Lincoln's Pathfinder

Lincoln's Pathfinder
Lincoln's Pathfinder

Lincoln's Pathfinder

John C. Fremont and the Violent Election of 1856
By John Bicknell


320 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Cloth, Mobipocket, EPUB, PDF

Cloth, $26.99 (US $26.99) (CA $35.99)

ISBN 9781613737972

Rights: WOR

Chicago Review Press (Jun 2017)


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The 1856 presidential race was the most violent peacetime election in American history. War between proslavery and antislavery settlers raged in Kansas; a congressman shot an Irish immigrant at a Washington hotel; and another congressman beat a US senator senseless on the floor of the Senate. But amid all the violence, the campaign of the new Republican Party, headed by famed explorer John C. Frémont, offered a ray of hope: a major party dedicated to limiting the spread of slavery. For the first time, women and African Americans actively engaged in a presidential contest, and the candidate's wife, Jessie Benton Frémont, played a central role in both planning and executing strategy, and was a public face of the campaign. Even enslaved blacks in the South took hope from Frémont's crusade.The 1856 campaign was also run against the backdrop of a country on the move, with settlers continuing to spread westward facing unimagined horrors, a terrible natural disaster that took hundreds of lives in the South, and one of the most famous Supreme Court cases in history, which set the stage for the Civil War. Frémont lost, but his strong showing in the North proved that a sectional party could win a national election, blazing the trail for Abraham Lincoln's victory four years later.


"Bicknell offers a tidy narrative full of vivid political personalities of the time." â€â€Kirkus Reviews

"Propelled by rich, vivid writingâ€â€with a veteran Capitol Hill observer's understanding of how deals get done and a scholar's eye for detailâ€â€John Bicknell's Lincoln's Pathfinder brings back to us, in all its glory and squalor, the 1856 campaign of the Republican Party's first presidential nominee, explorer John Frémont." â€â€Tom Chaffin, author of Pathfinder: John Charles Frémont and the Course of American Empire

"At long last, a volume worthy of this critical but complicated election year. John Bicknell's original and engaging narrative weaves sophisticated analyses and personal storiesâ€â€from statesmen to politicized women to enslaved southernersâ€â€into a fascinating account of this tempestuous era. Historical writing of the highest order." â€â€Douglas R. Egerton, author of Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election That Brought on the Civil War

"Bicknell is at his best in explaining how events get elevated into political symbols." â€â€The Washington Free Beacon

"Mr. Bicknell, a former editor at Congressional Quarterly and the author of America 1844 (2014), tells the election story skillfully. . . But Lincoln's Pathfinder is about more than the making of the president, 1856." â€â€Wall Street Journal

"John Bicknell's new book is not only the best book on the 1856 U.S. presidential election; it is really the only book on this interesting, important election." â€â€Washington Independent Review of Books

"Bicknell covers this crucial period in great detail with a fine writing style that is extremely readable… the author has a gift of being able to place readers in the midst of a fascinating and misunderstood chapter in American history." â€â€Civil War Times Illustrated

"One of the best historical narratives of a campaign I have read," and, "this book is highly recommended."â€â€The Weekly Standard

Author Biography

John Bicknell is the author of America 1844 and has written and edited for FCW, Congressional Quarterly, Roll Call, and was coeditor of the 2012 edition of Politics in America, CQ's 1200-page guide to the US Congress. He lives in Haymarket, Virginia.