LINCOLN’S MEN by Daniel Mark Epstein

The book jacket for Daniel Mark Epstein’s LINCOLN’S MEN states that the author explores the role of three remarkable young men who served as Abraham Lincoln’s “private secretaries” during the Civil War. The narrative however does more by delving into the relationship between John Nicolay, William Stoddard, John Hay and the sixteenth president. The reader is invited into the inner workings of the White House, how the war was conducted, the great issues of the day, and the social system that evolved in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War. We are presented with three distinctly different men whose diverse strengths ranged from backgrounds as diverse in printing, a poetry, and journalism. The three “private secretaries” offered Lincoln companionship, advice, a sounding board for his ideas, in addition to carrying out intelligence missions and other important functions for the president. Part of Lincoln’s genius was his ability to recognize talent in others and then employ that talent for the benefit of the nation as was the case with all three of these gentlemen. Epstein prepares an integrated biography of all three, but more importantly the reader gains a window into Lincoln’s marriage and its effect on policy, his thought process, and the human emotion engendered by the savagery of war. Epstein mines the important diaries and other primary materials that are important in writing history and fills in a neglected aspect in exploring the conduct of the Civil War.

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