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The Great Comeback

How Abraham Lincoln Beat the Odds to Win the 1860 Republican Nomination

Gary Ecelbarger

Thomas Dunne Books

In the fall of 1858, Abraham Lincoln looked to be anything but destined for greatness. Just shy of his fiftieth birthday, Lincoln was wallowing in the depths of despair following his loss to Stephen Douglas in the 1858 senatorial campaign and was taking stock in his life. The author takes us on a journey with Abraham Lincoln from the last weeks of 1858 until the end of May in 1860, on the road to his unlikely Republication presidential nomination.

In tracing Lincoln's steps from city to city, from one public appearance to the next along the campaign trail, we see the future president shape and polish his public persona. Although he had accounted himself well in the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, the man from Springfield, Illinois, he was nevertheless seen as the darkest of dark horses for the highest office in the land. Upon hearing Lincoln speak, one contemporary said, “I will not say he reminded me of Satan, but he certainly was the ungodliest figure I had ever seen." The reader sees how this "ungodliest" of figures shrewdly spun his platform to crowds far and wide and, in doing so, became a public celebrity on par with any throughout the land.

This is a story teeming with drama and intrigue about an event that no one could fathom occurring today...yet it absolutely happened in with America seven score and eight years ago, when Lincoln, the man, took his first steps on the way toward becoming Abraham Lincoln, the legendary leader and most respected president of American history. 


In the fall of 1858, Abraham Lincoln looked to be anything but destined for greatness. Just shy of his fiftieth birthday, Lincoln was wallowing in the depths of despair following his loss to Stephen Douglas in the 1858 senatorial campaign and was taking stock in his life. The author takes us on a journey with Abraham Lincoln from the last weeks of 1858 until the end of May in 1860, on the road to his unlikely Republication presidential nomination.

In tracing Lincoln's steps from city to city, from one public appearance to the next along the campaign trail, we see the future president shape and polish his public persona. Although he had accounted himself well in the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, the man from Springfield, Illinois, he was nevertheless seen as the darkest of dark horses for the highest office in the land. Upon hearing Lincoln speak, one contemporary said, “I will not say he reminded me of Satan, but he certainly was the ungodliest figure I had ever seen." The reader sees how this "ungodliest" of figures shrewdly spun his platform to crowds far and wide and, in doing so, became a public celebrity on par with any throughout the land.

This is a story teeming with drama and intrigue about an event that no one could fathom occurring today...yet it absolutely happened in with America seven score and eight years ago, when Lincoln, the man, took his first steps on the way toward becoming Abraham Lincoln, the legendary leader and most respected president of American history. 


BOOK EXCERPTS

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Introduction Bloomington, Illinois: December 1858

Abraham Lincoln stepped out of the court house and into a biting prairie wind that raced across the town square, a slap in the face to remind him how close he had come to living a dream. Lincoln had to swallow the jagged fact that he was serving a life sentence on the Eighth Judicial Circuit of Illinois, a prisoner of his profession who would rather be somewhere else and doing something else. Two months shy of his fiftieth birthday, Lincoln had just completed his twenty-second year as a circuit-riding attorney. Over that time he had made
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REVIEWS

Praise for The Great Comeback

“This is a rousing—yet authoritatively researched—account of one of the most dramatic, unlikely, and history-altering presidential conventions ever….Lincoln emerges as a brilliant, determined, and lucky politician, and Gary Ecelbarger as a major force in Lincoln scholarship.”—Harold Holzer, Lincoln: President-Elect

“In vivid prose, Ecelbarger chronicles this startling transformation of political fortune, arguing that Lincoln’s ambition immediately impelled him to set his sights on the presidency after failing to gain election to the Senate.  In an era when candidates stood rather than ran for elective office, Lincoln was not initially considered a serious presidential candidate.  This status allowed Lincoln to campaign for the Republican Party while quietly reaping benefits for his own presidential aspirations.  Ecelbarger offers a lively and challenging explanation of Lincoln’s rise to power that focuses on his careful cultivation of political support in his quest for the presidency.”—Daniel W. Stowell, Director and Editor, The Papers of Abraham Lincoln

"Anyone who has thought there was nothing more to be said about Lincoln will have to think again after reading Gary Ecelbarger's excellent new book, The Great Comeback. With impressive research and engaging prose Ecelbarger shows a fact of Lincoln's rise to the presidency that has never before been exploed and in the process weaves a tale that is as interesting as it is inspiring.”—Steven E. Woodworth, author of Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865

 

“This is a rousing—yet authoritatively researched—account of one of the most dramatic, unlikely, and history-altering presidential conventions ever….Lincoln emerges as a brilliant, determined, and lucky politician, and Gary Ecelbarger as a major force in Lincoln scholarship.”—Harold Holzer, Lincoln: President-Elect

“In vivid prose, Ecelbarger chronicles this startling transformation of political fortune, arguing that Lincoln’s ambition immediately impelled him to set his sights on the presidency after failing to gain election to the Senate.  In an era when candidates stood rather than ran for elective office, Lincoln was not initially considered a serious presidential candidate.  This status allowed Lincoln to campaign for the Republican Party while quietly reaping benefits for his own presidential aspirations.  Ecelbarger offers a lively and challenging explanation of Lincoln’s rise to power that focuses on his careful cultivation of political support in his quest for the presidency.”—Daniel W. Stowell, Director and Editor, The Papers of Abraham Lincoln

"Anyone who has thought there was nothing more to be said about Lincoln will have to think again after reading Gary Ecelbarger's excellent new book, The Great Comeback. With impressive research and engaging prose Ecelbarger shows a fact of Lincoln's rise to the presidency that has never before been exploed and in the process weaves a tale that is as interesting as it is inspiring.”—Steven E. Woodworth, author of Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Gary Ecelbarger

  • Gary Ecelbarger is a Civil War historian and Lincoln scholar who has written or co-written five books. He lives in northern Virginia with his wife and three children.
  • Gary Ecelbarger

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    The Great Comeback

    How Abraham Lincoln Beat the Odds to Win the 1860 Republican Nomination

    Gary Ecelbarger

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    FROM THE PUBLISHER

    Thomas Dunne Books

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