Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

6 Reads to Celebrate Lincoln’s Legacy

This Sunday marks the 208th birthday of Abraham Lincoln–the only president born in Kentucky! To celebrate, we’re sharing a few of our favorite books about Honest Abe.


morel.final.inddLincoln and Liberty: Wisdom for the Ages

Since Abraham Lincoln’s death, generations of Americans have studied his life, presidency, and leadership, often remaking him into a figure suited to the needs and interests of their own time. This illuminating volume takes a different approach to his political thought and practice. Here, a distinguished group of contributors argue that Lincoln’s relevance today is best expressed by rendering an accurate portrait of him in his own era. They seek to understand Lincoln as he understood himself and as he attempted to make his ideas clear to his contemporaries. What emerges is a portrait of a prudent leader who is driven to return the country to its original principles in order to conserve it.

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9780813192413Lincoln Legends: Myths, Hoaxes, and Confabulations Associated with Our Greatest President

As one might expect with a revered national icon, nearly every facet of Abraham Lincoln’s life has been subject to mythmaking as well as academic inquiry of widely varying quality and accuracy. In Lincoln Legends, noted historian and Lincoln expert Edward Steers Jr. carefully scrutinizes some of the most notorious tall tales and distorted ideas about America’s sixteenth President. Did Abraham Lincoln write his greatest speech on the back of an envelope on the way to Gettysburg? Did he appear before a congressional committee to defend his wife against charges of treason? Was Lincoln an illegitimate child? Was he gay? Edward Steers weighs the evidence in these and other heated debates about the Great Emancipator. Steers’s conclusions will satisfy some and disappoint others, and he just might settle some of these enduring questions once and for all.

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canavan.final.inddLincoln’s Final Hours: Conspiracy, Terror, and the Assassination of America’s Greatest President

In Lincoln’s Final Hours, author Kathryn Canavan takes a magnifying glass to the last moments of the president’s life and to the impact his assassination had on a country still reeling from a bloody civil war. With vivid, thoroughly researched prose and a reporter’s eye for detail, this fast-paced account not only furnishes a glimpse into John Wilkes Booth’s personal and political motivations but also illuminates the stories of ordinary people whose lives were changed forever by the assassination. Through her careful narration of the twists of fate that placed the president in harm’s way, of the plotting conversations Booth had with his accomplices, and of the immediate aftermath of the assassination, Canavan illustrates how the experiences of a single night changed the course of history.

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9780813136530Abraham Lincoln, Esq.: The Legal Career of America’s Greatest President

As our nation’s most beloved and recognizable president, Abraham Lincoln is best known for the Emancipation Proclamation and for guiding our country through the Civil War. But before he took the oath of office, Lincoln practiced law for nearly twenty-five years in the Illinois courts. Editors Roger Billings and Frank J. Williams, along with a notable list of contributors, examine Lincoln’s career as a general-practice attorney, looking both at his work in Illinois and at the time he spent in Washington. Each chapter offers an expansive look at Lincoln’s legal mind and covers diverse topics such as Lincoln’s legal writing, ethics, the Constitution, and international law. Abraham Lincoln, Esq. emphasizes this often overlooked period in Lincoln’s career and sheds light on Lincoln’s life before he became our sixteenth president.

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9780813109718With Charity for All: Lincoln and the Restoration of the Union

William C. Harris maintains that Lincoln held a fundamentally conservative position on the process of reintegrating the South, one that permitted a large measure of self-reconstruction, and that he did not modify his position late in the war. In With Charity for All he examines the reasoning and ideology behind Lincoln’s policies, describes what happened when military and civil agents tried to implement them at the local level, and evaluates Lincoln’s successes and failures in bringing his restoration efforts to closure.

