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We Have the War Upon Us: The Onset of the…

We Have the War Upon Us: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April… (edition 2012)

by William J. Cooper

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Title:We Have the War Upon Us: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861
Authors:William J. Cooper
Info:Knopf (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:American Civil War

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We Have the War Upon Us: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861 by William J. Cooper



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A very well-done exploration of the critical period between Lincoln's election and the attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861. By narrowing his focus to those key months, Cooper allows himself to really dig into the details of what was happening as some Americans tried desperately to prevent secession and war while others—both north and south—actively sought the breakup of the Union and even looked favorably on the idea of military conflict.

Cooper, the author of several previous books on the South as well as a major Jefferson Davis biography, proves himself very adept at recounting the complex and often extremely confusing negotiations going on, sometimes simultaneously, between different groups in and out of Congress during what's been termed "secession winter." He uses an impressive range of sources, many of them original archival materials, to document his narrative from just about every conceivable angle (being particularly interested in William Seward I was delighted that Cooper put his voluminous writings to good use).

Senator Crittenden's efforts to reach a compromise I was at least generally familiar with, but many of the other efforts here, including an attempt by two justices of the Supreme Court to arrange a deal, were entirely new to me. Beyond the attempts at averting war, Cooper's book also delves into the complicated politics Lincoln faced in choosing his cabinet and in making several key initial decisions, particularly about what stances to take when it came to possible compromises and on the question of resupplying federal forts in the south. Finally, there is a great deal of interesting material here on the southern states and the process by which they seceded (or hadn't yet done so at the time of the attack on Sumter). Cooper tells this story extremely well, and I certainly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the Civil War and its causes. ( )
  JBD1 | Jan 26, 2013 |
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In this work the author presents a revisionist account of the period between Lincoln's election and the firing on Fort Sumter, evaluating the contributions of key figures and the circumstances that contributed to the Civil War's inevitability. In this carefully researched book the author gives us a fresh perspective on the period between Abraham Lincoln's election in November 1860 and the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861, during which all efforts to avoid or impede secession and prevent war failed. Here is the story of the men whose decisions and actions during the crisis of the Union resulted in the outbreak of the Civil War. Sectional compromise had been critical in the history of the country, from the Constitutional Convention of 1787 through to 1860, and was a hallmark of the nation. On several volatile occasions political leaders had crafted solutions to the vexing problems dividing North and South. During the postelection crisis many Americans assumed that once again a political compromise would settle yet another dispute. Instead, in those crucial months leading up to the clash at Fort Sumter; that tradition of compromise broke down and a rapid succession of events led to the great cataclysm in American history, the Civil War. All Americans did not view this crisis from the same perspective. Strutting southern fire-eaters designed to break up the Union. Some Republicans, crowing over their electoral triumph, evinced little concern about the threatened dismemberment of the country. Still others, northerners and southerners, antislave and proslave alike, strove to find an equitable settlement that would maintain the Union whole. The author captures the sense of contingency, showing Americans in these months as not knowing where decisions would lead, how events would unfold. The people who populate these pages could not foresee what war, if it came, would mean, much less predict its outcome. This book helps us understand what the major actors said and did: the Republican party, the Democratic party, southern secessionists, southern Unionists; why the pro-compromise forces lost; and why the American tradition of sectional compromise failed. It reveals how the major actors perceived what was happening and the reasons they gave for their actions: Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, Stephen A. Douglas, William Henry Seward, John J. Crittenden, Charles Francis Adams, John Tyler, James Buchanan, and a host of others. Here is written a full account of the North and the South, Republicans and Democrats, sectional radicals and sectional conservatives that deepens our insight into what is still one of the most controversial periods in American history.… (more)

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