History Buzz February 10, 2012: William C. Harris & Elizabeth D. Leonard: 2012 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize Awarded Books That Explore Lincoln’s Relationship with Border States, Jag Joseph Holt


History Buzz


2012 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize Awarded Books That Explore Lincoln’s Relationship with Border States, Jag Joseph Holt

Source: Gettysburg College Newswise, 2-10-12

The 2012 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, which includes an award of $50,000, will go to co-winners William C. Harris of North Carolina State University, for “Lincoln and the Border States: Preserving the Union,” (Kansas) and Elizabeth D. Leonard of Colby College, for “Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally: Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of Kentucky” (UNC Press).

The Prize is awarded by Gettysburg College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The winners were chosen from 116 nominations. Each will receive $25,000 and a bronze replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s life-size bust, “Lincoln the Man” in a ceremony April 11 in New York City.

The Prize was co-founded in 1990 by businessmen and philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, co-chairmen of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York and co-creators of the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the largest private archives of documents and artifacts in the nation. The Institute is devoted to history education, supporting history theme schools, teacher training, digital archives, curriculum development, exhibitions and publications, and the national History Teacher of the Year Award program.

In his book, Harris covers Lincoln’s often desperate efforts to keep the border states within the Union during the first months of the Civil War, with a focus on three states: Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri. Harris’s study is thorough and well researched, and emphasizes Lincoln’s careful moderation in dealing with an issue that he himself believed was crucial to the survival of the country. Harris clearly develops the various aspects of loyalty in the three states under examination, and illuminates Lincoln’s emerging management style.

In her book, Leonard provides a thorough biography of a man who played a role in four presidential administrations, Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of Kentucky. She portrays Holt as an interesting personality with strengths, weaknesses, quirks and integrity, and provides a new perspective on emancipation in Kentucky, as evidenced by Holt himself, a slave-owner, who later supported emancipation. The discussion of Holt’s role as judge advocate general in the Lincoln administration provides information about Lincoln’s wartime efforts regarding emancipation and civil liberties.

“This year’s winners — William Harris’s ‘Lincoln and the Border States’ and Elizabeth Leonard’s ‘Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally’ — both tell important stories in wonderfully readable prose, while deepening our understanding of Lincoln and the Civil War era,” said Gilder Lehrman Institute President James G. Basker. “These are both ‘must reads’ for anyone who cares about the complex political challenges Lincoln and his government faced during the worst crisis in our country’s history.”

“Gettysburg College is proud to have the opportunity to partner with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in the presentation of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize to these two excellent books that extend our understanding of Abraham Lincoln’s leadership and the role played by of one of his most loyal supporters,” said Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs.

The three-member 2012 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize jury — United States Naval Academy Professor Emeritus and 2011-2012 Class of 1957 Distinguished Professor of American Naval Heritage Craig L. Symonds, who won the 2009 Lincoln Prize for “Lincoln and His Admirals: Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Navy, and the Civil War”; American diplomat and historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor, who won the 2008 Lincoln Prize for “Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee through his Private Letters”; and Professor of History at South Carolina State University Stanley Harrold, who received a 2011 Lincoln Prize honorable mention for “Border War: Fighting over Slavery before the Civil War” — considered 116 titles before recommending the finalists to the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize Board which makes the final decision.

In addition to Gilder, Lehrman, Basker and Riggs, the Board includes Gettysburg College Trustees Emeritus Edwin T. Johnson and James R. Thomas.

Past Lincoln Prize winners include Ken Burns in 1991 for his documentary, “The Civil War,” Allen Guelzo for his books, “Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President” in 2000 and “Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America” in 2005 and Doris Kearns Goodwin in 2006 for her book, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.”

About Harris

A prominent Lincoln and Civil War historian, Professor Emeritus of History at North Carolina State University William C. Harris is the author of ten books, including “With Charity for All: Lincoln and the Restoration of the Union,” Abraham Lincoln Institute Book Award winner “Lincoln’s Last Month,” and Henry Adams Prize winner “Lincoln’s Rise to the Presidency.” He is also the recipient of The Lincoln Diploma of Honor presented by Lincoln Memorial University.

