Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America by Andrew Ferguson
In my blog comments for the Springfield visit it was suggested that I read this book, so I hit the library and snagged a copy. I really enjoyed this book. The simplest description is that its a Lincoln version of Confederates in the Attic. That's probably not a totally fair comparison for either book but it fits. The category of books on travels in Civil War territory has existed since the eve of the war and will likely long continue.
Ferguson goes to a number of Lincoln sites, hitting places that Lincoln was at. This means trips to Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia and Pennsylvania and Washington DC. He also makes some side trips to other areas to talk to prominent Lincoln collectors and scholars but he spends a lot of time in Illinois, for obvious reasons.
Ferguson tries to deal with the many sides of Lincoln. I'm not sure anyone can completely explain why Lincoln is this way but it seems that he cannot be pinned down to one particular point. There is something in him that everyone can love and hate. In an early scene in the book an anti-Lincoln man is told by Ferguson that a particular group of Lincoln scholars (who weren't venomously anti-Lincoln) complained that Lincoln was a wimp, and he responded "Jesus, even I don't think he was a wimp." For everyone who thinks Lincoln was a great president there is something about him that they can pick on as a weakness and for everyone who hates Lincoln there is something there that they think was a strength. He can be all things to all people, maybe that's part of being a politician or maybe its because Lincoln generally didn't reveal too much to other people.
I especially enjoyed the section on Springfield because I had just been there and some things were familiar. But I also enjoyed the last section of the book where he takes his family on a trip following Lincoln in reverse from Springfield to Hodgenville. Ferguson meets a lot of interesting characters along the way and sees some great sites. Some of them are great because of the artifacts there; at the Lincoln Homestead you can see the bed his mother used as a child and the household items that his father made by hand. Or for the oddities of the place; the reconstructed log cabin at Lincoln's birth site wouldn't fit the protective building so they cut it to fit, luckily it wasn't really the original cabin just a cabin everyone believed was the original.
I would highly recommend this book. It was a pretty quick read. I don't think I'd buy a copy for my own shelves but that's mostly a space issue. But if I ended up acquiring a cheap or free copy along the way I'd certainly keep it.