Author(s): Douglas R. Egerton
In early 1860, pundits across America confidently predicted the election of Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas in the coming presidential race. Douglas, after all, was a national figure, a renowned orator, and led the only party that bridged North and South. But his Democrats fractured over the issue of slavery, creating a splintered four-way race that opened the door for the upstart Republicans, exclusively Northern, to steal the Oval Office. Dark horse Abraham Lincoln-not the first choice even of his own party-won the presidency with a record-low share of the popular vote. His victory instantly triggered the secession crisis. With a historian's keen insight and a veteran political reporter's eye for detail, Douglas R. Egerton re-creates the cascade of unforeseen events that confounded political bosses, set North and South on the road to disunion, and put not Stephen Douglas but his greatest rival in the White House. Year of Meteors delivers a vibrant cast of characters-from the gifted, flawed Douglas to the Southern "fire-eaters," who gleefully sabotaged their own party, to the untested Abraham Lincoln-and a breakneck narrative of this most momentous year in American history.
"Egerton tells the story of the dissolution of the Union as it should be told, not from the perspective of those looking back on the crisis, but from the clouded vision of those who lived through it." - Carol Berkin, author of A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution and Civil War Wives
This is politics as high drama, and Egerton does it justice with his lucid, meticulous account. Publishers Weekly Civil War buffs will appreciate the book's dozens of vividly drawn characters ... Readers who take politics seriously will get the thrill of an insider's view of a hard-fought campaign. Associated Press Only one American election was momentous in the grand sense-triggering a war that charted a new course for the nation and putting in the White House a man who would become the most revered national figure since George Washington. Year of Meteors is Douglas R. Egerton's fascinating account of the bizarre and explosive election of 1860. The Wall Street Journal "Brilliant ... master[s] an incredible range of scholarly and popular work ... sparkles with insight ... An impressive accomplishment."--Reviews in American History on Death or Liberty Egerton is a master. Year of Meteors reveals the fragility of the American political landscape, a place where politicians, no matter how hard they try, are unable to predict the future. Scott Gac, author of Singing for Freedom A lively, expertly rendered narrative of politics as a prelude to war. Kirkus Reviews (starred review) Well-informed, judicious, and lively political history. Douglas Egerton has a sharp eye for telling biographical details, and he deploys them to great analytical and narrative effect. Bruce Levine, author of Half Slave and Half Free Well thought out, deeply researched and intelligently presented. Egerton traces the backround and events that shaped the political world at a moment of severe danger to the nation. In doing so he successfully opens to view a world that is long gone but whose politics remains relevant into our own day. Joel H. Silbey, author of Storm over Texas and Respectable Minority Thanks to Egerton's insight into 19th-century political strategy and skullduggery, the graceful Year of Meteors reads like a fresh insider-informed expose of a modern presidential election instead of an expose of a race that took place when Maine had more residents than California... Christian Science Monitor
Douglas R. Egerton is a professor of history at Le Moyne College. He is the author of six books, including Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election that Brought on the Civil War, He Shall Go Out Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey, Gabriel's Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 and 1802, and Death or Liberty: African Americans and Revolutionary America. He lives near Syracuse, NY.