Being there . . . . that cloudy night to meet a gaunt, emaciated, homely man with long straggling
hair, mingled gray and black, and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, the daughter of a prominent
Kentucky enslaver’s family and two guest friends, Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée, Miss
Clara Harris. A quick greeting to all, then an exit. The time is a few minutes before 10:20pm,
April 14, 1865, and the place is Ford’s Theater, and its flag-draped balcony state box. Hurry! In a
few moments, the sentry guard sitting outside the door of the enclosed box is to leave for
unknown reasons. Meanwhile, come in and meet someone truly special, by February 10, 2023,
perhaps the greatest of all Americans to yet live. Few, very few, people, in 1865, even among
the most knowing, informed, discerning, and wide awake, believed this somber, long necked,
tallest of quadrupeds, the “giraffe”, rarely smiled anymore was the last, best hope of America’s
future! Why? Because up to mid–Spring of 1865, he was one of this nation’s true
representatives of all her people. Who? Abraham Lincoln, 1809 – 1865, 16 th president of the
United States (1861 – 1865). He is fifty-six, but looks much older, perhaps because of chronic
neuralgia. To many, he resembles, “. . . a dead man galvanized into muscular animation. His
eyes are sunken, and his features have the hue of a man who has been in his grave a full
month.” Best, friend reader, you heed the advice of William H. Taft, who wrote in the March
1909 issue of “Cosmopolitan Magazine”, “Certain it is that we have never had in public life a
man whose sense of duty was stronger, whose bearing toward those with whom he came in
contact, whether his friends or political opponents, was characterized by a greater sense of
fairness. And we have never had in public life a man who took upon himself uncomplainingly
the woes of the nation and suffered in his soul from the weight of them as he did, nor in all our
history a man who had such a mixture of far-sightedness, of understanding of the people of
common sense, of high sense of duty, of power of inexorable logic, and of confidence in the
goodness of God in working out a righteous result as had this great product, this human being,
this man of the soil of our country.”
WHY READ ABOUT ABRAHAM LINCOLN? BECAUSE AS PRESIDENT-MENTOR, AND HIS
EXAMPLARY LESSONS, HE, AS PRECEDENT, MODEL, PARALLEL CASE, WILL ALWAYS REMAIN
ONE OF MANKIND’S BEST HOPES OF EARTH . . .
Three minutely researched, riveting, thoroughly enjoyable books from nonpareil
McFarland Publishing have arrived to celebrate Lincoln’s 12 February 1809 birthday
making him 232 years old.
Reviewed and recommended by Don DeNevi
“ABRAHAM LINCOLN, AMERICAN PRINCE – – Ancestry, Ambition and the Anti-Slavery Cause”, by
Wayne Soini. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers: 2022, 201 pages, 6”x9”, softcover;
$39.95. Visit, www.mcfarlandpub.com.
“THE 117 TH NEW YORK INFANTRY IN THE CIVIL WAR – – A History and Roster”, by James S. Pula.
McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers: 2023, 336 pages, 7”x10”, softcover; $49.95. Visit,
And, once again because it is so important and exceptional, “UNION WARRIORS AT SUNSET – –
The Lives of Twenty Commanders After the War”, by Allie Stuart Povall. McFarland & Company,
Inc., Publishers: 2022; 203 pages, 6”x9”, softcover; $39.95. Visit, www.mcfarlandpub.
In “The 117 th New York Infantry in the Civil War – A History and Roster”, author James Pula
presents a Union regimental history that can be counted among the best ten ever complied,
narrated, and published. The full story sounds fictional since it is so mesmerizing, dotted with
realism so believable, the reader is indeed a shooting soldier participant. And James Pula is no
amateur historian. He has written numerous books, honored with the Distinguished Service
Award from the American Council for Polish Culture, receiving three Oskar Halecki Prizes, and
the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of Republic of Poland, among others. A good man, a
near-perfect narrator of an intriguing 300-page history, in this reviewer’s opinion.
This unique history of the 117 th recognizes the importance of the average foot soldier by
focusing on the regiment’s experience through these eyewitnesses to history via their on-site
descriptions, memoirs, letters, diaries. Their emphasis is therefore on the men, with just
enough grand strategy to provide the appropriate historical context for their struggles and
achievements. Readers are privy to inside narrations of campaigns and engagements, including
casualty reports for battles won or lost.
In Wayne Soini’s excellent “Abraham Lincoln, American Prince”, we have a fascinating
subject little is known about, a subject hardly researched – the relationship between Abe and
his two most influential ancestors – his mom and “the Virginia planter”, a slaveholder, a
shadowy grandfather he likely never met. Rarely examined, the topic is now in the sunlight
forever linked to the cause of freedom and equality in our country. Lincoln spoke candidly of
the planter to his law partner, Billy Herndon. He said, “My mother inherited his qualities and I
hers. All that I am or ever hope to be I get from my mother – God bless her”.
Soini chronicles and clarifies this vital two-generation relationship he refers to as
“problematic”. In Lincoln’s boyhood the planter was a figure he ridiculed while in his young
manhood the planter had evolved into a role model whom Lincoln revered and associated with
Jefferson’s overdue ideal that “all men are created equal”.
Galvanized “by blood” to educate himself, to stand for election and to oppose slavery, Abe
quit farming at age 22. Soini narration is superlative as he carries us with Lincoln following his
“Union Warriors at Sunset” by Allie Stuart Povall is yet another book my readers of this
column already know about, having praised it to High Heaven in later 2022. My message
remains the same today as it did then: you’ve given us the lives of 20 former subordinate
commanders after the war. How about an additional 120 more by the 4 July? Who would do it
but for you, Allie?