen in their tomorrow, in their next year. And of course that is not the way things happen. Goodheart's strength is showing that.
Wide-ranging history, using the first year of the war as a framework for a much larger narrative. There are many familiar names here (Lincoln and Douglas and Jefferson Davis, of course); but also many I hadn't heard before: for example, Lucy Bagby, a slave who escaped, was recaptured, and later liberated by the Union army; Thomas Starr King (a transcendentalist and anti-secession orator); and Asbury Harpending, a privateer and pro-Confederacy adventurer. Other people, familiar as names, become living personalities here: Jessie Benton Fremont, Benjamin "Spoons" Butler, Nathaniel Lyon, Franz Sigel, James Garfield. One notable incident, the burning of part of Hampton, is something I knew nothing about, despite having lived in Hampton for four years. A really interesting and original book.
I read science, biographies, histories, mysteries, adventures, thrillers, educationals, linguistics but not no way, not no how, romances.
The best history you can find, the most engaging and educational, are books that make the history happen now, that make it come alive and that present the people involved as real humans with real difficulties and differences of opinion. 1861, by that standard, is one of the best history books I've ever read.
This is not about battles, but about the great debate waged in politics, in livings rooms, on lecture circuits, in the halls of Congress, and on every street corner. We learn about the organizations that marched, the editorials written, the reasons given for southerners splitting off from the US, and for the Northerners who wanted to let them leave and those who wanted to fight to keep them.
We see our Civil War as a morality play acted out on domestic soil, with a right and wrong side. But history is so much more interesting than that. There were dozens of sides and views to the issues that split our country apart and this book examins them in detail. If I had a criticism, I would say this book doesn't examine the characters of the south in very much detail. It discusses all the moral, legal and economic reasons they gave for splitting away, but I wanted to see so much more. That however, happens with the best books, doesnt it. You just want it to be longer, to never end. And this is one of the best books I've read.
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