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Lincoln's White House

The People's House in Wartime

James B. Conroy

Co-winner of the 2017 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize

Lincoln’s White House is the first book devoted to capturing the look, feel, and smell of the executive mansion from Lincoln’s inauguration in 1861 to his assassination in 1865. James Conroy brings to life the people who knew it, from servants to cabinet secretaries. We see the constant stream of visitors, from ordinary citizens to visiting dignitaries and diplomats. Conroy enables the reader to see how the Lincolns lived and how the administration conducted day-to-day business during four of the most tumultuous years in American history. Relying on fresh research and a character-driven narrative and drawing on untapped primary sources, he takes the reader on a behind-the-scenes tour that provides new insight into how Lincoln lived, led the government, conducted war, and ultimately, unified the country to build a better government of, by, and for the people.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 328Size: 6 3/8 x 9 1/2
978-1-4422-5134-2 • Hardback • October 2016 • $27.00 • (£17.95)
978-1-4422-5135-9 • eBook • October 2016 • $26.99 • (£17.95)
James Conroy, a trial lawyer in Boston for over thirty years, is the author of Our One Common Country: Abraham Lincoln and the Hampton Roads Peace Conference of 1865 (Lyons Press, 2014). He resides on Boston’s South Shore.
Author’s Note and Acknowledgments
1 The Painful Sense of Becoming Educated
2 A Strange Mixture of Enthusiasm and Greed
3 Plain and Simple in Its Appointments
4 A Miscellaneous Assortment of Life and Character
5 The White House Is Turned into Barracks
6 It Is Good to Look at Beauty Once in a While
7 Ink Stained and Work Worn
8 The Republican Queen in Her White Palace
9 This Is a God-Forsaken Hole
10 This Damned Old House
11 My Public Opinion Baths
12 Bright Jewels and Bright Eyes
13 Not an American Crime
14 Bundles and Bales
15 Like So Many Greenhead Flies
16 Crazy and Poetry
17 I Happen Temporarily to Occupy This Big White House
18 And Everything Seemed to Weep
About the Author
“Conroy finds old and new sources for the fascinating backstairs events and people in Lincoln’s White House. He writes concisely yet imaginatively to bring those many famous or forgotten people back to life: black and white, military and civilian, male and female, malicious and beneficent, young and old. This book will be a standard source for the Lincoln Presidency.”
James M. Cornelius, Ph.D., Curator, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, Springfield, Illinois

"Gripping, atmospheric, and at times spellbinding, James Conroy's masterful work does much more than recollect the fraught public and private lives that Abraham Lincoln and his family endured in the Civil War White House. Not only are his research and analysis impressive, but with the flair of a novelist or playwright, Conroy succeeds in truly bringing the story alive by skillfully evoking its anxiety-riven characters and its grand but dilapidated locale. I know of no other book since the original recollections of Lincoln's White House secretaries that does a better job of re-imagining America's most famous landmark during the war for its--and the nation's--soul."
Harold Holzer, Jonathan F. Fanton Director, Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, Author of Lincoln and the Power of the Press (Winner, 2015 Lincoln Prize)

"James Conroy takes us into the life and thought of the gangling and brilliant master of “The People’s House,” as well as the rollicking lives and conversations of the White House’s residents and swarms of visitors. The White House that has heretofore been the background of numerous Lincoln books now becomes the foreground of Lincoln’s Civil War thanks to Conroy’s splendid prose and sparkling humor. A must and enjoyable book!"
Ronald C. White Jr., author of A. Lincoln: A Biography

"James B. Conroy has brought Lincoln’s White House to life, letting readers step through the gates, past the guards, and into the presence of the Great Emancipator. Sit in Lincoln’s office and observe a cabinet meeting, or watch the president and first lady shake hands with guests at a reception. Eavesdrop on conversations with office seekers, or enjoy a serenade. By recreating moments—great and small—of joy, grief, exhaustion, commotion, and solitude, Lincoln’s White House gives us a new appreciation for the burdens Lincoln and his family endured during the Civil War."
Jonathan W. White, author of Midnight in America: Darkness, Sleep and Dreams during the Civil War

"Conroy delivers a rich and lively portrait of Abraham Lincoln’s White House as the center of the storm that was the American Civil War. Here is story-telling at its best. Conroy cracks open the doors of the Executive Mansion, inviting readers to peak at the bustle within: the shady suppliers, the fawning courtiers, the gossipy secretaries. Mary Todd Lincoln, flawed and fascinating, gives the house its heart. Its soul belongs to Abraham Lincoln—husband, father, mentor, yarn-spinner, war leader. Today the White House is a near-fortress, its occupants shielded from prying eyes and threats unknown. Conroy takes us to a time when it was the nation’s house, open to all, with a President eager to listen and to shoulder his people’s burdens."
Michael Vornberg, Associate Professor of History, Brown University

• Joint winner, The Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, sponsored by Gilder Lehrman Institute and Gettysburg College (2017)