Saturday, May 31, 2014

Book Review--Lincoln's Campaign Biographies

Horrocks, Thomas A. Lincoln's Campaign Biographies (Concise Lincoln Library) Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 2014. 148 pages 106 pages of text, index, notes, selected bibliography, b/w illustrations. ISBN 9780809333318, $24.95.

The more things change the more they stay the same. In many ways this is a truism in political campaigns. While modern technology has dramatically changed the campaign trail, often times making image more important than substance, many things are still the same.

Modern Americans demand that their politicians be polished, rehearsed, and personally available. In Abraham Lincoln's time this was not the case. Lincoln could hardly be called polished and most active campaigning was done by supporters rather than the candidates themselves.
In four quick reading chapters and a conclusion author Thomas A. Horrocks outlines the history of politics and print and how the Lincoln campaigns played into this. Chapter one discusses the relationship between 19th century political campaigns and print sources. Newspapers and pamphlets were the leading way to get a message out about a candidate. Later came the growth of the campaign biography. Abraham Lincoln understood the value and importance of the press in getting elected.

Chapters two outlines the growth of the campaign biography and discusses the symbols and themes often associated with these biographies. The goal of a positive campaign biography was to combine the candidates life story and image with the purpose of introducing, promoting and convincing readers to vote. Some of the attributes covered in a campaign biography would be establishing a noble lineage, what was the role of parents, a discussion of the education and military experience the man had and finally a discussion about their civilian life and political career.

The campaign biographies of 1860 and 1864 are discussed in chapters three and four. Here Horrocks covers the major campaign biographies of the years and gives readers insight into how they worked to influence readers. In addition to covering pro-Lincoln works Horrocks discusses the anti-Lincoln works as well. 1864 biographies that were anti-Lincoln used the fear of racial equality as their major theme.

The book concludes with a discussion as to whether campaign biographies were truly a help to Abraham Lincoln. Horrocks believes they were most likely a help but that Lincoln was also helped tremendously by the split in the conservative Democrat party and also the inclusion of third party candidate John Bell.

Overall, I found this an enjoyable and easy read. All the books in the Concise Lincoln Library are worthy of a look especially considering the price. If you are looking to learn about Lincoln and a particular topic these are a great place to start. Low price, competent scholarship and solid documentation make this series a winner!                        

Friday, May 23, 2014

Controversial Savas Beatie Book Wins Award

Savas Beatie Title Wins 2014 Albert Castel Book Award
El Dorado Hills, CA May 23, 2014 - John Bell Hood:  The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General by Stephen M. Hood was selected as the 2014 winner of the Albert Castel Book Award.
The award is given biennially by the Kalamazoo Civil War Round Table to authors writing on the subject of the Civil War in the Western Theater.
According to reviewing members of the Kalamazoo CWRT: 
"The voluminous inclusion of citations to historical documents and other primary source material challenge previous interpretations of Hood's military actions. A look back at past author's interpretations of John Bell Hood's record reveals the biases, inventions, and myths that have darkly colored his Civil War reputation. This book refutes the aspersions of 'historians' to name Hood the sole cause of the loss of Atlanta, and failure at Spring Hill, Franklin and Nashville." -Margean Gladysz
"Anyone who wants the true story of the fall of Atlanta and the Tennessee campaign needs to study this book."
-Graham Hollis
"Sam Hood makes a compelling case that Hood's reputation has been unjustifiably tarnished over the years by authors who have repeated half-truths and myths that are not supported by primary sources. Even people with little or no interest in Hood should read it as a cautionary tale that the things that 'everybody knows' are not always true." -Dave Jordan
"I knew we had a very special book from the moment I first read the manuscript, but all of us at Savas Beatie are thrilled and humbled that John Bell Hood won such a prestigious award," said Theodore P. Savas, the managing director for Savas Beatie. "We were always confident that anyone who actually took the time to read Stephen Hood's book, whether in reviewing it or for pleasure, would find it original, well-researched, and truly ground-breaking in what it exposes about the state of this slice of Civil War historiography. It surprises people, I think, when they find out Sam's work is not an argument that Hood was the overlooked Jackson or Lee," continued Savas. "It is about intellectual honesty and rigorous scholarship, and a cautionary tale about both. Anyone writing about General Hood or his tenure with the Army of Tennessee in the future who ignores this book and/or his recently discovered personal papers will do so at his peril."
John Bell Hood was one of the Confederacy's most enigmatic generals. He died at 48 after a brief illness in August of 1879, leaving behind the first draft of his memoirs Advance and Retreat: Personal Experiences in the United States and Confederate States Armies. Published posthumously the following year, the memoirs immediately became as controversial as their author. A careful and balanced examination of these "controversies," however, coupled with the recent discovery of Hood's personal papers (which were long considered lost) finally sets the record straight in John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General.
About Stephen M "Sam" Hood.: Stephen M. "Sam" Hood graduated from Kentucky Military Institute, Marshall University (BBA, 1976), and is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. A collateral descendant of General Hood, Sam is a retired industrial construction company owner, past member of the Board of Directors of the Blue Gray Education Society, and a past president of the Board of Directors of Confederate Memorial Hall Museum in New Orleans.  He lives in his hometown of Huntington, West Virginia, with his wife of 37 years, Martha, and is the proud father of two sons: Derek Hood of Lexington, Kentucky, and Taylor Hood of Huntington, West Virginia.
About Savas Beatie LLC: Savas Beatie LLC is a leading military and general history publishing company. Read more about John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of a Confederate General, including excerpts and an interview with the author.