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The Papers of Abraham Lincoln illuminates Lincoln’s America

Staff members publish new works about Lincoln’s law practice and Civil War music

March 9, 2012

SPRINGFIELD – Researchers with The Papers of Abraham Lincoln have recently published books that shed new light on the Lincoln-era judicial system and the music that inspired the nation during the Civil War.

Stacy Pratt McDermott’s new book, The Jury in Lincoln’s America, demonstrates how central the law was for people who lived in Abraham Lincoln’s America. McDermott draws from a rich collection of legal records, docket books, county histories, and surviving newspapers to reveal the enormous power jurors wielded over the litigants and the character of their communities. According to the 1860 census, Springfield and Sangamon County, Illinois comprised an ethnically and racially diverse population of settlers from northern and southern states, representing both urban and rural mid-nineteenth-century America. It was in these counties that Lincoln developed his law practice, handling more than 5,200 cases in a legal career that spanned nearly 25 years. McDermott is the Assistant Director and Associate Editor of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln and the coeditor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases and The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln.

Christian McWhirter’s Battle Hymns: The Power and Popularity of Music in the Civil War analyzes the many ways music influenced both blacks and whites, and North and South, during the years surrounding the Civil War. Music was everywhere during the Civil War. Tunes could be heard ringing out from parlor pianos, thundering at political rallies, and setting the rhythms of military and domestic life. With literacy still limited, music was an important vehicle for communicating ideas about the war, and it had a lasting impact in the decades that followed. McWhirter gauges the popularity of the most prominent songs and examines how Americans, including Lincoln, used them, and returns music to its central place in American life during the nation's greatest crisis. McWhirter is an Assistant Editor with The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, working at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Director and Editor Daniel W. Stowell said of his colleagues’ work: “These new volumes demonstrate the range and depth of talent the project employs. McDermott’s and McWhirter’s volumes are important contributions to the study of the era in which Lincoln lived, and their research enhances their ability to understand and contextualize the wide assortment of documents we are editing in the Papers of Abraham Lincoln.”

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln Project is a long-term documentary editing project dedicated to identifying, imaging, transcribing, annotating, and publishing all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his lifetime (1809-1865). The project is administered through the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and is cosponsored by the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois Springfield and by the Abraham Lincoln Association.

On Lincoln's Mind

On Lincoln's Mind Cover