The Lincoln Miracle: Inside the Republican Convention That Changed History

The thrilling behind-the-scenes story of how Abraham Lincoln and his team used a brilliant strategy, secret deals, and psychological manipulation to win the Republican nomination for president in 1860.

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Praise for The Lincoln Miracle:

“It is hard to imagine that any aspect of Abraham Lincoln’s life is understudied, but Edward Achorn has found one. The Lincoln Miracle offers a gripping account of the critical days in May 1860 when the underdog Lincoln snatched the Republican presidential nomination and ascended to the verge of national power…[Achorn] has written a provocative addition to the canon.”—Roger Lowenstein, The Wall Street Journal

The Lincoln Miracle is beautifully written, filled with vivid and easily digested prose. The reader knows Lincoln will prevail, the US will shortly be at war with itself and the Union will triumph at great cost. Foreknowledge does not detract. The Lincoln Miracle’s themes are timeless…More than 150 years after Lincoln’s assassination, the embers of civil war still glow. The Lincoln Miracle is relevant reading indeed.”—Lloyd Green, The Guardian (London)

“Compelling . . . Edward Achorn crafts a riveting read . . . Achorn does a brilliant job of painting a colorful, vibrant, and complicated picture . . . While readers already know the outcome of Lincoln becoming America’s 16th president, the book is a page-turner . . .” The Epoch Times

“[A] comprehensive and often riveting account. Historian Achorn (Every Drop of Blood) offers sharp assessments of Lincoln’s rivals for the nomination . . .  Achorn provides riveting details about the schemes and backroom deals made by Lincoln’s supporters and loads the account with dramatic set pieces. . . . The result is a dramatic and well-informed study of political sausage-making.”Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

“Achorn’s deep and energetic reconstruction of this momentous convention helps put in perspective the present political struggles over the nation’s future.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Achorn writes seamlessly. . . Packed with primary sources and eyewitness accounts, The Lincoln Miracle should stand as the definitive account of this epochal political moment in American history.”—Peggy Kurkowski, Shelf Awareness (starred review)

“Recounts the artful maneuvering that enabled a coarse, little-known… circuit court lawyer to best several nationally prominent politicians… A grand book documenting a milestone… Achorn’s brisk, 400-page account is replete with all the bribery, patronage, rumors, back-stabbing, whiskey, cigars, and political calculus that went into the most consequential Presidential nomination in our history.”—Jim Swearingen, The National Book Review

“In the end, what distinguishes this fine book, as was the case with Every Drop of Blood, is the creative manner of its telling. Part historical narrative, part non-fiction novel, part screenplay, The Lincoln Miracle is suffused with drama. Scenes are colorfully set; people are physically described, such as Lincoln’s friend Jesse K. Dubois, with his blue eyes and auburn hair. . . . . In sum, Edward Achorn bears a striking resemblance to one of his characters—reporter Murat Halstead, ‘a lively stylist with a sharp eye for detail.’ He is something of an artist-entertainer, yet one who has clearly done his historical homework. If we are lucky, we will hear from him further.”—Lincoln Lore

“This finely grained and well-written account will appeal to readers interested in Lincoln or American presidential and political history….Historian Achorn details the raucous, exciting convention and the behind-the-scenes dealings that exemplified 19th-century conventions. … This detailed account of the convention takes the boisterous proceedings day-by-day, giving readers an in-depth look at the convention that nominated Lincoln.”—Library Journal

“What a good book The Lincoln Miracle is! It is by far the best account of that convention I have ever read, especially in featuring the collapse of William H. Seward’s ‘inevitable’ nomination, and showing what a feat that was. The Lincoln Miracle projects an excitement that is rare in scholarly narrative.”—Douglas L. Wilson, two-time Lincoln Prize winner, author of Lincoln’s Sword and Honor’s Voice

“A gorgeous book: at times, funny; at times, haunting — like Mr. Lincoln himself.”—Aaron Gywn, novelist and professor, author of All God’s Children and Wynne’s War

