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Lincoln's Pivotal Year

Edited by Harold Holzer and Sara Vaughn Gabbard

Publication Year: 2013

Only hours into the new year of 1863, Abraham Lincoln performed perhaps his most famous action as president by signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Rather than remaining the highlight of the coming months, however, this monumental act marked only the beginning of the most pivotal year of Lincoln’s presidency and the most revolutionary twelve months of the entire Civil War. In recognition of the sesquicentennial of this tumultuous time, prominent Civil War scholars explore the events and personalities that dominated 1863 in this enlightening volume, providing a unique historical perspective on a critical period in American history.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4


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pp. 5-7


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pp. vii-9


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pp. ix-x

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Introduction: The Remembrance of a Dream

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pp. 1-8

They have been called the most decisive, certainly the most revolutionary, twelve months of the entire Civil War. Indeed, only hours into the new year of 1863, Abraham Lincoln guaranteed their reputation as such by signing the first executive act ever aimed at destroying the stubbornly intractable institution...

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1. The Day of Jubilee

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pp. 9-22

Six days after President Lincoln issued the decree that promised freedom to all enslaved people held in areas under Confederate control, the Richmond Daily Dispatch boldly suggested that “no proclamation which the Yankees have issued, or may issue, will have the slightest effect upon the slave population of the...

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2. Under Cover of Liberty

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pp. 23-42

As the country entered its third year of war, 1863 began with a blow louder than any cannon fired on the battlefield. President Abraham Lincoln had at last signed the order that would change America. With his January 1, 1863, order, slaves were, at least in theory, emancipated in all areas still under Confederate...

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3. Lincoln at Sea

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pp. 43-56

By 1863, Lincoln had schooled himself not only in the mysteries of land warfare but also in the even more arcane arena of nineteenth-century naval warfare. Given the absence of either a department of defense or a joint chiefs of staff, Lincoln was the only person in the government or its military establishment who...

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4. Military Drafts, Civilian Riots

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pp. 57-72

We are contending with an enemy who, as I understand, drives every able bodied man he can reach, into his ranks, very much as a butcher drives bullocks into a slaughter-pen.” So wrote Abraham Lincoln to Horatio Seymour, the Democratic governor of New York, in August 1863. “No time is wasted, no argument...

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5. The Fiery Furnace of Affliction

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pp. 73-89

The Lincolns felt well rid of the past twelve months when the year’s end approached in December 1862. On Christmas Day, Mary and her husband had toured hospitals in the District of Columbia and a week later faced the New Year with quivering anticipation. So much of 1862 had been characterized by losses, defeats...

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6. And the War Goes On

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pp. 90-101

It was an event unlike any other in American history. The tall, gaunt president, tired from shaking hands at the New Year’s Day reception, pulled the official paper before him. He made ready to sign the document that would begin the final end to the institution of slavery in the United States. He hesitated, noting that there...

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7. Picturing the War

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pp. 102-122

Posing for the camera was no routine thing in 1863. The latest technology back then—the wet-plate negative—was an improvement on earlier methods but still required the sitter to remain rigid during an exposure that would take from three to twenty or more seconds. “To prevent a tremulous motion of your head, which the bewildered state of your feelings...

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8. The General Tide

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pp. 123-136

If President Abraham Lincoln felt buoyed at noon on January 1, 1863, when he signed the final Emancipation Proclamation, thus redeeming the promise of ultimate freedom from slavery always implicit in the Republican Party platform, he had little else to lift his spirits that day. By this time, the president had learned...

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9. The Gettysburg Address Revisited

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pp. 137-155

In Frank Capra’s classic 1939 film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, a disgraced and defeated Senator Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart) is quitting. His optimistic outlook dims when his idol, Senator Paine (Claude Rains), tries to include him in a corrupt scheme, and it shatters completely when the bad guys finger Smith himself...

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10. Seldom Twice Alike: The Changing Faces of Lincoln

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pp. 156-175

Between the last month of 1862 and the first hours of 1863, Abraham Lincoln did nothing less than come to terms with his own immortality. In his annual message to Congress back on December 1, 1862, with the deadline for execution of the final Emancipation Proclamation looming, he had modestly predicted...

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Appendix A: The Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address

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pp. 179-184

The text of Abraham Lincoln’s most important piece of writing boasts none of the narrative brilliance for which his other famous manuscripts are celebrated. In fact, the deadening legalese of the Emancipation Proclamation has been subjected to much criticism by generations of historians— not to mention antislavery...

Appendix B: Timeline, 1863

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pp. 185-187


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pp. 189-190


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pp. 191-198

Back Cover

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p. 212-212

E-ISBN-13: 9780809332472
E-ISBN-10: 0809332477
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809332465
Print-ISBN-10: 0809332469

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 28
Publication Year: 2013