The Books

The Lincoln’s War Series

Ten years in the making, a sweeping, four-volume critical re-examination of our nation’s greatest crisis from Award-winning Civil War historian William Marvel, whom Stephen Sears has called “the Civil War’s master historical detective”.

 

Mr. Lincoln Goes to War

This groundbreaking work of history investigates the mystery of how the Civil War began, reconsidering the big question: Was it inevitable? William Marvel vividly depicts President Lincoln’s tumultuous first year in office, from his inauguration through the rising crisis of secession and the first several months of the war. Drawing on original sources, Marvel suggests that Lincoln not only missed opportunities to avoid conflict with the South but actually fanned the flames of war. Then he wittingly violated the Constitution in his effort to preserve the Union.

With a keen eye for the telling detail — on the battlefield as well as in the White House – William Marvel delivers a satisfying revisionist history of Lincoln and the early days of the Civil War.

 

Lincoln’s Darkest Year
The War in 1862

A revealing look at Lincoln’s actions in 1862—and a nation in the midst of war

Lincoln’s Darkest Year offers a gripping narrative of 1862, a pivotal year in our country’s Civil War. Marvel continues the story he began in Mr. Lincoln Goes to War, which focused on Lincoln’s first year in office, again relying on a host of fresh primary sources and little-known accounts to paint a picture of this critical year in newfound detail. Lincoln’s Darkest Year highlights not just the actions but also the deeper motivations of the major figures, including General Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, George McClellan, Stonewall Jackson, and, most notably, Lincoln himself. As the action darts from the White House to the battlefields and back, Marvel sheds new light on the hardships endured by everyday citizens and the substantial and sustained public opposition to the war.

The second in a planned four-part series on the Civil War, and the first major reexamination in over fifty years, Lincoln’s Darkest Year stands apart from traditional assumptions and narratives about the early years of the Civil War. Marvel combines fluid prose and scholarship with the skills of an investigative historical detective to unearth the true story of our nation’s greatest crisis.

 

The Great Task Remaining
The Third Year of Lincoln’s War

The Great Task Remaining is a striking, often poignant portrait of people balancing their own values—rather than ours—to determine whether the horrors attending Mr. Lincoln’s war were worth bearing in order to achieve his ultimate goals.

As 1863 unfolds,  the disaster at Chancellorsville, the battle of Gettysburg, and the end of the siege of Vicksburg. Then, astonishingly, the Confederacy springs vigorously back to life after the Union triumphs of the summer, setting the stage for Lincoln’s now famous speech on the Pennsylvania battlefield. Without abandoning the underlying sympathy for Lincoln, Marvel makes a convincing argument for the Gettysburg Address as being less of a paean to liberty than an appeal to stay the course in the face of rampant antiwar sentiment.

The Great Task Remaining offers a provocative history of a dramatic year—a year that saw victory and defeat, doubt and riot—as well as a compelling story of a people who clung to the promise of a much-longed-for end.

 

Tarnished Victory
Finishing Lincoln’s War

Revisionist history at its best. A master Civil War historian re-creates the final year of our nation’s greatest crisis.

With Tarnished Victory, William Marvel, whom Stephen Sears has called “the Civil War’s master historical detective,” concludes his sweeping four-part series—beginning with the Virginia and Atlanta campaigns in May 1864 and closing with the final surrender of Confederate forces in June 1865. In the course of that year the war grows ever more deadly, the home front is stripped to fill the armies, and the economy is crippled by debt and inflation, while the stubborn survival of the Confederacy seriously undermines support for Lincoln’s war.

In the end, it seems that Lincoln’s early critics, who played such a pivotal role in the beginning of the series, are proven correct. Victory did require massive bloodshed and complete conquest of the South. It also required decades of occupation to cement the achievements of 1865, and the ultimate failure of Lincoln’s political heirs to carry through with that occupation squandered the most commendable of those achievements, making it ultimately a tarnished victory.