The Presidents’ War

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Select media coverage: The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, C-SPAN book discussion

Lyons Presidents WarEarly praise for THE PRESIDENTS’ WAR:

“When Abraham Lincoln became president in 1861, five former presidents were still alive—a fact unique in American history. In this discerning book, Chris DeRose shows that all of them had opposed Lincoln’s election, none supported his determination to resupply Fort Sumter, John Tyler became a Confederate and Franklin Pierce a Copperhead, Martin Van Buren’s and James Buchanan’s support for the Union war effort was lukewarm, and the three men still alive in 1864 (including Millard Fillmore) opposed the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln’s re-election. In effect, Lincoln presided over the preservation of the Union and abolition of slavery without the support of his predecessors in the presidency.”—James M. McPherson, Civil War historian, multi-volume author, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

“[A] well-written, thorough, and engaging look into a unique political situation in American history.”—Publishers Weekly

“A history of the Civil War as told through the six American presidents that experienced it firsthand. . . . The author’s narrative portraits of each president’s often precarious relationship to the Union reveal eye-opening facts…. DeRose condenses half a century’s worth of political history into an informative compendium of the political struggles leading to the Civil War.”—Kirkus Reviews

“In this book rife with intrigue, DeRose untangles the web and ultimately provides a satisfying and accessible history.”Library Journal

“No American president ever came to office facing a graver crisis–or a larger group of unpredictable predecessors–than Abraham Lincoln. There have been thousands of books about Lincoln and the Civil War, but this is the first to explore these subjects through the ongoing stories of the ex-presidents who remained active, influential, and occasionally treacherous as the Union sought to save itself. Chris DeRose is to be congratulated for finding an entirely new way to revisit the Civil War.”—Harold Holzer, chairman, Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation

“As Abraham Lincoln struggled to save the union during his presidency, his predecessors looked on with a skeptical and sometimes critical eye. They, too, had addressed the issues of slavery, sectional stresses, and national unity. Their solutions had not stood the test of time, yet they had little empathy for their successor. In a gripping, lively narrative informed by current scholarship, Chris DeRose tells the story of how former presidents Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Milliard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan judged Lincoln and the war they had failed to prevent.”—Brooks D. Simpson, Professor of History at Arizona State University and award-winning author of Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph over Adversity, 1822–1865

The Presidents’ War sheds new light on a forgotten aspect of America’s national tragedy, chronicling a neglected but highly significant array of chief executives.”—David Pietrusza, historian and award-wining author of 1920: The Year of the Six

Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press, is proud to announce the June 17, 2014, release of THE PRESIDENTS’ WAR: Six American Presidents and the Civil War That Divided Them, by Chris DeRose (978-0-7627-9664-9; $28.95 hardcover), a masterfully told chronicle of the Civil War’s five living ex-presidents—a number unsurpassed in history—and how Abraham Lincoln navigated his predecessors’ minefield as they advised, aided, maneuvered, plotted, spied, and openly seceded.

For the first time, experience America’s gravest crisis through the eyes of the five former presidents who lived it. Author and historian Chris DeRose chronicles history’s most epic Presidential melee, as a record number of living presidents challenged, advised, supported, and opposed Abraham Lincoln while he struggled to preserve the Union and destroy slavery.

  • John Tyler engaged in shuttle diplomacy between President Buchanan and the new Confederate Government, chaired the failed Peace Convention of 1861, then joined the Virginia Secession Convention and served in the Confederate Congress, where he urged a Confederate takeover of Washington.
  • Franklin Pierce, talked about as a Democratic candidate in 1860 and ’64, was openly supportive of the South and outspoken against the President, especially on civil liberties. After a battle with the administration over charges of treason, Pierce’s secret correspondence with Jefferson Davis was revealed.
  • Millard Fillmore hosted Lincoln and Mary Todd on their way to Washington, supported the war effort, raised a national guard unit, offered advice to keep Britain at bay, but turned on Lincoln over emancipation.
  • James Buchanan, who had left office as seven states had broken away from the Union, frantically tried to vindicate his administration, in part by supporting the war and arguing that Lincoln had simply followed his policies.
  • Martin Van Buren schemed to deny Lincoln the presidency, supported him in his efforts after Fort Sumter, and thwarted Franklin Pierce’s attempt at a meeting of the ex-Presidents to undermine the President.

Chris DeRose is the author of Congressman Lincoln: The Making of America’s Greatest President and Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, the Bill of Rights, and the Election that Saved a Nation, both named by the Washington Post as one of the Best Political Books of 2011 and 2013. DeRose is a professor of Constitutional law and political strategist who, for the past seventeen years, has served in nearly every capacity on campaigns up and down the ballot in five different states. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Visit him at

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