A timely and intimate look into Abraham Lincoln’s White House through the lives of his two closest aides and confidants
Lincoln’s official secretaries John Hay and John Nicolay enjoyed more access, witnessed more history, and knew Lincoln better than anyone outside of the president’s immediate family. Hay and Nicolay were the gatekeepers of the Lincoln legacy. They read poetry and attendeded the theater with the president, commiserated with him over Union army setbacks, and plotted electoral strategy. They were present at every seminal event, from the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address—and they wrote about it after his death.
In their biography of Lincoln, Hay and Nicolay fought to establish Lincoln’s heroic legacy and to preserve a narrative that saw slavery—not states’ rights—as the sole cause of the Civil War. As Joshua Zeitz shows, the image of a humble man with uncommon intellect who rose from obscurity to become a storied wartime leader and emancipator is very much their creation.
Drawing on letters, diaries, and memoirs, Lincoln’s Boys is part political drama and part coming-of-age tale—a fascinating story of friendship, politics, war, and the contest over history and remembrance.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have great respect for this book, having just finished it and now feeling as though I understand things about the former president and those closest to him that I did not before.
It is not a secret that I am somewhat of a Lincoln freak, so when I saw this book I knew I had to read it. I expected this book to be well organised and interesting. What I didn’t expect was the level of careful detail the author included about the lives of John Nicolay and John Hay. He was meticulous in his research and recounting of their lives, and yet this book was not just a string of boring facts.
Looking back into the past through the author’s words was an experience that I shall not soon forget. If you are a fan of historical non-fiction, his book will definitely be one you will want to add to your shelves.
It was fascinating to see where these two men came from and what happened before the careers that they became synonymous with. This book reminds you that even the most powerful and memorable people came from somewhere besides fame.
This review is based on a complimentary copy from Netgalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.