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BOOK REVIEWS Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements aboutAbraham Lincoln . Edited by Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. Pp. xxxii, 827. $49.95.) Most readers of C/v/7 War History will know that William H. Herndon (181 d- ? 891) was Abraham Lincoln's junior law partner in Springfield, Illinois, and that his controversial biography of 1 889 was the first to present a full picture of Lincoln's early life. Herndon began investigating that early life, about which he at first knew very little, shortly after the president's death. He examined public records, but mostly he sought testimony from friends, neighbors, business associates , and relatives in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. He built a prodigious collection of letters and notes of personal interviews, adding material until his last days. Along the way he had the valuable assistance of John G. Springer, whose thousands ofpages oftranscriptions are the sole surviving copies of much of the collection and a great help in deciphering original documents. Ward Hill Lamon, co-author of an early Life ofAbraham Lincoln (1872), contributed to Herndon's collection and paid four thousand dollars for Springer's transcriptions. Finally in 1882, Jesse L. Weik of Greencastle, Indiana, began helping Herndon gather testimonies and then distill a book out of his vast collection. Appropriately , Weik inherited the collection, which first became generally but not conveniently available to scholars on microfilm from the Library of Congress in the 1930s. It is that collection which we have here, published in book form for me first time, miraculously compressed into a single volume which, though certainly large, is still quite handy and legible. And it is complete: the editors have done wonders in identifying the obscure as well as the prominent men and women of a bygone age, and they have deliberately left the low-grade ore in with the nuggets. We therefore have materials here for a rich exercise in evaluating documentary evidence as well as a splendid exposure to a world connected to, but radically different from, our own. Because the documents involve recollections from before Lincoln's birth to the 1880s, we also have a tour of an explosively changing United States for a century. The editors supply an introduction that reports the history of the collection and presents some of the controversial themes that emerged from Herndon's BOOK REVIEWS65 interpretations. These include the legends of Lincoln's or his mother's alleged illegitimacy; Lincoln's love for Ann Rutledge; Lincoln's religious beliefs; and the nature and quality of Lincoln's relationship with his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln . For students especially concerned with Nancy Hanks Lincoln and her numerous kinfolk, the editors have provided a Hanks family tree by Paul H. Verduin as an appendix. There are 634 documents in all, representing over 250 contributors; the editors have listed them chronologically, not with respect to content, but according to the date oftheir accession into the Herndon, orHerndonWeik , collection. No. 2 14 is the longest: a report from the Allan Pinkerton Agency on the alleged plot to assassinate President-Elect Lincoln on his way to his inauguration , and the stratagems by which he traveled safely from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania , to Washington. This book scarcely needs a review to recommend it: the materials are priceless, the editing imaginative and erudite, the subject essential. Even the price is a bargain, considering the quantity and quality ofthe contents. Robert McColley University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Six Armies in Tennessee: The Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns. By Steven E. Woodworm. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998. Pp. xv, 257. $29.95.) It is pleasing when a work lives up to the claims ofits general editors. Steven E. Woodworm does "offer readers concise syntheses of the [military operations in Middle and Eastern Tennessee during summer and fall 1863], reflecting the findings of recent scholarship." He does manage to avoid the distortions that come with oversimplification and splotchy coverage. This is an art. Woodworth marshals facts, concepts, and sources with a scholarly assurance and a stylish competence that makes the complex manageable, the vast comprehensible, and dim history vital. The understanding he shares is quite remarkable in its...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 64-65
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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