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Lincoln’s Lie

A True Civil War Caper Through Fake News, Wall Street, and the White House

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ON SALE: October 6, 2020 | Hardcover | 320 pages | ISBN 9781640092822
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A thrilling dive into the little-known, darker side of a revered president’s history, Lincoln’s Lie untangles the threads behind a mysterious 1864 newspaper article to reveal how Lincoln manipulated the media during the Civil War, shining new light onto today’s issues of fake news and presidential conflict with the press.

In 1864, during the bloodiest days of the Civil War, two newspapers published a call, allegedly authored by President Lincoln, for the immediate conscription of 400,000 more Union soldiers. New York streets erupted in pandemonium. Wall Street markets went wild.

When Lincoln sent troops to seize the newspaper presses and arrest the editors, it became clear: The proclamation was a lie. Who put out this fake news? Was it a Confederate spy hoping to incite another draft riot? A political enemy out to ruin the president in an election year? Or was there some truth to the proclamation–far more truth than anyone suspected?

Unpacking this overlooked historical mystery for the first time, journalist Elizabeth Mitchell takes readers on a dramatic journey from newspaper offices filled with heroes and charlatans to the haunted White House confinement of Mary Todd Lincoln, from the packed pews of the celebrated preacher Reverend Henry Ward Beecher’s Plymouth Church to the War Department offices in the nation’s capital and a Grand Jury trial.

In Lincoln’s Lie, Mitchell brings to life the remarkable story of the manipulators of the news and why they decided to play such a dangerous game during a critical period of American history. Her account of Lincoln’s troubled relationship to the press and its role in the Civil War is one that speaks powerfully to our current political crises: fake news, profiteering, Constitutional conflict, and a president at war with the press.

About Elizabeth Mitchell

ELIZABETH MITCHELL has authored nonfiction books, covering politics, sports and history, including her most recent acclaimed saga, Liberty's Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty. Her novella-length work, The Fearless Mrs. Goodwin, was a nonfiction bestseller. Formerly the executive editor of George, the nation's largest political magazine, she has worked as an investigative reporter and features writer. She makes her home in Brooklyn, New York.


Praise for Lincoln's Lie

"Elizabeth Mitchell has woven together some of my favorite subjects--nineteenth-century New York City, early newspapermen, the Civil War, secrets, gold, America's iffy history with alternative facts--into a riveting and delicious work of nonfiction that could pass for a novel. I knew nothing of the historical episode at the center of Lincoln's Lie, and its contemporary resonances are remarkable." --Kurt Andersen, author of Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

"Elizabeth Mitchell's excellent Lincoln's Lie is a wild ride into one of the strangest episodes of the Civil War era. Mitchell is a gifted storyteller, and this book about greedy profiteers is loaded with narrative horsepower. I was stunned by the revelations. Highly recommended!" --Douglas Brinkley, author of American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race

"This historical thriller takes us into some of the darkest days of the Civil War and the dramatic tension between Abraham Lincoln and the reporters covering him--including one with a penchant to invent stories of his own. How Lincoln navigated the fake news of his day makes a compelling story, and Elizabeth Mitchell handles it beautifully, with deep research, careful attention to detail, and the flair of a novelist. Highly recommended." --Ted Widmer, author of Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington

"Lincoln's Lie is a delightful, fun and easy read full of colorful characters, telling details, and fresh perspective. Mitchell combines a journalist's talent for storytelling with an historian's knack for intensive research to offer a fresh new look at an old story. The book reads more like a suspense novel than a work of history. I did not want to put it down. I turned each page searching for new clues to who leaked the proclamation and why 'honest' Abe lied about it." --Steven M. Gillon, scholar-in-residence at the History Channel and author of New York Times bestsellers, including The Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the Rivalry That Defined a Generation.

