Did Lincoln’s Late Mistakes Make Civil War Unavoidable?

Fellowships | History

This VFH Fellows Lunchtime talk was delivered by VFH Senior Fellow William W. Freehling on Tuesday April 10, 2012 in Charlottesville City Council Chambers. Visit the VFH Calendar to see more upcoming talks.

Senior Fellow William W. Freehling explores the potential and perils of the might-have-been-method of historical analysis by using Abraham Lincoln’s three immediate pre-Civil War mistakes as a test case. Assuming that Lincoln had been capable of correcting one or more of this trio of mistakes (itself a fascinating personal question that much illuminates the man) might a civil war have been delayed or even avoided? All historians seek to explain what happened, yet only a few see history as oft-times contingent―capable of going other ways if a coincidence or personality or circumstance had slightly differed. Professor Freehling presents his analysis of whether history might have taken another plausible shape.  

William W. Freehling is the Senior Fellow at the Virginia Foundation of the Humanities and the author of several prize-winning books on the pre-Civil War  and Civil War South. Now turning his focus on the northern side, his analysis is taking the form of a new biography of Lincoln entitled The Falls and Rises of Abraham Lincoln.

For more information, contact Ann White Spencer, aspencer@virginia.edu.