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Days of Defiance

Sumter, Secession, and the Coming of the Civil War

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“Illuminating and well-written. . . . Deserves a place in the highest ranks of Civil War scholarship.” —The Cleveland Plain Dealer 

In November 1860, telegraph lines carried the news that Abraham Lincoln had been elected president. Over the next five months the United States drifted, stumbled, and finally plunged into the most destructive war this country has ever faced. With a masterful eye for the telling detail, Maury Klein provides fascinating new insights into the period from the election of Abraham Lincoln to the shelling of Fort Sumter.

Klein brings the key players in the tragedy unforgettably to life: from the vacillating lame-duck President Buchanan to the taciturn, elusive, and relatively unknown Abraham Lincoln; from Secretary of State Seward carrying on his own private negotiations with the South to Major Robert Anderson sitting in his island fortress awaiting reinforcements. Never has this immensely significant moment in our national story been so intelligently of so spellbindingly related.

From Publishers Weekly

Sep 01, 1997 – "How could the oldest, deadliest, most divisive conflict of a proud nation come down, after decades of bitter strife, to a dispute over an insignificant fort squatting on a hunk of rock in the harbor of the South's oldest and most defiant city?" For Klein (Unfinished Business), a professor of history at the University of Rhode Island, the key to the attempted dissolution of the Union lay in the concept of secession, as distinct from states' rights. Secession, he demonstrates in this impressive study, was not "a fine old brandy" reserved for special occasions but "a house wine always on hand," regularly served, cheap and intoxicating. Nowhere were its effects greater than in South Carolina. Klein demolishes the myth that South Carolina was governed by cavaliers, gentlemen of honor devoted to the public welfare. Instead, he finds a state governed by a self-referencing, ingrown, money-obsessed oligarchy. Klein vividly depicts the general failure of leadership that transformed crisis into war. The government's indecisive handling of the Fort Sumter blockade began, he shows, with lame-duck President James Buchanan, whose best gifts were those of a diplomat and a lawyer. Congress was gridlocked, the party system in chaos and Abraham Lincoln was an unknown quantity whose capacities were obscured by his appearance and behavior. Lincoln's secretary of state, William Seward, believed he himself could preserve the Union without war by reducing Lincoln to a figurehead while forming a new "national party"--two mutually reinforcing delusions, according to the author. With a novelist's skill, Klein has crafted an engrossing portrait of the nation's descent into chaos and war. Maps and photos not seen by PW. History Book Club selection.
Days of Defiance
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: United States
  • Published: Sep 08, 1997
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 528 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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