Praise for Liberty's Torch

"An absolutely brilliant and entertaining book--a delightful romp through a seemingly impossible history. It's a bit amazing how much I didn't know about the best-known statue in America, or its maker, Frédéric Bartholdi--a character so brazen and outrageous and charming that his life reads like a picaresque nineteenth-century novel. I delighted in every page." --Elizabeth Gilbert, author of The Signature of All Things and Eat, Pray, Love

"Filled with outlandish characters, fascinating tidbits and old world adventure, Liberty's Torch is a rollicking read about one of America's most beloved and, until now, misunderstood, icons." --Maria Semple, author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette

"What we take for granted as a fait accompli was anything but, as we learn in this engrossing, witty, well-researched and surprising account of the Statue of Liberty's bumpy path to glory. Mitchell does a beautiful job of breathing new life into a too-mythic tale, taking us behind the scenes to witness the hustling, chicanery, rivalries, back-stabbings, lies and disappointments that foreshadowed this eventually triumphant merger of patriotism, opportunism and the art world." --Phillip Lopate

"Journalist Elizabeth Mitchell recounts the captivating story behind the familiar monument that readers may have assumed they knew everything about." --Sam Roberts, New York Times

"The Statue of Liberty, which has stood at the entrance to New York's harbor for more than a century and a quarter, is chiefly the work of a French sculptor named Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi . . . Mitchell tells the story of its construction . . . a good story." --Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

"A myth-busting story starring the French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. Mitchell's adjectives for him include crazy, driven, peevish and obnoxious. He rarely missed an opportunity to advance his own career, but Mitchell says he had 'an incredible ability to soldier on' through a 15-year struggle. . . . Were it for not for Bartholdi, the statue probably would not have been built. In today's world, Mitchell can't imagine any single person driving such a massive undertaking." --Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today

"Liberty's Torch reveals a statue with a storied past . . . Mitchell uses Liberty to reveal a pantheon of historic figures, including novelist Victor Hugo, engineer Gustave Eiffel and newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. The drama--or 'great adventure, ' to borrow from the subtitle--runs from the Pyramids of Egypt to the backrooms of Congress. . . . By explaining Liberty's tortured history and resurrecting Bartholdi's indomitable spirit, Mitchell has done a great service. This is narrative history, well told. It is history that connects us to our past and--hopefully--to our future." --Janet Napolitano, Los Angeles Times

"Turns out that what you thought you knew about Lady Liberty is dead wrong. Learn the truth in this fascinating account of how a French sculptor armed with only an idea and a serious inability to take no for an answer built one of the most iconic monuments in history." --O, the Oprah Magazine

"Streamlined and well constructed. . . . Proceeding chronologically, the author divides her story into three parts ('The Idea, ' 'The Gamble, ' 'The Triumph') and opens with just the right amount of initial biographical detail on the designer, bolstering her portrait with further historical background as the narrative warrants. . . . deft strokes and always apt, telling details. . . . Mitchell successfully conveys the enormity of the undertaking and the infuriating amount of bureaucracy and old-fashioned glad-handing required to finish the job. . . . In Bartholdi, Mitchell has found a fascinating character through which to view late-19th-century America, and she does readers a service by sifting fact from fiction in the creation of one our most beloved monuments." --Eric Liebetrau, Boston Globe

"Mitchell casts doubt on several myths about the genesis of and inspiration for Lady Liberty . . . Quite certain that the sculptor did not use his mother as the model for the statue's face, Mitchell speculates that he may have had his deceased brother Charles in mind. And she suggests that there may be something to rumors, circulated at the time, that the body of Lady Liberty resembled Bartholdi's paramour, later his wife." --Glenn C. Altschuler, San Francisco Chronicle

"Lady Liberty has her secrets . . . In Liberty's Torch, Elizabeth Mitchell chronicles the efforts of French artist Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi to erect his colossal statue, from a failed concept on the Suez Canal to the icon's dedication in New York harbor." --Metro

"Every American schoolchild learns the story: In a grand gesture representing their shared reverence for freedom, France presented to a grateful United States the imposing 305-foot Statue of Liberty. . . . Except, like all history, the story is a little more complicated than that. Elizabeth Mitchell takes us inside the statue's history . . . Despite the statue's iconic status in American culture, Bartholdi's name probably does not spring into your mind as soon as you see its image. But Mitchell's book does a fine job of retrieving him from the mists of history--and of recounting how long and hard he labored, not just artistically but financially and politically, to make the statue a reality. . . . Fascinating." --Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times