“A wonderful story! Anyone interested in the intricacies and ironies and the deal-making and horse-trading of American politics will love this book. . . . Edward Achorn rightly calls this the Lincoln Miracle, because, as he shows in rich and lucid prose, it was not just Lincoln’s shrewd and crafty operatives but also Lincoln himself, masterful politician that he was, who brought about that miracle. Although we all know the results of the Republican Party’s presidential nominating convention in 1860, Edward Achorn nevertheless has the uncanny knack of keeping us in suspense throughout all the days of the convention. With his prose rich and breathless in detail, Achorn truly makes Lincoln’s nomination seem to be a miracle.”—Gordon S. Wood, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire of Liberty

“Ed Achorn’s The Lincoln Miracle is a worthy bookend to his memorable earlier study, Every Drop of Blood: The Momentous Second Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln. While the latter focused on Lincoln toward the end of his presidency, the former tells the story of the 1860 Republican national convention in Chicago that made his election possible and thereby changed the course of world history. Chockablock with colorful depictions of the dramatic events and deft character sketches of the leading players, Achorn’s highly readable book reaches sound conclusions based on thorough research and is thus a most welcome addition to the Lincoln literature.”—Michael Burlingame, author of Abraham Lincoln: A Life and president of the Abraham Lincoln Association

“Our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, would remain unknown to Americans if not for the Republican convention of 1860, and a roller-coaster week that changed the course of history. The Lincoln Miracle tells the inside story with precision and panache.”—Ted Widmer, author of Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington

Every Drop of Blood: The Momentous Second Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln

A brilliantly conceived and vividly drawn story featuring Washington, D.C. on the eve of Abraham Lincoln’s historic second inaugural address.

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Praise for Every Drop of Blood:

One of the Best Books of 2020, Economist magazine

An Amazon Editors’ Selection for Best History

Second Best-Selling Civil War Book of 2020, Civil War Monitor

“Richly detailed . . . In elegant, episodic detail, Mr. Achorn captures both the immediate experiences of those who attended the inaugural and the recent memories that colored everything they saw and felt, heard and said.”—Adam Rowe, Wall Street Journal

“A lively guided tour of Washington during the 24 hours or so around Lincoln’s swearing-in . . . Achorn has a journalist’s gift for finding just the right quotation. He deftly fishes memorable descriptions—often less-than-flatting ones—out of 19th-century newspapers and diaries, especially as he introduces the most distinguished residents of the nation’s capital.”—Adam Goodheart, Washington Post

“A fascinating account of an address which entered the national consciousness . . . Achorn has done Lincoln justice, distilling the essence of the speech in a reflection Lincoln would have understood.”—John S. Gardner, Guardian

“As fine a work of a historical imagination as it has ever been my good fortune to read. … If there was any book to read to explain and try to understand what is going on now, it is this book. .. A marvelous book.”—Lewis H. Lapham, Lapham’s Quarterly

“An exemplary account of this critical moment in Lincoln’s presidency . . . [Achorn’s] book captures not only the true essence of this dramatic and traumatic time period in American history, but also the metamorphosis of a presidential inauguration that should be read and cherished by all Americans . . . Achorn’s innate ability to weave memorable stories and personalities together in Every Drop of Blood creates an intimate tale for readers. More impressively, it leads to a new chapter in this great president’s life that will stand the test of time.”—Washington Times

“A masterful narrative of the day, weaving together a cast of characters and events in a compelling work that reads like hands-on reportage from a writer who was on the scene. Achorn magnifies his writing with fresh research, including personal recollections by eyewitnesses and newspaper accounts of the day . . . Achorn’s work is as epic as the topic deserves. His research is remarkable, telling the wider story through minute details and moments of deep meaning . . . A welcome addition to the voluminous canon of Lincoln books. Through these pages Achorn transforms readers into spectators of history as it unfolds.”—New York Journal of Books

