An account of how America’s greatest crisis began, by “the Civil War’s master historical detective” (Stephen W. Sears, author of Chancellorsville).
This groundbreaking book investigates the mystery of how the Civil War began, reconsidering the big question: Was it inevitable?
The award-winning author of Andersonville and Lincoln’s Autocrat vividly recreates President Abraham Lincoln’s first year in office, from his inauguration through the rising crisis of secession and the first several months of the war. Drawing on original sources and examining previously overlooked factors, he leads the reader inexorably to the conclusion that Lincoln not only missed opportunities to avoid war but actually fanned the flames—and often acted unconstitutionally in prosecuting the war once it had begun. With a keen eye for the telling detail, on the battlefield as well as in the White House, this is revisionist history at its best, not sparing anyone, even Abraham Lincoln.
“A brilliant narrative that reveals the possibilities of the past that were squandered by historical figures who seem so unassailable and godlike to us today.” —Peter S. Carmichael, author of The Last Generation
“The most provocative account of events in 1861 in a generation. Readers who think they understand the Civil War’s first year and the roles played by Abraham Lincoln, Nathanial Lyon, Charles Stone, and a host of others should brace themselves for a bold new perspective.” —A. Wilson Greene, author of Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion