Lincoln’s Boys

This interview on MPR piqued my interest in yet another book on Abe Lincoln.

I didn’t hear it all but I heard enough and was impressed yet again how a subject so close to my heart can still contain great surprises.

The gist of the interview was that after his death Lincoln was still considered a bit of a hayseed/buffoon even if a saintly one. The immediate historians of the Civil War gave all the credit for the Union victory to the likes Sec of State Seward or the War Secretary Stanton or General Grant.

I knew two things about Lincoln’s reputation after the war. In the North he was wedded with George Washington for having saved the United States of America. You can find him pictured in subsequent paintings looking down from heaven alongside Washington. The other view was less charitable. Many in the South looked upon him as a despoiler for letting Sherman march to the sea and leveling the south in a 300 mile wide swath to win his victory.

Missourian Harry Truman acknowledged that his Grandmother hated Lincoln seventy-five years later. To this day the Republican Party has become so entwined with the South that Lincoln has almost ceased to be mentioned in GOP circles. That’s quite a fall since the GOP was once regarded as “the Party of Lincoln.”

I’m preparing to get back into the last 400 pages of Bully Pulpit and there are other books circling my calendar waiting for me to pick them up including Herndon’s Lincoln but Abe’s Boys sounds fascinating.

The author Joshua Zeitz maintains that Lincoln’s two secretaries were furious that Abraham was given short shrift by contemporary historians and wanted, after a wretched thirty years of maligning, to correct the histories and give the Union Victory its true champion, Abe Lincoln. Upon reflection I can believe this but I had not known how debased Abe’s currency was in the aftermath of the war.

Which more contemporary Presidents might enjoy a similar historical resurgence in posthumous popularity? I don’t know. I’m just glad Abe finally got his due. Maybe he’ll even be rehabilitated in the Grand Old Party someday.