As 1862 dawned, the American republic was at death’s door. The government appeared overwhelmed, the U.S. Treasury was broke, and the Union’s top general was gravely ill. The Confederacy—with its booming economy and commanding position on the battlefield—had a clear view to victory. The survival of the country depended on the judgment and resilience of the unschooled frontier lawyer who had recently been elected president.
Twelve months later, the Civil War had become a cataclysm but the tide had turned. The Union generals who would win the war had emerged, while the Confederate Army had suffered the key losses that would lead to its doom. The blueprint of modern America had been indelibly inked, and Abraham Lincoln—the man who brought the nation through its darkest hour—had been forged into a singular leader.
In Rise to Greatness, acclaimed author David Von Drehle has created both a deeply human portrait of America’s greatest president and a dramatic narrative about our most fateful year.
“So Much Was All Compressed”
The year began with a day so warm and fine that only the calendar said January. There would be few pleasant moments in 1862, but New Year’s Day in Washington, D.C., was one of them. Everyone was out enjoying the sunshine that morning—women in demure bonnets, men wishing they had left their overcoats at home, children dodging and shouting. The dusty streets of the half-built city were filled with people making their way toward the White House, where, by tradition, the president threw open the doors on the first day of each ye
“Outstanding...Lean, insightful, and often lyrical.”—USA Today
“These pages crackle with life and energy.”—James McPherson, The New York Review of Books
“Spellbinding...Von Drehle has done a masterful job....He adroitly weaves together the complex military, diplomatic, political, legal, and moral saga of the twelve months of 1862.”—Harold Holzer, The Washington Post
“An invigorating, inspiring, and often heartrending portrait of a great man and a troubled country...Von Drehle’s deeply researched book provides a degree of detail that Hollywood can’t touch.”—The Kansas City Star
“Von Drehle’s polished style and sense of drama will appeal to general readers interested in this formative time in American history… Von Drehle makes a strong case that Lincoln’s remarkable development both as a military strategist and as a political genius occurred during , laying the groundwork for eventual Union triumph.”—Library Journal
“Von Drehle has chosen a critical year (‘the most eventful year in American history’ and the year Lincoln rose to greatness), done his homework, and written a spirited account.”— Publishers Weekly
“With his keen journalist’s eye for detail, and the surefooted feel of an historian, David Von Drehle has produced an enthralling book. Rise to Greatness is a marvelous and important story, marvelously told.”—Jay Winik, author of April 1865
“Von Drehle has chosen a critical year (‘the most eventful year in American history’ and the year Lincoln rose to greatness), done his homework, and written a spirited account.”—Publishers Weekly
“Rise to Greatness is a terrific read packed with fascinating facts that add color to a powerful depiction of the Civil War's second year. The narrative is driven by Lincoln's movement toward freedom for the slaves and his growing disenchantment with General McClellan, climaxed by the general's removal from command and the president's issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.”—James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom
“In the perilous year leading up to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln had to maneuver against his own generals and cabinet officers while fending off dark forces desiring disunion or dictatorship. By succeeding, as David von Drehle shows in this fascinating narrative, Lincoln saved the Union and redefined the American presidency. This is not only an important work of history but also a valuable manual on leadership.”—Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein and Steve Jobs
“Rise to Greatness is a fascinating and fast-paced account of Lincoln's pivotal year. David Von Drehle brilliantly captures the epic events and outsized personalities that accompanied the birth of the Emancipation Proclamation. His book succeeds in making a well-known story feel absolutely compelling.”—Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire and Georgiana
“In this vivid, writerly, well-researched account, David Von Drehle demonstrates, month by month, that 1862 made Lincoln’s presidency. In the haze of Civil War nostalgia, we can easily lose sight of the reality that the odds were terrible that a United States in any form would survive that harrowing year. Yet as Rise to Greatness shows, the events of 1862 gave birth to a different nation, one rooted in emancipation.”—David W. Blight, author of American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era
“With his great gift for stirring portraiture and historical narrative, David von Drehle takes us into the world of the Civil War and 1862 so convincingly that you almost wonder how it will all turn out.”—Michael Beschloss, author of Presidential Courage
Abraham Lincoln and America's Most Perilous Year
David Von Drehle