“Like the Ghost of Christmas Past in Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ Achorn takes our hand and flies us around Washington, D.C., showing us the shadows of the things that had been. We alight in the offices and parties and on the muddy streets throughout Washington, D. C., invisibly mixing in with a city celebrating the start of Lincoln’s second term and the imminent end of four years of war. . . . A good read in our own era, reminding us that no matter how badly divided we feel now, as a nation we’ve been through worse.”—Providence Journal

“Its strength lies less in the events themselves than in the elaborate detail and rich historical context that he musters . . . By the end, as well as mourning Lincoln’s fate, American readers might wish for another chance at politics without malice and with charity to all.”—Economist

“With its diverse and colorful cast of characters–from Walt Whitman to John Wilkes Booth, Clara Barton to Frederick Douglass, Kate Chase Sprague to Alexander Gardner—Every Drop of Blood reads like a gripping non-fiction novel. Achorn puts us there, in the muddy streets of the District, with its gaslights and brothels, in brick mansions where elegant soirées are held and gossip exchanged, and in hotels and boarding houses where plots are hatched. We are given vivid portraits of interesting (sometimes vain or villainous) people swirling around the city, learning what each person said and did as the day and hour of this most consequential presidential oration approached. In the pages of this book the Washington, D.C. of March, 1865 comes alive.”Lincoln Lore

“Invaluable . . . A small masterpiece, brilliant in concept and exquisite in execution . . . With skill and massive research, Achorn brings it all into one place on one day for us to see, feel, and ponder.”—Llewellyn King, InsideSources

“Wholly unique, compelling, and revealing . . . Essential reading about the doomed president’s final days in office and the bloody end of the Civil War . . . A significant achievement.”—Times-News

“Achorn’s rich, polyphonic history covers the sumptuous social events as well as the prisoners of war on the muddy streets and the injured languishing in ill-prepared hospitals.”—National Book Review

“Drawing on historical wizardry—diaries, accounts, and memoirs—Achorn has assembled a prismatic portrait of that fateful day which reads like one long rolling dolly shot of history.”—Literary Hub

“There have many books written on the life of Abraham Lincoln .. . but few provide so much detail and new information … This outstanding narrative reads like a fast-paced novel … vivid … Achorn has delivered a readable study that breaks new ground, is lively, contains interesting engaging prose, ably illuminates the topic, and makes the subject accessible to anyone. This reviewer highly recommends this new study.”—Civil War News

“Achorn, a noted editor and author, does a splendid job of recreating the atmosphere and experience of being in Washington on the day before and the day of Lincoln’s second inauguration. He has a gift for evocative, elaborate detail, and his descriptions of Washington—from a canal of stinking sewage to the new Capitol dome to the brothels and the various social functions—give readers a full flavor of the good and the plentifully ugly.”—Steve ForbesForbes magazine

“Meticulously chronicles President Lincoln’s March 1865 inauguration in this kaleidoscopic history. Drawing from diaries, letters, memoirs, and newspaper reports, Achorn frames a poignant yet familiar portrait of Lincoln with the accounts of several figures who converged in Washington, D.C., for the inaugural address . . . He skillfully plumbs his sources for colorful details and draws memorable character sketches. History buffs will savor this evocative narrative.”—Publishers Weekly

“The author provides rich description of a wide cast of people, including politicians, poets, soldiers, and nurses . . . Achorn is especially insightful in setting the scene for the inaugural, going deep inside the social world of the capital and remarking on the constant positioning for favor or notice . . . A solid history that will allow readers to feel as if they are in the moment.”—Library Journal

“A vigorous, fresh look at a critical time in American history.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Achorn provides a rich, heavily psychological portrait [of Lincoln] . . . A moving chronicle of the country on the eve of assassination.”Booklist

“Achorn makes a careful and, in my view, sensitive and moving analysis of Lincoln’s extraordinary speech. … Achorn brings a journalist’s eye to stories and “angles” surrounding Lincoln’s second inauguration. Such detail can only enrich the Civil War’s revolutionary significance, so beautifully articulated by Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.”—World Socialist Web Site