About Leonard

A Civil War and American women’s history expert, Elizabeth D. Leonard is the John J. and Cornelia V. Gibson Professor of History at Colby College and the author of five books, including “All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies” and “Lincoln’s Avengers: Justice, Revenge, and Reunion after the Civil War,” both selections for the History Book Club. She is a member of the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians and Southern Historical Association.

About the Honorable Mention Recipient

In addition to the two winners, Barbara A. Gannon, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Central Florida, was awarded an honorable mention for “The Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic” (UNC Press).

Gannon’s book examines how black Union veterans crafted their own narrative of the Civil War, and how they reinforced this narrative with one another at their post-war Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) meetings. Gannon examines not only the activities of black GAR chapters, but also notes the rather startling fact that there were a number of racially integrated chapters. She demonstrates how shared suffering and sentimentalism counteracted racism, to a degree, among veterans in what was a profoundly racist era.

About the Finalists

William A. Dobak, “Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867” (U.S. Army Center for Military History) is a comprehensive history of black Union troops during the Civil War and Reconstruction. The book concentrates on the formation, training and operations of black troops, as well as the social, political and racial context.

Amanda Foreman, “A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War” (Random House) covers not only the perception of Britons about what was going on in the United States 1861-65, but also offers views of the war itself through the prism of a number of British subjects who were volunteers on one side or the other.

William G. Thomas, “The Iron Way: Railroads, the Civil War, and the Making of Modern America” (Yale) is an outgrowth of the “Railroads and the Making of Modern America” digital archive project. This book illuminates the critical impact of railroad construction, railroad management and the boost railroads provided to regional development during and after the Civil War era.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college, which enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students, is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, founded in 1994, is a not-for-profit organization that oversees the Gilder Lehrman Collection and conducts history education programs in all fifty states, serving more than 150,000 teachers, their students and communities, across the country every year.

Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman: Interviewed on C-SPAN



HNN, 6-28-05

Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman: Interviewed on C-SPAN

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an Assistant Editor at HNN.

Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman said on C-Span’s “Q&A” that they welcomed the recent press coverage concerning the liberal accusation that as Republicans they are pushing forth a conservative ideological agenda through their involvement with the New-York Historical Society, and specifically, last fall’s Alexander Hamilton exhibit. “Frankly, I didn’t mind any of the publicity, because the New-York Historical Society has been sort of a back number” was Gilder’s comment. “You know,” he continued, “it’s right next to the American Museum of Natural History, that has millions of visitors a year. I’m a trustee there too, so I know the numbers.” Later on he added: “You want to come at it and say, ‘Well, ours is a great story of communism,’ fine. As Arthur Schlesinger [a member of their advisory board] said, the only way you can overcome a bad idea is with a good idea. So, we’ll have lots more controversy, discussion. We’ll bet on the great American story.” In an interview on June 26, 2005 on the C-Span program “Q&A,” hosted by Brian Lamb, Gilder and Lehrman, the co-founders of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, discussed topics ranging from their first meeting, to the founding of the institute in New York in 1994, and its various programs that promote the study of American History. Gilder dominated the interview. Despite recent controversy the interview however, was rather tame, friendly, and nostalgic.

Highlights of the interview included their personal anecdotes about their meeting, reminisces of studying at Yale, and their family backgrounds. Gilder and Lehrman were perhaps most comfortable and relaxed discussing these issues, and enjoyed especially reminiscing about Yale. Gilder described their meeting as eventually leading to “the beginning of just a great friendship.” Lehrman emphasized his patriotic roots “And I can tell a story about my grandfather that I think is – tells the kind of background I – that I did come from – a patriotic, unselfconscious, unapologetic American commitment…. I was thinking of making a European trip to see all about European culture. My grandfather was scandalized. What would you ever want to do going to Europe? I mean, everything is here in America. This is the new Jerusalem. This is a place that has everything that you need and everything that you can see.” While Gilder spoke fondly of Yale “I was just brought up by my father to love Yale. I mean, he never said a word – that I had to apply or should apply. But, you know, in class of ’25, he was a bit of an outsider, being a Jewish guy, in those days. Although there were still good number, but nothing like as many as when I was there – maybe eight percent, nine, percent when I was there. But he loved the place.”

