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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point, by Lewis E. Lehrman (Stackpole, $29.95). Even in the 1850s, how a performer played in Peoria mattered.

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The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, edited byRodney O. Davis and Douglas L. Wilson (Univ. of Illinois, $35). The introduction to these more-or-less verbatim newspaper reports of the debates that made Lincoln a political force describes them as not only "high-minded discussions" but also "rife with petty partisanship, contrived accusations, and blatant attempts to stigmatize one's opponent." How lucky we are to have put all that behind us.

Lincoln's Darkest Year: The War in 1862, by William Marvel (Houghton Mifflin, $30). The second volume of a projected tetralogy on the Civil War, this book bucks the conventional wisdom about several decisions that Lincoln made in '62, among them firing his commanding general, George B. McClellan, so beloved of the soldiers but so feckless on the battlefield. "As justifiable as it may have been from an administrative perspective," writes the author, "the decision to remove McClellan . . . may have caused more harm than good."


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