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9780813190624Lincoln on Lincoln

Though Abraham Lincoln has been the subject of numerous biographies, his personality remains an enigma. During his lifetime, Lincoln prepared two sketches of his life for the 1860 presidential race. These brief campaign portraits serve as the core around which Paul Zall weaves extracts from correspondence, speeches, and interviews to produce an in-depth biography. Lincoln on Lincoln shows a man struggling to reconcile personal ambition and civic virtue, conscience and Constitution, and ultimately the will of God and the will of the people. Zall frames Lincoln’s words with his own illuminating commentary, providing a continuous, compelling narrative. Beginning with Lincoln’s thoughts on his parents, the story moves though his youth and early successes and failures in law and politics, and culminates in his clashes and conflicts–internal as well as external–as president of a divided country. Through his writings, Lincoln said much more about himself than is commonly recognized, and Zall uses this material to create a unique portrait of this pivotal figure.

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To explore more titles about Lincoln and the American Civil War, visit our website.

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A Rose by Any Other Name: The Surprising Stories Behind Kentucky Weeds

Weeds of KentuckyHere at the University Press of Kentucky, we recently finished digitizing over 1000 books dating back to our founding in 1943. It’s a lot of work going through all those books, but it’s been a process full of fun surprises and astounding discoveries. Best of all, every now and then, there’s a book that we can’t put down—a book so good we just can’t resist sharing it with you again:

As Shakespeare’s Juliet once said, “[T]hat which we call a rose/
By any other name would smell as sweet,” and no book in our catalog demonstrates what’s really in a name as beautifully as Patricia Haragan’s Weeds of Kentucky and Adjacent States: A Field Guide.

In Kentucky, where commercial agriculture is so important, some of the plants that were prized by our ancestors are considered nuisances today due to the harm they inflict on crops and livestock. In this informative and surprising book, Patricia Haragan not only provides a guide for identifying these plants, but reveals the cultural and natural history behind each. Here are some of our favorites—from the poisonous weed that allegedly killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother to the ivy that was once indispensable to brewmasters. Click on the illustrations below for longer descriptions:

The next time you go out to weed your garden or yard, maybe you’ll recognize some of these plants from their mug shots. Pick up a copy of Weeds of Kentucky and Adjacent States to learn about other interesting plants you may have overlooked.

Discovering the “Reel” Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was nominated for president on this day in 1860, the first step toward a legacy that continues to shadow those who have worked in the Oval Office since. 156 years later, Abraham Lincoln: the man, is remembered more often as Abraham Lincoln: the myth. With few photographs and even fewer audio recordings, it is difficult for the modern American to grasp our 16th president beyond the iconic speeches and cultural conceptions that loom large in our collective memory.

Even more influential are the countless speeches, poems, statues, songs, books, portraits, plays, and movies that have attempted to represent him. Filmmakers in particular have failed to agree on how to best represent Lincoln on the screen. In the modern era, movies have played the largest role in shaping public memory of America’s 16th president.

Lincoln before Lincoln Brian J. SneeIn the new book, Lincoln before Lincoln: Early Cinematic Adaptations of the Life of America’s Greatest President, author Brian Snee examines six influential screen representations—The Birth of a Nation (1915), Abraham Lincoln (1930), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940), Sandburg’s Lincoln (1974-1976), and Gore Vidal’s Lincoln (1988)—to reveal how our national perception and memory of Lincoln is adapted and commemorated. The way we depict Lincoln can teach us a lot about the man, and about ourselves. Lincoln’s life, politics, and his untimely death are not simply a part of history, but are also a part of America’s story and how Americans define themselves.

Covering more than a century of film from the silent era up to Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012)—a film which, he argues, marks a seismic shift in the way Hollywood presents the Great Emancipator on screen—Snee shows how Hollywood has adapted the image of our greatest president on the screen, thus shaping and changing his image in the minds of all Americans.

In the following excerpt from Lincoln before Lincoln, Snee considers two of our most recent cultural monuments to the Great Emancipator:

Great Emancipator: Lincoln before Lincoln

In 2009, an unknown writer named Seth Grahame-Smith published what would become a best-selling cult novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The generic mash-up gave Grahame-Smith, who had earned a degree in film from Emerson College, his first real literary success. The book, which lists Jane Austen as coauthor, was quickly optioned by a major film studio, although today the project remains mired in preproduction.

