1861: The Civil War Awakening

  • by Adam Goodheart
  • Narrated by Jonathan Davis
  • 18 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.


What the Critics Say

Audie Award Winner, History, 2012

“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)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


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.
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- j ward

A Mosiac

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.
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- Steve

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-05-2011
  • Publisher: Audible Studios