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Sep 16

Lincoln’s Gamble: The Tumultuous Six Months that Gave America the Emancipation Proclamation and Changed the Course of the Civil War

On July 12, 1862, Abraham Lincoln spoke for the first time of his intention to free the slaves. On January 1, 1863, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, doing precisely that. In between, however, was perhaps the most tumultuous six months of his presidency, an episode during which the 16th President fought bitterly with his generals, disappointed his cabinet, and sank into painful bouts of clinical depression. Most surprising, the man who would be remembered as “The Great Emancipator” did not hold firm to his belief in emancipation. He agonized over the decision and was wracked by private doubts almost to the moment when he inked the decree. 

In this narrative, Todd Brewster focuses on these critical six months to ask: was it through will or by accident, intention or coincidence, personal achievement or historical determinism that Lincoln freed the slaves? Lincoln’s Gamble portrays the President as an imperfect man with an unshakable determination to save a country he believed in, even as the course of the Civil War remained unknown. 

Todd Brewster has served as Don E. Ackerman Director of Oral History at the United States Military Academy, West Point, and is a longtime journalist who has worked as an editor for Time and Life and as senior producer for ABC News. He has written for Vanity Fair, Time, Life, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The New York Times and was Executive Producer of Into Harm’s Way, a 2013 documentary film about the West Point Class of 1967.

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Todd Brewster
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John Edward Hilboldt John Edward Hilboldt

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