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Donn Piatt

Gadfly of the Gilded Age

Peter Bridges

Publication Year: 2012

The life of a celebrated diplomat and editor whose opinions helped to shape views on the national agenda

Born in 1819 in Cincinnati, Donn Piatt died in 1891 at the Piatt Castles that still stand in western Ohio. He was a diplomat, historian, journalist, judge, lawyer, legislator, lobbyist, novelist, playwright, poet, and politician—and a well-known humorist, once called on to replace Mark Twain when Twain’s humor failed him. A staunch opponent of slavery, Piatt campaigned in 1860 for Abraham Lincoln, who briefly took a liking to him but found him too outspoken and later cursed him when, as a Union officer, Piatt recruited slaves in Maryland.

Published by: The Kent State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. viii-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

I am indebted to many people for the help they have given me with this book. I am deeply grateful to the Kent State University Press and its director, Will Underwood, for agreeing for a third time to publish a work of mine. Joyce Harrison, the acquisitions editor of the Press, has been unfailingly helpful and, beyond that, good natured, no matter...

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Introduction

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pp. xi-xiii

This is the story of a once famous man with an always rare name: Donn Piatt. As he matured, America moved toward civil war; both before and during the war he served the republic well; after the war he prospered in that booming yet corrupt time that his sometime friend Mark Twain named the Gilded Age. Those decades were later pictured by...

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1 Big Fire and His Family

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pp. 1-13

Donn Piatt was favored from the beginning. He was born in 1819 into a prosperous family with an honorable past, in an America whose prospects seemed bright— although there were dark clouds. James Monroe had entered the White House in 1817, and for a time an era of good feelings ensued; but the question of admitting Missouri to the Union as a slave...

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2 Writer, Envoy, Lawyer, Voice

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pp. 14-44

Sometime in 1842, after he came back to Ohio from Washington, Piatt satisfied his father that he had mastered the law sufficiently well that he could practice it. In addition to his father, for a time he had as his teacher another able lawyer and prominent Ohioan, Thomas Corwin...

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3 A Soldier in the Great War

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pp. 45-71

Lincoln kept on denying, in public if not to himself, that civil war would come. His intention, no doubt, was to avoid words or actions that might inflame the country before he entered into his new office. His intention led him to say foolish things. On his way through Ohio to...

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4 What to do in Peacetime?

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pp. 72-81

America’s civil war finally ended in the spring of 1865. People in Ohio felt joy and relief at the news of Lee’s surrender, and then shock and sorrow at the assassination of the president. Looking ahead, though, people mourning both the president and their own dead might...

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5 Piatt to the Capital

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pp. 82-98

Donn Piatt had long had what might be called a love-hate relationship with the city of Washington. As a young man he had been repelled by the vacuousness and ineptitude he saw in Congress and the White House. Washington was hot and dusty in summer and...

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6 Alarms and Excursions

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pp. 99-120

At The Capital, Piatt found he needed more help. He hired as his assistant editor— but with the full title of editor—a young journalist named Henry Reed, who had made a name for himself working on newspapers in Ohio and, more recently, Chicago. Piatt went on to acquire...

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7 Presidential Prisoner, Presidential Friend

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pp. 121-143

President Grant finally found grounds for legal action against Donn Piatt in early 1877, when Grant’s second, final term was ending. In the presidential election the previous November, the Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes—governor of Ohio and Piatt’s...

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8 The Man in His Castle

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pp. 144-167

When Donn Piatt resigned his commission in the Union army in 1864, he and Louise planned a new house in the country at Mac-o-cheek. She died before it could be built. After the war ended and he married Ella, they built at Mac-o-cheek a modest-sized Swiss chale...

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9 East Again, and Home to stay

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pp. 168-187

In that same year of 1888, Piatt left Ohio and moved to New York City for the second time in his life to become at the age of sixty-nine the editor of the new Belford’s Magazine. It was a coup for the magazine’s well-known publisher, Robert Belford. The Springfield Register...

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10 Looking Back at Donn Piatt

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pp. 188-197

Two years after Piatt’s death his first biography appeared. It was written by another of his pallbearers, Charles Grant Miller, a man in his late twenties who for the past year or more had worked as Piatt’s private secretary at Mac-o-cheek. Miller was a journalist who would...

Notes

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pp. 198-244

Bibliography

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pp. 245-259

Index

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pp. 260-270

Images Plates

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E-ISBN-13: 9781612776255
E-ISBN-10: 1612776256
Print-ISBN-13: 9781606351161

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • Piatt, Donn, 1819-1891.
  • Statesmen -- United States -- History -- 19th century -- Biography.
  • Journalists -- United States -- Biography.
  • United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Ohio -- Biography.
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