Think that you got the gist of the struggle of America’s 16th president to get the emancipation of slaves written into law in the 2012 Steven Spielberg movie Lincoln, based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals? Think again. Lincoln scholarship remains a wide-open field, with new research being done all the time, and new publications coming out that are hailed as definitive…until the next one comes along. Among the more recent additions to our knowledge base is Todd Brewster’s 2014 book Lincoln’s Gamble: The Tumultuous Six Months that Gave America the Emancipation Proclamation and Changed the Course of the Civil War, which Pulitzer Prizewinning historian Joseph J. Ellis pronounced “a major entry in the Lincoln sweepstakes.”
Whereas Kearns Goodwin focused most intensely on Lincoln’s political machinations during the months leading up to the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, Brewster shines his spotlight on the president’s internal processes during the six months preceding his Emancipation Proclamation, as well as his wrangling with his generals about how best to defeat the Confederacy. Brewster paints a flawed leader plagued by self-doubt, indecision, clinical depression and frustration with the legal limitations of what a president could do. “A lifelong opponent of slavery, he was a pessimist about the ability for blacks and whites to live together in harmony in a post-slavery world,” he writes.
A prolific journalist and longtime director of the oral history project at West Point, Brewster is probably best-known for his collaborations with the late Peter Jennings. Their volume The Century was the most successful companion book to a TV series ever, lingering near the top of The New York Times’ best-seller list for close to a year. He’ll be reading from and discussing Lincoln’s Gamble this Saturday as the Hudson Opera House’s tribute to both Lincoln’s birthday and Black History Month.
The event begins at 4 p.m. on February 6 and is free and open to the public. The Hudson Opera House is located at 327 Warren Street in Hudson. For more information, visit https://hudsonoperahouse.org.