Monday, September 10, 2012

New and Noteworthy---Seward: Lincoln's Indispensable Man

Seward: Lincoln's Indispensable Man, Walter Stahr, Simon and Schuster Publishing, 720 pages, black and white photographs, bibliographic notes, bibliography, index, $32.50.

From the PublisherFrom one of our most acclaimed new biographers– the first full life of the leader of Lincoln’s “team of rivals” to appear in more than forty years. William Henry Seward was one of the most important Americans of the nineteenth century. Progressive governor of New York and outspoken U.S. senator, he was the odds-on favorite to win the 1860 Republican nomination for president. As secretary of state and Lincoln’s closest adviser during the Civil War, Seward not only managed foreign affairs but had a substantial role in military, political, and personnel matters.

Some of Lincoln’s critics even saw Seward, erroneously, as the power behind the throne; this is why John Wilkes Booth and his colleagues attempted to kill Seward as well as Lincoln. Seward survived the assassin’s attack, continued as secretary of state, and emerged as a staunch supporter of President Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s controversial successor. Through his purchase of Alaska (“Seward’s Folly”), and his groundwork for the purchase of the Canal Zone and other territory, Seward set America on course to become a world empire.

Seward was not only important, he was fascinating. Most nights this well-known raconteur with unruly hair and untidy clothes would gather diplomats, soldiers, politicians, or actors around his table to enjoy a cigar, a drink, and a good story. Drawing on hundreds of sources not available to or neglected by previous biographers, Walter Stahr sheds new light on this complex and central figure, as well as on pivotal events of the Civil War and its aftermath.

The Author: Walter Stahr was born in Massachusetts, grew up in Southern California, and attended the Phillips Exeter Academy, Stanford University and Harvard Law School. After a twenty-five year career as a lawyer he returned to his first love, American history, to research and write a biography of John Jay. Stahr lives, with his wife Masami and two children, in Exeter, New Hampshire, and Newport Beach, California. 

CWL: Just received a review copy and it does look impressive in regard  to the research and the narrative style. 

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