Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Five best history books that tell unexpected tales

Harry Stein's books include How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace) and I Can’t Believe I’m Sitting Next to a Republican.

For the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of works of history that tell an unexpected tale, including:
Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol
by William C. Davis (1974)

John C. Breckinridge is arguably the least-known major figure in American history and surely among the least appreciated. The youngest vice president ever (elected at age 35 in 1856),the dashing Kentuckian embodied the fiercest contradictions of his age and native region. Personally anti-slavery and pro-Union, he ran for president against Abraham Lincoln in 1860 as a defender of the South's "peculiar institution"; returning to Washington as a senator, he soon had to flee south to avoid arrest for supporting the right to secession. For all that, Breckinridge was gifted with enormous talent and personal honor. He became one of the Confederacy's most resourceful field commanders, and as its last secretary of war, he had much to do with averting the guerrilla conflict that seemed likely to follow Union victory. Later he was a bitter foe of the incipient Ku Klux Klan. Among the highlights of Civil War historian William C. Davis's terrific biography is Breckinridge's escape to Cuba at war's end, dogged by enemy soldiers and, at one point, pirates.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue