Lincoln and the Decision for War

The Northern Response to Secession

By Russell McClintock

400 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-7154-6
    Published: September 2010
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-8632-8
    Published: April 2008
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8157-1
    Published: April 2008

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Awards & distinctions

2008 Best Civil War Book, History Book Club

Hay-Nicolay Dissertation Prize, Abraham Lincoln Institute and Abraham Lincoln Association

When Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860 prompted several Southern states to secede, the North was sharply divided over how to respond. In this groundbreaking and highly praised book, McClintock follows the decision-making process from bitter partisan rancor to consensus. From small towns to big cities and from state capitals to Washington, D.C., McClintock highlights individuals both powerful and obscure to demonstrate the ways ordinary citizens, party activists, state officials, and national leaders interacted to influence the Northern response to what was essentially a political crisis. He argues that although Northerners' reactions to Southern secession were understood and expressed through partisan newspapers and officials, the decision fell into the hands of an ever-smaller group of people until finally it was Lincoln alone who would choose whether the future of the American republic was to be determined through peace or by sword.

About the Author

Russell McClintock earned his Ph.D. in U.S. history from Clark University and now teaches at St. John's High School in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.
For more information about Russell McClintock, visit the Author Page.


"In telling the story so thoughtfully and with such attention to detail, this fine piece of scholarship certainly deserves to take its place alongside the familiar historiographical landmarks."--American Historical Review

"[This] work should . . . be the beginning of a reappraisal."--The Journal of American History

"McClintock understands . . . the complexity of what was happening in the slave states."--History News Network

"A balanced and erudite examination of the secession crisis from the all too neglected northern political angle. . . . [This] deeply researched study promotes fresh interpretations and insights that are deserving of a wide readership. The literature of the secession winter is appreciably richer for its existence. Highly recommended."--Civil War Books and Authors

"[McClintock's] analysis is exceptionally clear and well written, easily accessible to the layperson as well as the scholar; it stimulates thought about the nature of leadership and crisis management."--Choice

"McClintock transports the reader into the realm of antebellum American brinksmanship. . . . [A] satisfying account."--Civil War Times