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Stanton: Lincoln’s War Secretary
by Walter Stahr
768 pages
Simon & Schuster
Release Date: August 8, 2017

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Perhaps no American president is more beloved than Abraham Lincoln…and of the men in Lincoln’s cabinet it may be true that none were more important (or controversial) than Edwin Stanton.

He served as Attorney General under the notoriously ineffective President James Buchanan and was chosen by Abraham Lincoln’s to serve as his Secretary of War – a particularly critical position given the outbreak of the Civil War.  This is a job Stanton retained under President Johnson following Lincoln’s assassination and it was Johnson’s attempt fire Stanton which led to Johnson’s impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Walter Stahr has just published a biography of Edwin Stanton which seems to hold great promise.  Stahr is the author of the excellent biographies of William Seward (Lincoln’s surprisingly interesting Secretary of State) and John Jay (a Founding Father and the nation’s first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court).

Third-party reviews and links:

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From the publisher:

“Walter Stahr, award-winning author of the New York Times bestseller Seward, tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s indispensable Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, the man the president entrusted with raising the army that preserved the Union.

Of the crucial men close to President Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (1814–1869) was the most powerful and controversial. Stanton raised, armed, and supervised the army of a million men who won the Civil War. He organized the war effort. He directed military movements from his telegraph office, where Lincoln literally hung out with him. He arrested and imprisoned thousands for “war crimes,” such as resisting the draft or calling for an armistice. Stanton was so controversial that some accused him at that time of complicity in Lincoln’s assassination. He was a stubborn genius who was both reviled and revered in his time.

Stanton was a Democrat before the war and a prominent trial lawyer. He opposed slavery, but only in private. He served briefly as President Buchanan’s Attorney General and then as Lincoln’s aggressive Secretary of War. On the night of April 14, 1865, Stanton rushed to Lincoln’s deathbed and took over the government since Secretary of State William Seward had been critically wounded the same evening. He informed the nation of the President’s death, summoned General Grant to protect the Capitol, and started collecting the evidence from those who had been with the Lincolns at the theater in order to prepare a murder trial.

Now with this worthy complement to the enduring library of biographical accounts of those who helped Lincoln preserve the Union, Stanton honors the indispensable partner of the sixteenth president. Walter Stahr’s essential book is the first major biography of Stanton in fifty years, restoring this underexplored figure to his proper place in American history.