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Lincoln's Wrath: Fierce Mobs, Brilliant Scoundrels and a President's Mission to Destroy the Press [Hardcover]

Neil Dahlstrom

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Book Description

Jan. 18 2011
In the blistering summer of 1861, President Lincoln began pressuring and ordering the physical shutdown of any Northern newspaper that voiced opposition to the war. These attacks were sometimes carried out by soldiers, sometimes by angry mobs under cover of darkness. Either way, the effect was a complete dismantling of the free press.

In the midst stood publisher John Hodgson, an angry bigot so hated that a local newspaper gleefully reported his defeat in a bar fight. He was also firmly against Lincoln and the war--an opinion he expressed loudly through his newspaper.

When his press was destroyed, first by a mob, then by U.S. Marshals “upon authority of the President of the United States,” Hodgson decided to take on the entire United States. Thus began a trial in which one small-town publisher risked imprisonment or worse, and the future of free speech hung in the balance.

Based on 10 years of original research, Lincoln's Wrath brings to life one of the most gripping, dramatic and unknown stories of U.S. history.

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From Publishers Weekly

At the center of this overwrought Civil War account is the tiny town of West Chester, Pa., where John Hodgson ran a pro-Southern Democratic newspaper, the Jeffersonian. In August 1861, a mob destroyed his printing press and subscription lists, and tossed his printing type out a window. A few days later, two federal marshals came to finish the job—under the Confiscation Act, these marshals could seize the property of any citizen who supported the Confederacy. Manber and Dahlstrom speculate that the mobs may have been acting under the aegis of Lincoln's cabinet, and perhaps with the knowledge of Lincoln himself. The second half of the book is largely devoted to the ensuing court case, which in 1863 resulted in Hodgson recovering just over $500 in damages from the government. The authors are given to breathless prose ("It was John Hodgson's fight, and he stood alone"). The questions this book raises couldn't be more timely: how does one criticize a president in wartime, and how can we ensure the freedom of the press at those moments when we need it most? (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In All the Laws but One (1998), the late William Rehnquist examined the legal propriety of Lincoln's suspension of various constitutional liberties. This book tells the story of one such instance, the suppression of a Copperhead newspaper whose proprietor fought back in court. He was Pennsylvanian John Hodgson, whose Jeffersonian expounded on states' rights, white supremacy, and abominations of the Lincoln administration. Discoursing on the eastern Pennsylvania political players incensed by the Jeffersonian's secessionist sympathies, the authors introduce the local congressional representative who engineered the confiscation law under which Hodgson was muzzled. After vandals destroyed his press in 1861 and marshals barred him from the premises, Hodgson had his day in court, where federal officials testified they had acted on Lincoln's order. Vindicated by the jury, Hodgson impresses the authors--setting his views aside--with his irascible indomitability, and their animated recovery of this forgotten character will mesh with the great interest in Civil War journalism. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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In the opening months of the Civil War, the battlefront between the Blue and Gray troops swiftly extended from land deep in Virginia to the Union's maritime blockade of the Carolinas. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Did Lincoln play by his own rules? Jan. 24 2006
By V. Eller - Published on
In Lincoln's Wrath, historians Jeffrey Manber and Neil Dahlstrom have directed the reader's attention to a relatively narrow, but significant, segment of American history. They have probed deeply into the personalities and passions of individuals and groups who were players during much of the four-year period of our great Civil War.

In the early stages of the war, our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, declared his first priority was the preservation of the Union - at any cost. This man and this determination, for me, became an interesting backdrop for the strife that preceded and ensued. At stake were great issues of the day - slavery, secession, white supremacy, states rights and many civil liberties, i.e. habeas corpus, freedom of speech in the press and on the soapbox. Other items of contention were illegal imprisonment, seizures and confiscation of property and the interpretation of the Constitution of the United States as to primacy vs. elasticity

During these years fierce accusations of passivity, participation in, or even direction of abridgments of civil rights were hurled at Lincoln, especially by an archenemy, publisher John Hodgson of West Chester, Pennsylvania. Was Lincoln guilty of riding roughshod over various civil rights and manipulation of the press? If he did, was there a shred of justification for it? At the end of the book we are left to define for ourselves what civil rights we regard as inviolable and absolute at any cost, vis a vis the powers given or assumed by our nation's chief executive officer in times of extraordinary national peril. Such issues are still relevant and hotly debated today. A provocative book!
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Habeas Corpus Denied Jan. 31 2006
By Curt Renz - Published on
Lincoln's Wrath by Jeffrey Manber and Neil Dahlstrom paints our 16th President as being somewhat less saintly than he has been generally depicted after his martyrdom. The book focuses on one particular Copperhead Pennsylvania newspaper publisher whose business property was confiscated by the Federal government. No specific charges were made against him following Lincoln's repeal of the Constitutional guarantee of the right of habeas corpus. Eventually the publisher had his day in court and won damages from the government. Many other publishers of pro-Democratic party newspapers in the North were imprisoned without charges after editorializing that there was no law against a state seceding or other opinions in sympathy with the Southern cause. Congressmen and state legislators were similarly jailed without charges, most notably the secessionist minded members of the Maryland General Assembly. The authors try to convince us that the heavy-handed actions of the administration during the Civil War permanently centralized Federal power, particularly that of the President, in a way unimagined by our founding fathers. Although we are left to judge for ourselves whether the methods of the President, his cabinet, his marshals and fellow party members in Congress were warranted. The book required ten years of research. The result is well worth our attention, since similarly tough decisions could again confront our elected officials.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An original Civil War story relevant today Jan. 3 2006
By Karen - Published on
This is a refreshing, though at times complex, look at Lincoln told from the side of the "loyal opposition." Lincoln's Wrath is a tale of greed and revenge during the Civil War, mixing familiar names from history with the editors and politicians that get overlooked by Lincoln biographies. It tells the story of John Hodgson, the publisher of the Jeffersonian in West Chester, Pennsylvania, whose editorials in opposition of the Lincoln administration offer glimpses into the constitutional debate over civil liberties during the war. Even after his office is mobbed, and then seized by government agents, Hodgson spends years fighting back while many of his colleagues languished in northern prisons. Mixed in are the stories of politicians, attorneys and others who put their lives at risk, as a result of the north/south conflict. As the book jacket says, this is certainly an overdue, untold story of the Civil War.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched, interesting, thought provoking Jan. 16 2006
By M. Hendon - Published on
This book has many quality elements. It is thoroughly researched ensuring the authenticity of the story. At times, the story is quite fascinating making it difficult to put it down. Finally, it is thought provoking by introducing new Civil War era American heroes while making usually subtle, and sometimes not so subtle connections to current politics.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting Dec 27 2005
By J Dennis - Published on
All comparisons to the Bush Administration and the current political landscape aside, this is a very interesting story. This gives the reader a look at the other Lincoln from the viewpoint of those oppressed by his administration. Even though he is considered a great president today, and deservedly so, to think that he had a hand in obstructing free press in this country is shocking.

This books gives us a look into the lives of a number of interesting figures that otherwise may have been swept under the rug of history never to have had their stories told. Thankfully the authors have done a nice job of bringing this story to light.

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