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"...We Cannot Escape History..."


1862 was the most trying year of Lincoln’s presidency, both personally, and politically. On February 20, eleven-year old Willie Lincoln died of typhoid fever, leaving his parents both devastated with grief. After failing to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond in the ill-fated “Peninsula Campaign,” General George B. McClellan was replaced as Commander of the Army of the Potomac by General John Pope. Arrogant and incompetent, Pope attacked Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee and suffered a humiliating defeat at the Battle of Second Bull Run. Lincoln returned McClellan to command just in time for him to oversee the bloodiest, single day of the Civil War, the Battle of Antietam. Meanwhile, Pope was sent west by Lincoln to lead efforts to put down a full-scale Dakota Indian uprising against white settlers on the Minnesota River Valley frontier, when news of the outbreak of hostilities reached him in Washington. It was Pope who conceived the decision to try the Dakota prisoners by military commission as a means of restoring his tarnished military career by being an “Indian fighter.” If that weren’t enough, Lincoln was in the process of drafting his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and weighing the consequences of it becoming the cornerstone of the Union’s war effort.

It would have been easy, even understandable, for Lincoln to have been so overwhelmed by all the pressures he faced that he simply ignored his own conscious decision not to hang men for votes. To his credit, he did not. This is the seldom told, comprehensive, and dramatic story of Abraham Lincoln, the Dakota Conflict, and emancipation of the African-American race, as it played out against the backdrop of the American Civil War. Ironically, the Final Emancipation Proclamation was signed less than a week after the largest mass-execution in American history took place at Mankato, Minnesota.

2012 marks the U.S.-Dakota War’s sesquicentennial year; it is hoped that the audience will come to the same realization Lincoln did, that past events do influence future decisions—sometimes with lasting consequences. Just as Lincoln pointed out in his annual message to Congress, December 1, 1862, “…we cannot escape history…”

ISBN: 978-0-9850937-3-0
Publish Date:
Pages: 55
Size: 11 X 8.5 X .2 INCHES

Reviews & Comments

Bryce Stenzel's impeccable historical research never disappoints. In "...We Cannot Escape History..." Lincoln's Trials by Fire, Mr. Stenzel maintains and indeed elevates, his reputation as a historian who has the enviable ability to make history relevant. In this compelling narrative, the author tells the hardest story of all: the truth. Living in the historical and geographic shadow of the events portrayed in his play, Stenzel approaches a dark and uncomfortable subject matter with unflinching accuracy and humanity.
--Tanner Kent, Features Editor, Mankato Free Press

"Bryce Stenzel's playbook, “…We Cannot Escape History…”, is a penetrating analysis of a little known chapter in American history and the very well known man both loved and hated by his own people, upon whose shoulders the nightmare rests. Broader than a thematic study, however, Stenzel's analysis is unique in that it studies two wars being fought while focusing on the life and personality of one man--Abraham Lincoln. Having played our 16th president in stage plays and various social events for years, Stenzel knows his character perhaps better than anyone on this planet. Stenzel looks like Lincoln, thinks like Lincoln, acts like Lincoln, and understands Lincoln. To anyone who has seen Bryce portray Lincoln in a play, Stenzel is Lincoln. No wonder he is able to create such a stellar play and book that everyone can understand. Five stars!”
---John Koblas author Let Them Eat Grass