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The Demon of Unrest by Erik Larson

Erik Larson has hooked me on his writing since I read "The Devil and the White City." Larson has a unique ability to breathe life into historical events and their key figures.

In "The Demon of Unrest," Larson explores a critical five-month period from Abraham Lincoln's election to the fall of Fort Sumter. Unlike many historians who focus primarily on Lincoln and his inner circle, Larson brings to the forefront lesser-known individuals.

One such figure is Major Robert Anderson, the Union commander at Fort Sumter and a former slave owner. Another is Edmund Ruffin, a fervent secessionist who, despite his age, ensures he remains at the center of the action.

Readers might recognize Mary Chestnut, whose diary entries featured prominently in Ken Burns' PBS “Civil War” series. As the wife of a wealthy planter, Chestnut provides a detailed chronicle of the conflicts surrounding slavery.

Larson also highlights William Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State. Known post-war for "Seward's Folly" in purchasing Alaska, Seward plays a significant role in the efforts to prevent the war.

Through vivid storytelling, Larson captures the tragic mistakes, intense rhetoric, selfish ambitions, and personal losses that characterized this turbulent era. His work offers a sobering view of how a polarized political climate led the nation into a devastating civil war.

Note: I read the book on a Kindle. When I reached 55% complete, the story was over. The rest were notes, as expected from a historian.

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