cover image Reelecting Lincoln: The Battle for the 1864 Presidency

Reelecting Lincoln: The Battle for the 1864 Presidency

John C. Waugh, Jack Waugh. Crown Publishers, $30 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-517-59766-8

The appeal of this portrait is that it is not overly ambitious: it does not attempt to redefine or reinterpret Lincoln, but to present him as a politician running for reelection during a particularly difficult year. Waugh, a former Christian Science Monitor journalist, states that he set out to cover the presidential election of 1864 as a reporter rather than as a historian, covering such nonpolitical matters as the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg or the elaborate wedding of Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase's daughter. The book remains a richly detailed examination of wartime politics in which the radical elements within Lincoln's own party and in Congress were more of a threat than the Democratic candidate, retired Gen. George McClellan. Waugh covers Lincoln's major political battles, such as the Democratic national convention in Chicago, but does not overlook the seemingly small ones, such as an obscure but important appointment for a hack job in the New York City customs house. In August, Lincoln thought he would lose the election; in November, after Lincoln was reelected, General Grant wrote that it was ""worth more to the country than a battle won."" Typical of Waugh's effective use of small details are his descriptions of weather, especially of brutally humid Washington summers. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)