Book Review: Eight Weeks in Washington, 1861: Abraham Lincoln and the Hazards of Transition


by Richard J. Tofel

New York: St. Martin's Press, 2011. Pp. 116. Illus., notes, biblio. $4.99 Kindle. ISBN: 1-4299-2843-3

Investigative journalist Tofel, author of Sounding the Trumpet: The Making of John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address and other works, opens Eight Weeks in Washington with an excellent summary of his theme, "This is a story of a president uncertain and sometimes amateurish, of a man not yet fully recognized as a legitimate leader, of an executive anxious to the point of illness, of a beleaguered figure, occasionally despairing, but also starting to find his footing." 

Eight Weeks in Washington is about Lincoln the novice, the new-comer to power, during the roughly eight weeks from the time he reached Washington, on February 23, 1861, and the arrival of substantial reinforcements on April 25th. It was a period of enormous turmoil in the nation, during part of which Lincoln in fact had no power at all, yet had to prepare for disaster, as the seceded states formed their own government, he assumed the reins of power (March 4th), Fort Sumter was fired upon  (April 12th), he called for volunteers (April 15th), followed by still more secession, hasty conferences about military preparation amidst the threat that Washington, already infiltrated by traitors, would be surrounded by hostile territory and open to seizure by the Confederacy. We see Lincoln seemingly almost overwhelmed by a nation plunged into its greatest war ever, with a fragmented populace, treason everywhere, trying to cobble together an army, and more. And we see the President begins to develop the skills that would make him the brilliant politician and commander-in-chief who would rally the loyal people of the nation and ultimately save the Union. 

Eight Weeks in Washington is a valuable read for anyone interested in the Civil War, the Presidency, or leadership

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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