Gilder, who comes from a Jewish family that emigrated to the U.S. in the 1830s, bears more of the financial burden of the institute. Lehrman, whose family were East European Jewish immigrants who arrived in the 1880s, apparently takes a more active role in designing the institute’s strategy. In a friendly way they poked fun at their ancestral differences. Lehrman chided Gilder that ” unlike Dick’s well-heeled Bohemian immigrants, mine were penniless.” Gilder retorted that ” I was a legacy [at Yale] …. Lew had to work to get in.”

When Lamb asked about the controversial Alexander Hamilton exhibit, he was direct without being aggressive: “The criticism that I read, that you two wanted to engineer a – the Hamilton exhibit for purposes to further your own political beliefs because Hamilton represents you more, say, than some of the other people in history. Start with that. What’s your reaction when you read that criticism?” Responding, Gilder and Lehrman, apparently a little uncomfortable, frequently began using hand motions while speaking. Lehrman avoided Lamb’s initial question by just discussing Hamilton’s important place in history and Gilder justified their decision: “we believe that, first, the New-York Historical Society, being established in 1804, Alexander Hamilton having been killed in a duel in 1804, and the New -York Historical Society inaugurating its 200th anniversary, it was perfect.”

Lamb then questioned, “Why is it that college professors are allowed to say and write anything they want to about history, but when somebody like you gets into it, there’s automatic criticism for your particular views?” Gilder said, “I can’t answer the question, because it’s a tough – I hate any tough questions, you know that.” In response to a question about the institute’s alleged rightward bias, Gilder pointed out that the advisory board included “lots of folks on all sides of the political spectrum, probably more left than right.” And Lehrman clarified that if scholars funded by the institute have “a point of view which is different from mine or different from Dick’s, as David Brion Davis, the historian and professor of history said, ‘Not a single person in the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History programs has ever received either a direct or an indirect influence from either of us.’ ”

The remaining portion of the C-Span interview discussed the various programs at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, basic information about the institute, the collection, endowments, especially educational initiatives such as their history high school and American History Teaching programs. The interview focused on the institute’s budget, and the awards and prizes, including the history of the Lincoln Prize based at Gettysburg College, the Douglass prize and the newly inaugurated Washington Prize.

Lamb, wanting to liven up the interview, asked about the possibility of dissidents in the institute’s programs, specifically the history high school initiative: “But do you run into the possibility that a teacher says, out in a high school, ‘I don’t need Gilder Lehrman to tell me how to teach history?’ ” Lehrman responded, “I think I have received two or three letters in the entire history of our programs where there have been objections to the way that we’ve gone about it.”

Lamb returned several times to the Hamilton controversy, hoping to coax more opinions from his interviewees. Both Gilder and Lehrman, however, remained cool and focused on what they viewed as the important issues: the institute and its accomplishments in promoting American history. Lamb at ont point asked if there was some connection between the fact that Ron Chernow, the admiring biographer of Hamilton, won “your new Washington Prize from Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, $50,000.” “What would you both say to the cynics watching saying, “Well of course these two guys would like Alexander Hamilton or Henry Clay or Abraham Lincoln because they both have really done very well in this system and they’re able, now, just to push through history their basic thoughts of it.” Lehrman coolly responded, that “they set the example for us. I mean, Lincoln, in – he sets the example for us.”

In the concluding remarks of a rather uncontroversial interview Lamb wanted Gilder and Lehrman to point out the favorite aspects of their work. For Lehrman it was purely academic; “whenever I teach the subject, for example, the Hamiltonian-Jeffersonian conflicts of the 1790s, General Washington’s – President Washington’s first presidency – whenever I’m teaching the subject, I find it inspiring.” While for Gilder it was the business aspect; “Well, right now, I’m wildly excited about the combination of the Gilder and Lehrman Institute and the New-York Historical Society. We have two different missions, but both focused on history. And Lew and I are working now, very hard, on the Historical Society, because Jim and Lesley and our team at GLI have done such a dandy job. There our job is to get out of the way, whereas here, our job is to get in the way. I like to get in the way.”

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