Friday, February 6, 2009

Two Miserable Presidents by Steve Sheinkin

Main characters: Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis
Location: United States
Time period: the American Civil War
Genre: J Non-Fiction, History

How has February already started? Where did January go? It just slipped by and I did not get a non-fiction book done--and after I had challenged myself and everything! (At least I started this book in January--does that count?)

In a forward to this book, the author explains that he once wrote textbooks and he knows why they are so boring--they leave all the good stuff out! As far as quotes go, they avoid any "that are at all funny, amazing, surprising, disgusting, confusing, stupid, mean, or anything else interesting." So in this book, he puts in all the stuff that textbooks leave out.

The two miserable presidents of the title are, of course, Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, but the book includes many more people than just those two. It is a very readable overview of the Civil War, told in short segments which focus as much on the people on the home front as it does on the soldiers and battles.

There are so many books on the Civil War and--with the Lincoln bicentennial coming up--on Abraham Lincoln that you'd almost imagine that there's nothing new to say. Yet there were incidents in this book that I had not come across before. My favorite was the story John Burns, a seventy-one-year-old War of 1812 veteran who lived in Gettysburg and, when the battle started, went out with his old gun and joined up with the Seventh Wisconsin. Wounded three times, he survived the battle and met with Abraham Lincoln when he came to deliver the Gettysburg Address.

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