2012 Lincoln Prize awarded to books that explore Lincoln’s relationship with border states, Joseph Holt

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GETTYSBURG, PA (February 10, 2012)—The 2012 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, which includes an award of $50,000, will go to co-winners William C. Harris of North Carolina State University, for Lincoln and the Border States: Preserving the Union (Kansas) and Elizabeth D. Leonard of Colby College, for Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally: Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of Kentucky (UNC Press).

The Prize is awarded by Gettysburg College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The winners were chosen from 116 nominations. Each will receive $25,000 and a bronze replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s life-size bust, Lincoln the Man, in a ceremony April 11 in New York City.

The Prize was co-founded in 1990 by businessmen and philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, co-chairmen of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York and co-creators of the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the largest private archives of documents and artifacts in the nation. The Institute is devoted to history education, supporting history theme schools, teacher training, digital archives, curriculum development, exhibitions and publications, and the National History Teacher of the Year Award Program.

In his book, Harris covers Lincoln’s often desperate efforts to keep the border states in the Union during the first months of the Civil War, with a focus on three states: Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri. Harris’s study is thorough and well researched, and emphasizes Lincoln’s careful moderation in dealing with an issue that he himself believed was crucial to the survival of the country. Harris clearly develops the various aspects of loyalty in the three states under examination, and illuminates Lincoln’s emerging management style.

In her book, Leonard provides a thorough biography of a man who played a role in four presidential administrations, Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of Kentucky. She portrays Holt as an interesting personality with strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and integrity, and provides a new perspective on emancipation in Kentucky, as evidenced by Holt himself, a slave-owner, who later supported emancipation. The discussion of Holt’s role as judge advocate general in the Lincoln administration provides information about Lincoln’s wartime efforts regarding emancipation and civil liberties.

“This year’s winners—William Harris’s Lincoln and the Border States and Elizabeth Leonard’s Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally—both tell important stories in wonderfully readable prose, while deepening our understanding of Lincoln and the Civil War era,” said Gilder Lehrman Institute President James G. Basker. “These are both ‘must reads’ for anyone who cares about the complex political challenges Lincoln and his government faced during the worst crisis in our country’s history.”

“Gettysburg College is proud to have the opportunity to partner with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in the presentation of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize to these two excellent books that extend our understanding of Abraham Lincoln’s leadership and the role played by of one of his most loyal supporters,” said Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs.

The three-member 2012 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize jury—United States Naval Academy Professor Emeritus and 2011–2012 Class of 1957 Distinguished Professor of American Naval Heritage Craig L. Symonds, who won the 2009 Lincoln Prize for Lincoln and His Admirals: Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Navy, and the Civil War; American diplomat and historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor, who won the 2008 Lincoln Prize for Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee through his Private Letters; and Professor of History at South Carolina State University Stanley Harrold, who received a 2011 Lincoln Prize honorable mention for Border War: Fighting over Slavery before the Civil War—considered 116 titles before recommending the finalists to the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize Board, which makes the final decision.

In addition to Gilder, Lehrman, Basker, and Riggs, the Board includes Gettysburg College Trustees Emeritus Edwin T. Johnson and James R. Thomas.

Past Lincoln Prize winners include Ken Burns in 1991 for his documentary The Civil War, Allen Guelzo for his books Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President in 2000 and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America in 2005, and Doris Kearns Goodwin in 2006 for her book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.


About Harris

A prominent Lincoln and Civil War historian, Professor Emeritus of History at North Carolina State University William C. Harris is the author of ten books, including With Charity for All: Lincoln and the Restoration of the Union, Abraham Lincoln Institute Book Award winner Lincoln’s Last Month, and Henry Adams Prize winner Lincoln’s Rise to the Presidency. He is also the recipient of The Lincoln Diploma of Honor presented by Lincoln Memorial University.

About Leonard

A Civil War and American women’s history expert, Elizabeth D. Leonard is the John J. and Cornelia V. Gibson Professor of History at Colby College and the author of five books, including All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies and Lincoln’s Avengers: Justice, Revenge, and Reunion after the Civil War, both selections for the History Book Club. She is a member of the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians and Southern Historical Association.

About the Honorable Mention Recipient

In addition to the two winners, Barbara A. Gannon, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Central Florida, was awarded an honorable mention for The Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic (UNC Press).

Gannon’s book examines how black Union veterans crafted their own narrative of the Civil War, and how they reinforced this narrative with one another at their post-war Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) meetings. Gannon examines not only the activities of black GAR chapters, but also notes the rather startling fact that there were a number of racially integrated chapters. She demonstrates how shared suffering and sentimentalism counteracted racism, to a degree, among veterans in what was a profoundly racist era.

About the Finalists

William A. Dobak, Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 18621867 (U.S. Army Center for Military History) is a comprehensive history of black Union troops during the Civil War and Reconstruction. The book concentrates on the formation, training and operations of black troops, as well as the social, political and racial context.

Amanda Foreman, A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War (Random House) covers not only the perception of Britons about what was going on in the United States 1861–1865, but also offers views of the war itself through the prism of a number of British subjects who were volunteers on one side or the other.

William G. Thomas, The Iron Way: Railroads, the Civil War, and the Making of Modern America (Yale) is an outgrowth of the Railroads and the Making of Modern America digital archive project. This book illuminates the critical impact of railroad construction, railroad management, and the boost railroads provided to regional development during and after the Civil War era.


Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college, which enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students, is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, founded in 1994, is a not-for-profit organization that oversees the Gilder Lehrman Collection and conducts history education programs in all fifty states, serving more than 150,000 teachers, their students, and communities across the country every year.


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William C. Harris

Elizabeth D. Leonard

Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally cover

Lincoln and the Border States cover

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