Book Review: The Demon of Unrest by Erik Larson

May 14, 2024

About:

The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War by Erik Larson is an account of the few months between Abraham Lincoln’s election to the attack of Fort Sumter by the Confederacy. Mr. Larson is an award winning author and a writer who spent much time on the best sellers’ lists.

  • 292 pages
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Crown
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0385348746

Book Review: The Demon of Unrest by Erik LarsonMy rat­ing for The Demon of Unrest — 5
Buy The Demon of Unrest from Amazon.com*
More Books by Erik Larson*

Thoughts:

This is a non-fiction book that tells, in a story-like fashion, of the beginning of the American Civil War. The author follows Fort Sumter’s commander, Major Robert Anderson, the secessionist radical Edmund Rufin, diarist and wife of a South Carolinian planter Mary Boykin Chestnut, and, of course, Abraham Lincoln.

The Demon of Unrest by Erik Larson is based on first-hand sources such as diaries, secret communications, as well as plantation records and ledgers. The story is presented very well, almost like a novel, telling a cohesive story from start to finish. I got a kick from the fact that Lincoln kept misspelling the fort’s name as “Sumpter” which was kept in his quoted correspondences.

I enjoyed reading about the disconnect between the highest echelons of government and the populace. Lincoln and William Seward (Secretary of State) honestly thought most Southerners would be against secession. The South Carolinians, however, had different ideas, helped by then-President Buchanan.

The path to the Confederate attack on a United States fort was paved by misunderstandings, missed opportunities, slow and/or vague communications, and indecisiveness. It seemed that the only two people who seemed to understand the significance of an attack and did everything they could to prevent it were Union Major Anderson, and Confederate General Beauregard on the other side of the bay.

The South Carolinians prided themselves on gentlemanly behavior and believed themselves to be American knights known as The Chivalry. Like Don Quixote, they filled their heads with stories of knight adventures, Sir Walter Scott was a major literary influence and believed in the Code Duello, rules that govern dueling. Each section of the book is introduced with examples from the code, which shows the South Carolinian mindset when it comes to battles.

The book unfolds the events that started the war from the ground up in a pulpy fashion, somewhat reminiscent of the adventure books the Confederates love, but maybe not the way they imagined themselves. The fact that I, a history geek who read much about the American Civil War, found the story suspenseful is a credit to Eric Larson’s immense talent.

Buy The Demon of Unrest from Amazon.com*
More Books by Erik Larson*

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer:I got this book for free.
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

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Summary
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The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War by Erik Larson
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Wrap Up

The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War by Erik Larson

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