Grahame-Smith next penned another future cult classic, one that Hollywood would waste no time in bringing to the big screen: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The adaptation was produced by Tim Burton and took the form of an action-horror hybrid that cast Lincoln as a secret assassin who battles vampires, destroying the creatures who feed on the blood of slaves, and with them the need for slavery itself. Although the film performed well in theaters, it was universally panned by critics, who objected not to its historical absurdity but rather to what they saw as a dearth of artistic merit. Whatever the critics thought, audiences loved it. After a half century without a major theatrically released film, Lincoln was back. And he was pissed.

Just four months after Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter appeared in theaters, audiences were offered a far more reverent Lincoln film. Rumors of a Spielberg-directed Lincoln picture had circulated in Hollywood for nearly a decade, ever since Spielberg had optioned the rights to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 biography, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. The film was scripted by Tony Kushner and starred Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln. The narrative focused on the final months of Lincoln’s life, including and especially the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, the end of the Civil War, and the buildup to Lincoln’s assassination. To say that it was an enormous success, both financially and critically, would be an understatement. The film was nominated for dozens of awards, and it grossed nearly $300 million.

file_569066_lincoln-movie-poster-08222012-110324For the purposes of [Lincoln before Lincoln], what matters more than the many stark and obvious differences between Spielberg’s Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is the one thing they share in common: a focus on Lincoln as the Great Emancipator. Beginning with D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation—an overtly racist film that laments the demise of the Confederacy and celebrates the formation of the Ku Klux Klan—Hollywood routinely minimized or simply ignored Lincoln’s role as the emancipator. Lincoln has enjoyed many incarnations: Savior of the Union, Great Commoner, and the First American, among others. Before 2012, Hollywood had celebrated them all but neglected one: Lincoln as the Great Emancipator.

Like the famous Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Hollywood subtly reinforced the notion that freeing the slaves was not among Lincoln’s most significant achievements. By accident or design, American movies and miniseries routinely left the emancipator on the cutting room floor while giving a starring role to one of Lincoln’s other manifestations. It was a century-long act of historical revision and powerful memory work likely to have shaped how several generations of American’s understood both Lincoln and his relation to race. And although it came to a very visible end in 2012, it leaves us to ask: How did popular movies and miniseries invite Americans to understand themselves and to remember Lincoln before Lincoln?

ICYMI: Holiday News Break Edition

Welcome back from the holiday break! Pardon us while we brush off the cobwebs and shake out the mothballs in our brains…

Our break was full of all kinds of exciting news and tidbits, like this fascinating article from Terri Crocker (The Christmas Truce: Myth, Memory, and the First World War) in the New Republic:

New Republic Shot

“Perhaps it is time we stopped expecting history to behave like a good story—featuring obvious heroes and villains, a dash of irony and a clear moral, with a football match thrown in for good measure—and start assuming it looks more like real life: messy, inconclusive and hard to pin down. Since history is, after all, just life that happened in the past, it’s time for us to get over our need for simplicity, and accept that the past, just like the Christmas truce, is always a lot more complicated than we want to believe.”—Terri Crocker for the New Republic

Crocker also published an editorial, “Civility: The True Lesson of World War I’s 1914 Christmas Truce” in the Lexington Herald-Leader and Louisville Courier-Journal.

Over the break we also celebrated Bradley Birzer’s russell_kirk7.inddRussell Kirk: American Conservative, a biography of the great public intellectual, being named one of the Library of Michigan’s Notable Books of 2016. Kirk’s The Conservative Mind shaped conservative thought in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Elsewhere, Russell Kirk was listed as one of the Best Books of the Year by Daniel McCarthy, editor of the American Conservative

The high-flying, tumbling, falling, gutsy heroines in Molly Gregory’s Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story have been featured in the New York Timesthe New Republic, Variety.com, on NPR’s Weekend Edition, and now in the Washington Post.

