“No matter what your hobby is, Lincoln will likely pop up sooner or later. If you’re interested in politics, war, civil rights, literature, economics, the law, religion, romance, human psychology, celebrity, or the infinite application of the graphic arts, then your interest will likely bring you into contact with Lincoln the politician, the commander in chief, the emancipator, the writer, the rhetorician, the free marketer, the lawyer, the martyr, the husband of Mary, the manic depressive, and the most celebrated and most graphically depicted man in American history.”
I have to admit to a fair amount of apprehension before purchasing my copy of Land of Lincoln even though it was sitting on my local Barnes & Noble discount table. My fear, unfounded, was that this was just another attempt by author to rewrite some Lincoln history vying for his spot or fifteen minutes of fame as he releases a new theory about Lincoln. Author Andrew Ferguson will disappoint you if you are looking for an new theory that Lincoln secretly owned slaves, was gay, cheated on Mary, smoked crack, or any number of post mortem diagnosis common for America’s most written about citizen (I am talking about book not People magazine).
Ferguson shares his journey through a history of the history of Abraham Lincoln. While not a “buff” I have become very interested in Mr. Lincoln since accompanying my son’s (and subsequent two daughter’s) fifth-grade school trips to the Gettysburg battlefield (I’ve also had the honor of witnessing Mr. Jim Getty’s performance of Abraham Lincoln three times…each one inspiring). In Land of Lincoln the reader gets to share the journey as Ferguson pieces together the current views of the beloved and hated president culminating in a recreation of a childhood trip on the Lincoln highway. I found the story personal as I took our family on a similar trip to Gettysburg, Washington D.C., and Antietam (Sharpsburg for you southerners) a decade ago. Like the author we chose to sprinkle non-historical side trips into the journey.
Land of Lincoln was a most enjoyable adventure in Abe’s America and is a loving tribute from a man who obviously grew up in awe of America’s greatest president and how his legacy is treated,
“The people who rebuilt New Salem eighty years ago wanted their history to inspire and uplift a visitor, to illustrate moral truths about courage and enterprise, and if it didn’t do that they worried that the history they were telling was somehow illegitimate, or a failure…The people who have inherited New Salem today work from an opposite premise: history that uplifts or gives comfort or inspires is suspicious on its face, and the job of an academic historian is to take it apart, piece by piece.”
Note to Mr. Ferguson: I rather like General Picket’s Buffet in Gettysburg though I do avoid the overcooked green beans.