LINCOLN'S BOYS                                    JOSHUA ZEITZ
Posted:  Sept. 4, 2014

Lincoln's Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln's ImageLincoln’s official secretaries John Hay and John Nicolay enjoyed more access, witnessed more history, and knew Lincoln better than anyone outside of the president’s immediate family. Hay and Nicolay were the gatekeepers of the Lincoln legacy. They read poetry and attendeded the theater with the president, commiserated with him over Union army setbacks, and plotted electoral strategy. They were present at every seminal event, from the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address—and they wrote about it after his death.

In their biography of Lincoln, Hay and Nicolay fought to establish Lincoln’s heroic legacy and to preserve a narrative that saw slavery—not states’ rights—as the sole cause of the Civil War. As Joshua Zeitz shows, the image of a humble man with uncommon intellect who rose from obscurity to become a storied wartime leader and emancipator is very much their creation.

Drawing on letters, diaries, and memoirs, Lincoln’s Boys is part political drama and part coming-of-age tale—a fascinating story of friendship, politics, war, and the contest over history and remembrance.

This is a very good book about the two men who became the secretaries for President Lincoln. It begins with a chapter each of their early lives before they meet Lincoln. Nicolay, who was trying to get an interview with Lincoln after his nomination was disappointed at first when the answer was no but then found out that he was hired to be with Mr. Lincoln while he campaigning. This turned into a full time job when he was elected. Hay got the job through a friend of Mr. Lincoln and though both these young men would be the envy of older men, newspaper men for pretty much the remainder of their lives. One of the things I did know was that both Nicolay and Hay were sent out a few times during Lincoln’s time as President to negotiate on his behalf. Nicolay to Minnesota and Colorado and Hay to Florida. Both would come under harsh words from Mrs. Lincoln, but they just kept on working did not let her words get to them or tell her that the President wanted a person their when she did not like a certain individual. After his election to a second term he gave them each a post in Paris, he must have known that Mrs. Lincoln was making it rough on them. Hay did tell people that he would have stand if the President would have asked him. After the President was shot they stayed and helped Robert Todd Lincoln go through all of the paper work. This turned out to be over 18,000 documents and 42,000 copies of pieces paper, letters, and telegrams, copies of outgoing as well, memorandums, congressional reports, and speeches. Robert Lincoln, had everything shipped to a vault in Chicago, where it stayed. Though he would get requests from people he would always decline their request. Around 6 years after the Presidents death the first biography came out. It was not very good and filled false information. A few years later Lincoln law partner came out with one and again was not correct but most people believe it because he was his partner. Meanwhile the two men were continuing with their lives both were married, Nicolay was an officer with the Supreme Court. Hay had done another foreign job this one in Madrid, came back was working in New York as a reporter and asst. editor and then got married. He also became asst. sec. of state. During this whole time the two men always kept in touch and decided that they should write a biography of President Lincoln. A publishing company offered the money and they began. They also got in touch with Robert Lincoln, he allowed them to go through the boxes. This would take them 12 years and they would show how it was Lincoln, not Chase, Seward, or any other person that got the country through the crisis. They also stayed away from attacking or criticizing Mrs. Lincoln where other books went on to attack her they made a point to stay away from that point. The book got mixed results, it would be many years later that it would be acknowledge for a truly good piece of work. One of the last things that Hay did as Secretary of State was put in to Congress a request to build a monument for Lincoln, it was approved but both men passed away before it was finished. This was a very good book with a lot of information, well written. A really good book. I got this book from net galley. 

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