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.
About the Author
Douglas R. Egerton is Professor of History at LeMoyne College. He is the author of five books, including He Shall Go Out Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey, Gabriel's Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 & 1802, and Death or Liberty: African Americans and Revolutionary America.