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House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, A…

House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, A Family Divided by War

by Stephen Berry

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1625113,443 (3.93)9
For all the talk of the Civil War "pitting brother against brother," there has never before been a single book that traces the story of one family ravaged by that conflict. And no family could better illustrate the personal toll the war took than Lincoln's own. Mary Todd Lincoln was one of fourteen siblings who were split between the Confederacy and the Union. Three of her brothers fought, and two died, for the South. Several Todds--including Mary herself--bedeviled Lincoln's administration with their scandalous behavior. Historian Berry tells their saga with the emotional intensity of a novelist. The Todds' struggles haunted the president and moved him to avoid tactics or rhetoric that would dehumanize or scapegoat the Confederates. Drawing on his own familial experience, Lincoln was inspired to articulate a humanistic, even charitable view of the enemy that seems surpassingly wise in our time, let alone his.--From publisher description.… (more)



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An excellent companion to [Giant in the shadows : the life of Robert T. Lincoln]. Emerson alludes to Mary Lincoln's mental difficulties, but I didn't realize the extent of the issues until reading this book. Not only am I more clear on the Todd family illnesses, but I understand the connections with Abraham Lincoln and the position the Todd family put Lincoln in during the Civil War. It could be rightly said that Mary was a product of her family which made Abraham's life so difficult during the War. They were from Kentucky, a border state, which meant that like many families half were Confederates and half Yankees. This family is the war writ large. Every possible issue was carried out here. I thought I knew everything there was to know about Lincoln; not until I read this book did I fully understand. Excellent work. ( )
  book58lover | Dec 26, 2012 |
Mary Todd Lincoln was indeed a pitiful woman, undoubtedly suffering from a mental illness. Her siblings were an odd bunch, and in a couple of instances, completely revolting, like the brother who was the commandant of a Richmond prison. This book points out Lincoln's kindness and patience with his in-laws and his wife. "House of Abraham" is a very readable book and left me with even more sympathy for the president. Between his on-going concern for the war, and his self-absorbed wife and in-laws, it's no wonder he suffered from depression. ( )
  LeahsChoice | May 24, 2009 |
Excellent book. I really liked the essentially mini-biographies of Mary Todd Lincolns brothers and sisters, and what all they did during the Civil War, and what kind of an impact they had on Lincoln himself. I had no idea that one of Mary's brothers was a commander of a Confederate prison camp for a short while, and garnered a reputation as one of the most vile prison commanders of them all. Fascinating book made all the better by crisp writing that doesn't rehash much commonly-known Lincoln information. While old Abe himself is actually not in the book very much (until towards the end), the book is a must-read for any Lincoln fan. I really felt like I understood his 2nd inaugural speech better because of this book. I'll ding it a half star because there are some passages where the author puts thoughts into Lincoln's head that may or may not have been there. Still, that is a fairly minor quibble. At just under 200 pages of writing, this is a fast and interesting read. ( )
  estamm | Dec 20, 2008 |
I’m ashamed to say it, but even as a U.S. history teacher, I was unaware of how close Abraham Lincoln was to his wife’s relatives; and even more ignorant of the fact that most of her family were staunch Confederates. Lincoln had few close relatives of his own blood, and the Todds seem to have filled a vital niche in his life, according to Mr. Berry. That made it especially difficult when the Civil War broke out, and two of Mary Todd Lincoln’s own brothers were killed fighting for the Confederacy. Politically and emotionally, the Todd family played havoc with Lincoln’s life, but he never forsook them, and Berry sees Lincoln’s own divided family as a perfect microcosm of the nation’s internal disunion. A well-written and easy to read book, one that sheds some much needed light on Lincoln the man. ( )
  RachelfromSarasota | Jun 9, 2008 |
I learned a lot about how the Tod family affected the country and Lincoln's presidency. ( )
  chaoscat60 | Jan 7, 2008 |
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