“Much like the story of women in almost any industry, this one is a tale of struggle, progress and tempered triumph. . . . In her engaging and enlightening book, Gregory digs into this little-known corner of Hollywood history and gives voice to the women who have risked their lives for a few (perilous) moments on the big screen.”—Becky Krystal, Washington Post

Stuntwomen_copy

For the late holiday shoppers, The Baltimore Sun suggested Lincoln’s Final Hours: Conspiracy, Terror, and the Assassination of Our Greatest President, and the Louisville Courier-Journal had a whopping 38 suggestions for local books to give as gifts, including: Kentucky By Design, The Birth of Bourbon The Manhattan Cocktail, and Venerable Trees.

Bawden_Miller_CoverThis morning, on the first day back in the office after break, we were greeted with a lovely surprise from the inimitable columnist Liz Smith, who offers this excellent preview of Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood’s Golden Era, one of our most anticipated books of 2016!

“[A] dazzlingly entertaining new book. . . . [Conversations with Classic Film Stars] is a treasure trove of info, scintillating gossip and outright, downright dishing.”—Liz Smith, New York Social Diary

We hope you had a restful holiday (or a grand adventure!) Holler at us in the comments or on Twitter and let us know how you spent your winter break.

It’s Military History Week!

In honor of military history week at the University Press of Kentucky, here are some of our favorite books commemorating America’s  past.

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In Lincoln’s Final Hours, author Kathryn Canavan takes a magnifying glass to the last moments of the president’s life and to the impact his assassination had on a country still reeling from a bloody civil war. With vivid, thoroughly researched prose and a reporter’s eye for detail, this fast-paced account not only furnishes a glimpse into John Wilkes Booth’s personal and political motivations but also illuminates the stories of ordinary people whose lives were changed forever by the assassination.


9780813160795

In For Slavery and Union, Patrick A. Lewis uses Benjamin Buckner’s story to illuminate the origins and perspectives of Kentucky’s conservative proslavery Unionists, and explain why this group eventually became a key force in repressing social and political change during the Reconstruction era and beyond. Free from the constraints and restrictions imposed on the former Confederate states, men like Buckner joined with other proslavery forces to work in the interest of the New South’s brand of economic growth and racial control.


9780813165639In Committed to Victory: The Kentucky Home Front During World War II, author Richard Holl offers the first comprehensive examination of the Commonwealth’s civilian sector during this pivotal era in the state’s history. National mobilization efforts rapidly created centers of war production and activity in Louisville, Paducah, and Richmond, producing new economic prosperity in the struggling region. The war effort also spurred significant societal changes, including the emergence of female and minority workforces in the state. In the Bluegrass, this trend found its face in Pulaski County native Rose Will Monroe, who was discovered as she assembled B-24 and B-29 bombers and was cast as Rosie the Riveter in films supporting the war effort.


Th9780813146928e first dedicated study of this key region, Kentucky Confederates provides valuable insights into a misunderstood and understudied part of Civil War history. Author Berry Craig begins by exploring the development of the Purchase from 1818, when Andrew Jackson and Isaac Shelby acquired it from the Chickasaw tribe. Geographically isolated from the rest of the Bluegrass State, the area’s early settlers came from the South, and rail and river trade linked the region to Memphis and western Tennessee rather than to points north and east.


9780813133843On October 8, 1862, Union and Confederate forces clashed near Perryville, Kentucky, in what would be the largest battle ever fought on Kentucky soil. The climax of a campaign that began two months before in northern Mississippi, Perryville came to be recognized as the high water mark of the western Confederacy. Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle is the definitive account of this important conflict. While providing all the parry and thrust one might expect from an excellent battle narrative, the book also reflects the new trends in Civil War history in its concern for ordinary soldiers and civilians caught in the slaughterhouse. The last chapter, unique among Civil War battle narratives, even discusses the battle’s veterans, their families, efforts to preserve the battlefield, and the many ways Americans have remembered and commemorated Perryville.

