Through deep and thoughtful exploration of diaries, letters, and other personal writings penned during the spring and summer of 1865, Martha Hodes, one of our finest historians, captures the full range of reactions to the president's death - far more diverse than public expressions would suggest. She tells a story of shock, glee, sorrow, anger, blame, and fear.
"'Tis the saddest day in our history," wrote a mournful man. It was "an electric shock to my soul", wrote a woman who had escaped from slavery. "Glorious News!" a Lincoln enemy exulted. "Old Lincoln is dead, and I will kill the goddamned Negroes now", an angry white Southerner ranted. For the black soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts, it was all "too overwhelming, too lamentable, too distressing" to absorb.
There are many surprises in the story Hodes tells, not least the way in which even those utterly devastated by Lincoln's demise easily interrupted their mourning rituals to attend to the most mundane aspects of everyday life. There is also the unexpected and unabated virulence of Lincoln's Northern critics and the way Confederates simultaneously celebrated Lincoln's death and instantly - on the very day he died - cast him as a fallen friend to the defeated white South.
Hodes brings to life a key moment of national uncertainty and confusion, when competing visions of America's future proved irreconcilable and hopes for racial justice in the aftermath of the Civil War slipped from the nation's grasp. Hodes masterfully brings the tragedy of Lincoln's assassination alive in human terms - terms that continue to stagger and rivet us 150 years after the event they so strikingly describe.
"Beautiful and terrible, Hodes' marvelously written story of the assassination fills the mind, heart and soul. People never forgot the event; this book is a page-turner that makes it all unforgettable again as it also explains how one shocking death illuminated so many others." (David W. Blight, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory)
"There are many books on the Lincoln assassination and the public response to it. But Martha Hodes' work is the first to focus in great detail on the responses of ordinary individuals, Northern and Southern, white and black, soldiers and civilians, women and men, in their diaries and personal correspondence, and to blend such response into the larger story of public events. The amount of research is simply staggering. This is a highly original, lucidly written, book." (James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom)
"Mourning Lincoln is an original and important book that traces various reactions to Lincoln's assassination. Through extensive research, Martha Hodes has discovered voices that are both moving and surprising. The result is an illuminating work that allows us for the first time to understand fully the meaning of Lincoln's death at the time." (Louis P. Masur, author of Lincoln's Hundred Days)
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Better as a text book.
I read such rave reviews and it is obviously well done. I saw her on the daily show as well. But there was no plot. There is another book Philadelphia Aurora done using news clippings that works but unfortunately this really didn't as a novel. My book group was going to do it but even those of us who tried audible had a very hard time getting through it. A study book it is, well done yes but not a good read.
If it has a through plot yes.
- NoelAnn "NoelAnn"