1861: The Civil War Awakening

Written by Adam Goodheart
Review by John R. Vallely

The 150th anniversary of the American Civil War is certain to contribute an avalanche of histories and biographies to bookshelves already groaning under the weight of the most analyzed period in U.S. history. Adam Goodheart offers a brilliant and lively account of the pivotal beginnings of the conflict in 1861: The Civil War Awakening. He is an eloquent writer and a gifted storyteller in the tradition of Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote. His Civil War is no reworking of battles and political debates but rather an arresting depiction of a nation and a people teetering on the edge of disaster. From Union farm boys in their colorful uniforms gazing at the Capitol’s rotunda, to John and Jessie Fremont seeking fame and political influence, to a tired and depressed Major Robert Anderson hoping beyond hope that war will not begin at his post at Fort Sumter, to the two rival presidents desperately seeking solutions, Goodheart provides an exemplary look at the first year of the war.