"Through her portrait of the statue's creator, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, and her careful examination of his journey to build the colossus now known as the Statue of Liberty, Mitchell brings to life a gripping adventure story . . . Mitchell feels obliged to be as accurate as possible, yet manages to give her readers access to troves of detail. Her depictions of scenes can be sensual. . . . In a story comprising tragedy and humor, Mitchell revives a slice of history. She teaches the importance of faithfulness to accuracy in reporting, and demonstrates that adherence to the facts will likely yield a story that is at once true and entertaining." --Megan Cerullo, Brooklyn Daily Eagle

"Mitchell maintains a light touch in this examination of the life of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi." --Kirkus Reviews

"Is there any more globally recognizable American icon than the Statue of Liberty? Or any about which Americans know less? In Elizabeth Mitchell's capable hands, the fascinating story of its quixotic creation--the mix of idealism and hustle, selflessness and selfishness, a crazy dream realized with breathtaking ingenuity--is a perfect parable for the moment mongrel America arose to become the world's spectacular, improbable colossus." --Kurt Andersen, author of True Believers

"Elizabeth Mitchell is an inspired writer and Liberty's Torch is a great book. While the French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi is Mitchell's colorful hero, a gallery of historical figures like Victor Hugo and Joseph Pulitzer make grand appearances. My takeaway from Liberty's Torch is to be reminded that the Statue of Liberty is the most noble monument ever erected on American soil." --Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University and author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America

Praise for Three Strides Before the Wire

A Washington Post Best Book of 2002

"Three Strides Before the Wire remains a strong contender with Seabiscuit down the backstretch." --Tom Wolfe

"I did not know much about horse racing until I read Three Strides Before the Wire. Now, I've learned a good bit about the front and the back of the sport, and had all the pleasure en route of reading a novel and well-written book." --Norman Mailer

"Mitchell has done a super job reporting, giving us wonderfully privileged glimpses of a closed world. Adorned by a lucid, elegantly spare, nuanced prose style, this book conveys the romance and harsh pathos of the sport of kings." --Phillip Lopate

"Before you hit the track, you would be insane not to read Elizabeth Michell's Three Strides Before the Wire." --Simon Doonan, The New York Observer

"Mitchell is a practiced and assiduous delver." --Jane Smiley, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"This beautiful book makes a distinct contribution to a singularly American sport and culture." --Publishers Weekly

"[One of the heroes of this book] was a classy friend of mine. He sent me flowers on the day he died. How could Ms. Mitchell have survived her grief without him and written this precise and lyrical book about horses and humans? It is a wonder, a testament to the work of an angel on her shoulder." --Barry Hannah, author of Airships and Yonder Stands Your Orphan

"If Chris Antley was the perfect rider for Charismatic, Elizabeth Mitchell is the perfect teller of this sad and thrilling story. You won't find cheap redemption in these pages, or hackneyed life lessons from the track. This is a passionate, sometimes scary book about living and dying and loving and the odds against us doing any of them the way we thought we would." --Sam Lipsyte, author of The Subject Steve

"Elizabeth Mitchell takes us on an unblinkered ride through horse country and comes out a winner. Three Strides Before the Wire trails the champion Charismatic from long shot to roses, and, along the way, details a sport driven by varying measures of dreams and disappointment, love found and love lost. It's a world of deep shadows and odd, often disturbing echoes, where the only sure bet involves the heart. Don't go to the track without reading this book." --Rory Nugent, author of Drums Along the Congo

Praise for W.

"Follows George W.'s relentless path toward re-creating his dad's achievements, from Andover to Yale to the oil patch to politics to his presidential run." --The New York Times Book Review

"A telling book." --Chicago Tribune

"A thorough look at George W. Bush's career." --The Sunday Oregonian

"Unlike some other Bush biographers, Elizabeth Mitchell seems to have no ulterior motives [or] partisan axes to grind." --The Virginian-Pilot

"Thoroughly reported." --Buffalo News

"Valuable . . . recount[s] his early life in the oil country of West Texas." --The Leaf-Chronicle

"Competently covers all the bases in Bush's life." --The Australian Journal of Politics and History

"Anyone seeking insight into George W. before his final chapter is written will find much to ponder in Mitchell's presentation." --Publishers Weekly

"Lucid . . . recommended." --Library Journal

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