“A tour de force … One of the best social histories I’ve ever read.”Froma Harrop, nationally syndicated columnist for Creators

“It is hard to imagine anyone saying anything new about Abraham Lincoln, the most written-about figure in American history. But Edward Achorn has done it. No one has ever placed Lincoln’s Second Inaugural in such a full and rich context as he has. Achorn recreates the sights, sounds, smells, and the feel of everything, and his Lincoln was never more real. This is the work of a superb imaginative historian.”—Gordon S. Wood, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire of Liberty

“This richly detailed account of the events surrounding Lincoln’s second inaugural address focuses on the many notable and obscure personalities present in Washington as the Civil War neared its end, including such opposites as Frederick Douglass and John Wilkes Booth, whose lives intersected with Lincoln’s in dramatically contrasting ways.”—James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom

“A lively, highly readable account of the people, events—and threats—surrounding Lincoln’s second inauguration.”—Joanne Freeman, author of The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War

“Prize-worthy. Achorn is erudite and empathetic, and the book is chock-full of information and telling insights. Achorn sets the scene for the greatest inaugural address in American history.”—Frank J. Williams, founder of The Lincoln Forum and author of Judging Lincoln

“A magisterial analysis not only of Lincoln’s second inaugural but of the context in which it was given. Achorn’s keen eye for the meaningful detail reveals new layers of meaning to both a familiar speech and the divided nation that received them. His gift for telling a good story makes it a must read for historians and general readers alike.”—Maury Klein, author of Days of Defiance and A Call to Arms

The Summer of Beer and Whiskey: How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants, and a Wild Pennant Fight Made Baseball America’s Game


Edward Achorn re-creates a wondrous and hilarious world of cunning, competition, and boozing, set amidst a rapidly transforming America. It is a classic American story of people with big dreams, no shortage of chutzpah, and love for a brilliant game that they refused to let die.

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Praise for The Summer of Beer and Whiskey:

An Amazon Best Book of the Year (History)

 “That summer of 1883 was the breakthrough, the time when a new league could come out of nowhere and not just challenge the status quo but break it. Looked at this history from the right angle, you can almost argue that the book is “Moneyball” from 130 years ago.”—Wall Street Journal

“The author makes a convincing case that it was an exceptionally entertaining time to be a baseball fan in St. Louis.” —Bill Littlefield, NPR’s “Only a Game”

“For fans, each season’s crop of baseball books is like a literary Christmas. [The Summer of Beer and Whiskey is one] of this year’s treasures.”—Chicago Tribune

“Combining the narrative skills of a sportswriter with a historian’s depth of knowledge and stockpile of detail, Achorn has produced a book that is both entertaining and informative.”—The New Yorker

The Summer of Beer and Whiskey strengthens the baseball fan’s understanding of that raw, unvarnished era of baseball 130 years ago that eventually evolved into the smooth product we see today. Achorn writes passionately and presents an excellent history lesson.”—Tampa Tribune

“Achorn’s gift for storytelling shines in the climactic games of the season. Vivid scenes put the reader in the stands as pitchers pelt batters, fielders crash through fences and the forces of nature whip up a blinding ninth-inning dust “hurricane.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A wonderful, unsentimental history of the men who bequeathed the game to us.”— History News Network

“A thoroughly researched and charmingly written account of a sensational pennant race populated by outsized characters”Portland Oregonian

“Edward Achorn … favors us with a realistic and colorful look at early professional baseball.”—Providence Journal

“[A] fine history…Like a pitcher seamlessly targeting his pitches around the plate, Achorn weaves a story rife with facts and anecdotes.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“The time machine travels back to the 1880s as brewer Chris von der Ahe purchases the forerunner of the St. Louis Cardinals, with the singular purpose of selling more beer.”—Daily Beast

“When it comes to baseball history, Edward Achorn has carved out his own territory, re-animating the 19th century game.”Los Angeles Times