Stop One: Lincoln’s Boyhood Home

Welcome back to Journey Through the Bluegrass, folks! We are super excited to get started on this virtual road trip. Our first stop begins with a specific moment in the history of our great nation. As many of you history buffs probably know, today is the 153th anniversary of the date the emancipation proclamation was enacted by our great former president, Abraham Lincoln. In honor of this monumental feat towards the equality of mankind, we decided to pay some homage to the man responsible.

One of the most well-known facts about Kentucky is that this is where Lincoln grew up. I think we’ve all heard the term “Lincoln’s Boyhood Home” a couple hundred times too many, but how many of you can actually say that you’ve visited it? There are actually two locations that can still be seen today. This first is Lincoln’s first home, a log cabin on a farm in Hardin County, Kentucky, in which the great president was born to Thomas and Nancy Lincoln on February 12, 1809. This home is still a standing structure, although may have looked closer to this image back in its prime:

To visit the birthplace unit, you can travel to this location: 2995 Lincoln Farm Road, Hodgenville, Kentucky 42748.

A couple years later, at the ripe age of two and a half, this 16th president of the United States of America was uprooted from one log cabin to the next which was located on a farm on Knob Creek. While this location is also a memorial that you can physically travel to, we would advise that you wait until the latter part of this year since the site is currently under heavy construction. Should you find that you wish to travel there, the address is 7120 Bardstown Road, Hodgenville, Kentucky 42748.

For directions to either site based upon starting locations of various large cities, please visit this website.

Additionally, if the travel bug has bitten you already, you can explore the Mary Todd Lincoln house, the family home of the Abraham Lincoln’s First Lady, which can be found in Lexington, KY. The property was the Todd family residence from 1832 to 1849. Mary Todd resided here from the ages of 13 to 21, before moving to Springfield, Illinois, to live with a sister in 1839. There she met Abraham Lincoln and they were married in November 1842. To visit this historic home, the address at which it is located is 578 West Main Street, Lexington, KY.

The Mary Todd Lincoln house as it stands today in Lexington, KY.

Have we piqued your interest in Lincoln yet? You may want to spend more time getting this know one of the greatest presidents in history. If this is the case, you should check out our recently published book about this historic president’s last moments. In Lincoln’s Final Hours, author Kathryn Canavan takes a magnifying glass to the last moments of the president’s life and to the impact his assassination had on a country still reeling from a bloody civil war. With vivid, thoroughly researched prose and a reporter’s eye for detail, this fast-paced account not only furnishes a glimpse into John Wilkes Booth’s personal and political motivations but also illuminates the stories of ordinary people whose lives were changed forever by the assassination.

For more information on this title, click here or on the picture below.

Preview of Lincoln’s Final Hours by Kathryn Canavan

On April 15, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln died from a gunshot wound inflicted by John Wilkes Booth the night before. Most of us know how the general story goes—Lincoln and his wife, Mary, were attending a show at Ford’s Theatre when Booth pulled the trigger and ran out of the building. However, most of us aren’t intimately familiar with the play-by-play of events leading up to and following the moment in which Lincoln was fatally shot. What were these smaller details of Lincoln’s final hours?

UPK author Kathryn Canavan supplies them in the forthcoming title Lincoln’s Final Hours: Conspiracy, Terror, and the Assassination of America’s Greatest President. For your reading pleasure, below is Chapter 10, “Booth’s End Game,” in which the Lincolns enter the theatre to much fanfare.


When the green Lincoln carriage pulled up at Ford’s, footman Charles Forbes swung down to the wooden carriage platform. He tugged at the door handle, causing a set of steps to spring forward. Fred Petersen watched from the other side of the street as Mr. Lincoln and Mary alighted first, then Miss Harris and Major Rathbone. There’s no way of knowing whether neighbors on either side of Petersen’s boardinghouse were also watching. The owners of both houses, like many of the actors and musicians at Ford’s, were reportedly secesh.

