For one brief period in history, from 1861 to 1865, there were two American presidents, one in the North and one in the South. Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis led their nations through a bitter civil war that changed the course of American history. Both were brilliant. Both were patriots. Both were convinced they were right. Yet Abraham Lincoln is remembered as a beloved leader who preserved the Union and ended slavery, and Jefferson Davis is remembered merely as the head of a failed rebellion.
In this, the first dual biography of the two leaders, Bruce Chadwick argues that one of several reasons why the North won and the South lost can be found in the drastically different characters of the two presidents. The electric and flexible personality of Lincoln enabled him to build coalitions among warring political factions and become one of the strongest and most successful presidents in U.S. history. The inability of the uncompromising Davis to do the same contributed to the South's losing the war. There were other sharp differences between the two men.
- Davis was incredibly wealthy; Lincoln was born in poverty.
- Davis was very well educated; Lincoln had less than a year of schooling.
- Davis was a war hero; Lincoln was a militia captain who never saw battle.
Ironically, there were also striking similarities.
- Each was born in a log cabin.
- Each man's first love died...within a month of the other.
- Each lost a young son during his presidency.
- Three of Lincoln's four children died before the age of nineteen; all three of Davis's sons died before the age of twenty-two.
- Both men were married to strong, aggressive women who were snubbed and scorned by society women throughout the war.
This is the first comprehensive study to compare the two leaders, and to reach firm conclusions about the war that transformed the United States from a slave empire into a model of democracy for the world. Many books have been written about both Lincoln and Davis. However, by contrasting the lives and presidencies of both men, the author provides a fascinating new perspective of the two leaders during the most volatile period in American history.
Bruce Chadwick, a longtime journalist, has a Ph.D. in history from Rutgers University and has studied politics at Princeton University. He is the editor of Brother Against Brother: The Lost Civil War Diary of Lt. Edmund Halsey and the author of the upcoming Traveling the Underground Railroad: A Visitor's Guide to More Than 300 Sites (both Birch Lane Press). He has lectured on the Civil War at several universities and published various articles on the conflict. He lives in Randolph, New Jersey.