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Lincoln's Pivotal Year

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Edited by Harold Holzer and Sara Vaughn Gabbard


Hardcover (Other formats: E-book)
216 pages, 6 x 9, 28 illustrations


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About the Book

Only hours into the new year of 1863, Abraham Lincoln performed perhaps his most famous action as president by signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Rather than remaining the highlight of the coming months, however, this monumental act marked only the beginning of the most pivotal year of Lincoln’s presidency and the most revolutionary twelve months of the entire Civil War. In recognition of the sesquicentennial of this tumultuous time, prominent Civil War scholars explore the events and personalities that dominated 1863 in this enlightening volume, providing a unique historical perspective on a critical period in American history.
Several defining moments of Lincoln’s presidency took place in 1863, including the most titanic battle ever to shake the American continent, which soon inspired the most famous presidential speech in American history. The ten essays in this book explore the year’s important events and developments, including the response to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation; the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and other less-well-known confrontations; the New York City draft riots; several constitutional issues involving the war powers of President Lincoln; and the Gettysburg Address and its continued impact on American thought. Other topics include the adaptation of photography for war coverage; the critical use of images; the military role of the navy; and Lincoln’s family life during this fiery trial.
 With an informative introduction by noted Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer and a chronology that places the high-profile events of 1863 in context with cultural and domestic policy advances of the day, this remarkable compendium opens a window into a year that proved decisive not only for the Civil War and Lincoln’s presidency but also for the entire course of American history.


Harold Holzer is Chairman of The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation, successor organization of the U.S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, which he co-chaired for ten years.   He is also the author, co-author, or editor of forty-two books on Lincoln and the Civil War.   Among his many honors, he won a second-place Lincoln Prize for Lincoln at Cooper Union, numerous awards for history, research, and children’s literature, and the National Humanities Medal from the President of the United States.

Sara Vaughn Gabbard is executive director of Friends of the Lincoln Collection of Indiana.   She is editor of Lincoln Lore and co-editor (with Harold Holzer) of Lincoln and Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Thirteenth Amendment and (with Joseph Fornieri) of Lincoln’s America, 1809-1865.   With Richard Etulain and Sylvia Frank Rodrigue she is currently editing the Southern Illinois University Press series, The Concise Lincoln Library.



"The volume includes appendices that offer an interesting essay contrasting the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg address and a timeline of the events of the year. Some minor issues aside, such as the absence of maps, all of the essays are thought provoking, and 1863: Lincoln’s Pivotal Year is a worthwhile read for anyone seriously interested in the Civil War or Lincoln."—A. A. Nofi, The NYMAS Review

“1863: Lincoln’s Pivotal Year brings together an outstanding collection of ten essays on a critical year in American history. The distinguished authors focus on well-known aspects of 1863, including the Emancipation Proclamation and party politics, as well as less familiar topics such as the importance of Civil War photography and the changing image of the president. In every case there are new things to say as the authors combine impressive analysis with clear readable prose. This is a volume that merits a place on the shelves of students of Lincoln, the Civil War, and by extension, American history.”—Jean H. Baker, author of James Buchanan

“This volume combines the best of recent Lincoln scholarship in a unique and engaging format. It reveals new dimensions of Lincoln’s presidency and personality and opens a window into a year that was decisive for the progress of the Civil War and American history in general.”—Brian R. Dirck, author of Lincoln the Lawyer