When the two couples walked through the fourth arched door at around nine p.m., the play was already in progress. The gilt braid and buttons of the army and navy filled the seats. Veterans of almost every major skirmish had come to Ford’s to celebrate with President Lincoln and General Grant. As he walked past the lobby clock and ascended the stairs to the dress circle, Mr. Lincoln carried his size 7⅛ black silk top hat, made by local haberdasher J. Y. Davis, the one with the thin silk mourning band buckled over the standard hat band in remembrance of eleven-year-old Willie. If the president put a hand in the pocket of his Brooks Brothers suit as he walked up the stairs, his fingers might have brushed any one of nine items he was carrying, including his ivory-handled pocketknife, an oversized monogrammed handkerchief, his soft brown leather wallet with a five-dollar Confederate note and nine newspaper clippings inside, and two pair of eyeglasses, one mended with a piece of string. Mr. Lincoln had been wearing reading glasses for almost eight years. He was forty-eight when he bought his first pair at a jewelry store for 37½ cents. Mrs. Lincoln, whose cataracts may have already been affecting her sight, carried the small black leather case that held her opera glasses.

Led by sixteen-year-old doorman Edmund Schreiner, the foursome probably crossed the dress circle as quietly as possible, but their arrival might have been broadcast by the metal hobnails in the heels of the president’s black leather boots. When the audience members, like dominoes first touching, each became aware that the Lincolns were heading for the presidential box, heads swiveled, and waving and howling broke out in every corner of the building. Then the blare and crash of the orchestra interrupted actress May Hart’s lines. Witnesses disagree whether the full orchestra broke into “Hail to the Chief” or Handel’s more sedate “Hail the Conquering Hero Comes.” Either way, the timbre of the orchestra was fully met by hundreds of war veterans cheering hysterically, letting out their pent-up feelings of admiration for the man who had led them through four harrowing years. With the trumpets still blaring and the drums sounding, Captain Joseph R. Findley thought that surely such a reception was rarely given to any man. Cast members came out from the wings to watch the president. Rows of theatergoers glanced around for General Grant and were disappointed, but nonetheless, the hysteria didn’t stop for five solid minutes.

From his balcony seat, Captain Oliver Gatch noticed that Mr. Lincoln walked slowly, his great body bent forward and his shoulders wearing a noticeable stoop. His high silk hat was in his left hand. In response to the deafening ovation coming from every part of the house, the president smiled a sad smile. His delighted wife curtsied several times.

May Hart tried to remember her lines as she stood at the stage’s edge with Laura Keene, staring over the footlights into the dress circle, where the Lincolns, Major Rathbone, and Miss Harris were proceeding to their box. Hart, like Captain Gatch, noticed that Mr. Lincoln’s tall figure was bent, and the sadness on his face seemed out of place on such a gala evening.

The crowd continued its wild cheering as the Lincolns stepped into the box. President Lincoln leaned in front of the lace curtains that screened the box from audience view and acknowledged the applause with a dignified bow, bringing the fanfare to a hush. The president signaled Ned Emerson, who was on stage at that moment, to go on with the play. Then he stepped in back of the curtains and seated himself out of sight. “How sociable it seems, like one family sitting around their parlor fire,” Miss Julia Shepherd thought to herself as she watched from her seat in the dress circle.

At about the same time, Louis Carland walked through the side door from Ford’s to Taltavul’s. The costume maker looked to his right and caught a glimpse of John Wilkes Booth’s back as the actor strolled out the canopied front door. He looked to his left and saw Taltavul wiping the lower end of the bar. He supposed Booth had just finished a drink.

Booth’s fateful end game had begun.


Interested in reading more about the last moments of Lincoln’s life? Then you should be on the lookout for Lincoln’s Final Hours: Conspiracy, Terror, and the Assassination of America’s Greatest President by Kathryn Canavan, coming this fall!

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(ADVANCE COPY: Above excerpt may not reflect published text—please check against final copy before quoting from the book.)