The Summer of Beer and Whiskey hinges on the hard-fought 1883 pennant race between Von der Ahe’s ascendant Browns and the Philadelphia Athletics. The book is rich in newspaper accounts of the race, along with accompanying caricatures of the players. But Achorn also includes insightful digressions on topics ranging from the sport’s persistent problems with racism and alcoholism to the peculiarities of 19th-century baseball, which featured barehanded fielders, one umpire per contest, and pitchers who could take a slight running start before each throw.”—St. Louis Post Dispatch

“I really can’t praise The Summer of Beer and Whiskey enough, as it is truly one of my favorite books that I have ever read. Don’t let the topic of baseball pigeonhole this title, there is something that anyone and everyone can enjoy in Achorn’s masterful retelling of one of the more colorful episodes in sports history.”—NeuFeuter blog

The Summer of Beer and Whiskey is very much a story that goes beyond baseball. It reveals more about the evolution of popular culture — from entertainment and sports to media and celebrity. In many ways, it serves as a primer for how America got where it is today.”—The Madison Times News

“Funny, quirky and way out of baseball’s vast left field.”—American History

“Full of great stories and interesting tidbits of history.”—Ft. Wayne News Sentinel

“Achorn…takes us back to when baseball was expressed in two words and one league—until the American Association was founded in 1882.”Library Journal

“Achorn…turns his attention to old-time professional baseball, visiting the nascent days of the American Association, more notably, the American Association that turned baseball into a nationally beloved sport….[An] entertaining history of baseball’s overlooked early years.”—Publishers Weekly

“A thoroughly enjoyable re-creation of the gusto, guts, glory and grime of the game’s early days.”—Kirkus Reviews 

Fifty-nine in ’84: Old Hoss Radbourn, Barehanded Baseball, and the Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had


  Edward Achorn’s classic account of the irascible, hard-drinking Hall of Fame pitcher who won more games in a single season than any major-leaguer in history.

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Praise for Fifty-nine in ’84:

2021: One of The New York Times’ Five Books to Celebrate Baseball’s Return

“An astonishing book … a romantic book, equal parts heroic quest, tragic tale and doomed love story.”—Washington Post

“It’s the vibrancy of his story that resonates, the sense of Radbourn and these others not as historical figures but as human beings. The game they played was brutal, with no gloves or protective gear, and no substitutions except in the case of catastrophic injury. … With Fifty-nine in ’84, Achorn returns this remarkable season — and this remarkable pitcher — to something close to life.”—Los Angeles Times

 “First-class narrative history that can stand with everything Stephen Ambrose wrote. … Achorn’s description of the utter insanity that was barehanded baseball is vivid and alive.”—Charles P. Pierce, Boston Globe

“Edward Achorn’s Fifty-nine in ’84 left me envious, as in ‘Why didn’t I do that?’ … What makes his book work is that this is not solely a baseball story. It is a sort of social history, giving us a feel for both baseball as it existed 126 years ago and American life in general. … Writing a book is never fun or easy, but I’m going to guess Mr. Achorn enjoyed researching this one.”—Bob Ryan, Boston Globe

“Amazing story … Achorn’s work is reminiscent of ‘Seabiscuit’ … Like that great tale, this one is a story not just of the central character, but of the America of the time … richly detailed.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Full of passion … A brilliant look at the game’s early days.”—Denver Post

“Achorn’s engaging prose, peppered with copious quotes from 19th-century journalists, reads like an eyewitness account. … The book is more than just the chronicles of one man’s record-breaking feat. It is a captivating look back at a time when baseball, like America, was raw, dangerous and exciting.”— Dallas Morning News

“Baseball fan or not, you will lose yourself in this wonderfully-written book. You will smell the manure on the streets of Providence. Your throat will burn from the booze and the tobacco. And your shoulder will ache.”—Steve Buckley, Boston Herald

“Anyone … who loves baseball should pick up a copy of Fifty Nine in ’84, Edward Achorn‘s well-researched and highly readable account of Radbourn‘s historic year … An engrossing trip back to those days, warts and all.”—Baseball Digest

