Every Drop of Blood
The Momentous Second Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln
Year Published: 2021
Achorn focuses on Washington, D.C. on the eve of Abraham Lincolns historic second inaugural address as the lens through which to understand all the complexities of the Civil War.
By March 4, 1865, the Civil War had slaughtered more than 700,000 Americans and left intractable wounds on the nation. After a morning of rain-drenched fury, tens of thousands crowded Washingtons Capitol grounds that day to see Abraham Lincoln take the oath for a second term. As the sun emerged, Lincoln rose to give perhaps the greatest inaugural address in American history, stunning the nation by arguing, in a brief 701 words, that both sides had been wrong, and that the wars unimaginable horrorsevery drop of blood spilledmight well have been Gods just verdict on the national sin of slavery.
Edward Achorn reveals the nations capital on that momentous daywith its mud, sewage, and saloons, its prostitutes, spies, reporters, social-climbing spouses and power-hungry politiciansas a microcosm of all the opposing forces that had driven the country apart. A host of characters, unknown and famous, had converged on Washingtonfrom grievously wounded Union colonel Selden Connor in a Washington hospital and the embarrassingly drunk new vice president, Andrew Johnson, to poet-journalist Walt Whitman; from soldiers advocate Clara Barton and African American leader and Lincoln critic-turned-admirer Frederick Douglass (who called the speech a sacred effort) to conflicted actor John Wilkes Boothall swirling around the complex figure of Lincoln.
In indelible scenes, Achorn vividly captures the frenzy in the nations capital at this crucial moment in Americas history and the tension-filled hope and despair afflicting the country as a whole, soon to be heightened by Lincolns assassination. His story offers new understanding of our great national crisis, and echoes down the decades to resonate in our own time.