Posted by: ushistoryfiles | October 13, 2012

Book Review – Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year

Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year breaks down 1862 into 12 digestible parts.  Written by David von Drehle, who also wrote Triangle: The Fire that Changed America and available October 30,2012, Rise to Greatness chronicles Abraham Lincoln’s struggles, set backs, and evolution through the year 1862.

1862 was not a great year for either Abraham Lincoln or the country.  At the beginning of the year the Civil War had be going on for nine months, the Confederates were poised near Washington, and the Union army was weighed down by George McClellan.  As the year progressed, Lincoln would see the death of his son Willie in February, McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign reversed, and continued threats of European intervention.  However, the end of the year would see Lincoln’s growth in understanding military strategy, the evolution of the war with the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the rise of an agressive commander General Grant.

David von Drehle is an editor-at-large for Time Magazine and has produced a fun to read popular history.  For example, in describing James Gordon Bennett (editor and publisher of the New York Herald), he writes that Bennett was a, “spine-tingling character with piercing crossed eyes that burned holes in two directions at once, Bennett wrote with the slashing ferocity of a man in a razor fight.”

Overall, Rise to Greatness is a well researched book that tells a story of known figures and events emphasizing how critical the year 1862 was to the nation.


  1. I am a history buff and have read quite a bit on the Civil War, but I still learned quite a bit reading Rise to Greatness. For instance, I never realized that this war saw the origin of Federal Taxes , used to finance the war. Thanks to Lincoln, in the year 1862, education was placed in the forefront, with the Federal Government funding grants for the creation of colleges . Then there are the military things I learned – I always knew that McClellan thought himself to be God’s gift to the military, but I never knew all of the issues that man had. I had a low opinion of the man before reading this book, now that opinion is on the floor. I also loved learning more about General Grant and his rise to fame.

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