“I have never read a baseball book I enjoyed more, and I’ve read a lot of them. … If you’re a baseball fan, you owe it to yourself to read this one.”—Providence Journal

“There’s certainly enough conflict, drama, and romance to make a great movie. They won’t even need a Hollywood ending. Radbourn provided it himself.”—Baseball America

“Pitch perfect … Compelling read … Edward Achorn has done a marvelous job of bringing together not just a ballplayer and his lover, but a time and a game, a city and its people, and the stories of all the Providence Grays, one of whom wound up recording the ‘greatest season a pitcher ever had.’”—Weekly Standard

“Edward Achorn’s Fifty-nine in ’84 goes well beyond [Radbourn’s] preposterous numbers. He has a wonderful time bringing to life Providence, the city where Radbourn was pitching in 1884. He gives us Radbourn’s teammates, at least one of whom hated him. He introduces us to Carrie Stanhope, the woman Old Hoss apparently loved and finally married, just before syphilis killed him.”—Bill Littlefield, Only a Game (NPR)

“This season’s most unexpected volume … a portrait of baseball when the grass was green and the players’ palms were red (no gloves in those days) — a magical world of heroes and cranks and a woman known as Mrs. Stanhope, who presided over a boarding house and dominated the dreams of Charles Radbourn.”—David M. Shribman, Bloomberg News

Fifty-Nine in ’84 is that rare ore strike, taking remarkably colorful Providence Grays pitcher Charles ‘Old Hoss’ Radbourn and his amazing 59 victories during the 1884 season out of a treasure box in baseball’s attic.”—Charleston Courier and Post

Fifty-nine in ’84 is a stirring, enjoyable read that I couldn’t put down. If you like baseball, you’ll love this book.”—Cape Cod Today

“Achorn has dug deep into newspaper files and other archives, including marvelous photographic collections, to give us a raw and rude picture of baseball’s Old Testament era. He also shows us a vanished America … when sports writing was high-flown and fistic. He is generous with oddities of material detail and ways of life, including stories of atrocious sportsmanship on the part of players and perfidy on that of umpires — who justly feared for their lives.”—Kathleen A. Powers, Boston Globe

 “Achorn doesn’t let those stunning stats get in the way of the bigger, and better, story: of a remarkable player and person (Radbourn, among his many accomplishments, also apparently was the first person ever to be photographed giving a one-finger salute), and a remarkable time in the game’s history. Thanks to relentless reporting and a straightforward writing style, both come alive.”—Milwaukee Journal

“There’s plenty to devour (and learn) for even the biggest of baseball savants … Achorn wonderfully captures this era.”—Publishers Weekly

“Hugely appealing for baseball die-hards … not just a recitation of bare-handed baseball and old-time brawling, but a story that, with its larger-than-life protagonist, numerous exploits, and a love interest, reads like a novel.”—Library Journal

“Incredibly this reviewer could not put this page-turner down even while watching the Super Bowl on television. Even the goal line stand of the Colts on their one yard line wasn’t as exciting as the drama of Old Hoss Radbourn and his Providence Grays battling it out.”—BusinessWeek online

 “Required reading … Imagine the kind of money Charles ‘Old Hoss’ Radbourn would be pulling in today … Achorn shows us the brutal, bloody, woolly, no-holds-barred baseball of a different era.”—New York Post

“Achorn writes vividly, and a great strength of the book is that one is near transported to the time in question. I felt as if I were once again walking through those dense, crowded streets on the way to the ball park or, in my off time, a house of ill repute. Achorn has clearly studied his subject matter well, and knows the ins and outs of his geography as if he’d strolled these boulevards himself. To his great credit, he equally treats the bad and the good, and his picture is often not pretty: coal-powered cities teem with fetid smog; rivers clogged with sewage wend their way through the landscape; and the questionable morals and illicit activities of the players and citizenry are omnipresent.”—Twitter legend @OldHossRadbourn