Friday, October 04, 2013

Book review - Two Roads to Sumter.

Back to the American Civil War with Bruce and William Catton's Two Roads to Sumter. This 280 page book was published in 1963. It's the first work I have read involving Bruce Catton where he did not work alone.

Beginning with birth, Two Roads details and compares the lives of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. The political and personal lives of the two men are examined in the light of their coming destinies as presidents of contending nations during the Civil War. Along the way the stumbling of the United States towards conflict is also documented.

By the time of Lincoln's election and the secession of the gulf states, both men were primed for their moment on the national stage. The Cattons refer to both as the best their sections had to offer at that time. Interestingly, during the final lead-up to the conflict, Stephen Douglas is the only actor on the national stage referred to as a statesman. I found this particularly interesting since Lincoln is normally idolized in history books. What the Cattons take exception to is the lack of effort by either Davis or Lincoln to head off secession after the election but prior to the inauguration. Both seemed content to ride the tide of events. Only Douglas attempted to turn it. In this specific instance Davis comes off as weak and Lincoln as cold-blooded.

By the time the decision to fire on Fort Sumter is made and the book ended I felt I had a little better grasp of both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. That knowledge sheds a brighter light on their actions during the war. Whether the reader is a long time Civil War buff or is looking for information on Lincoln or Davis, I would recommend Two Roads to Sumter.