Let it never be said that there are a lack of books concerning Lincoln and his time in the White House. In recent years, authors from Doris Kearns Goodwin to Bill O’Reilly have taken to deconstructing the man credited with preserving the Union. Clearly, the public continues to be fascinated by America’s 16th president, and it’s a fascination that has manifested itself through hundreds of pieces of literature. With this seemingly endless stream of content, is there any new territory that has yet to be trodden? That’s a question that author Todd Brewster faces head on in the wonderfully nuanced Lincoln’s Gamble.
Documenting the relatively brief period between July 1862 and January 1863 in which Lincoln crafted what would become the Emancipation Proclamation, Brewster meticulously analyzes historical sources in an attempt to understand the genesis of that famous document. What he finds is not the morally self-assured Lincoln of legend, but a deeply conflicted man often at odds with the staff he commands. This is not the typical Lincoln narrative as hagiography that most audiences are used to; it’s the story of an imperfect man who rose to the occasion despite his limitations. As Lincoln agonizes over every decision, a war for the future of the country he believes in is spinning out of control. It’s a compelling story, and one that is bound to keep readers engaged.
With its original approach and tight pacing, this is one of the best Lincoln-related works in recent years. Its scholarly credentials are all in place, but more casual audiences will be drawn to this work because of its intensity and drama. Give this one a read, but be prepared to not want to put it down until it’s finished.