A Civil War Historian’s Review of DiLorenzo’s “Lincoln Unmasked”

This is what happens when a civil war historian reviews a revisionist account of Abraham Lincoln’s life:

Reviewer: John Deppen
John Deppen is past president of the Susquehanna CWRT, a member of General John F. Hartranft Camp #15 of the SUVCW and a living historian who portrays Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock.  His articles and reviews have appeared in Military Heritage, Gettysburg Magazine, Civil War News and The Daily Item in central Pennsylvania.

I enjoy thought-provoking books. The thought most likely to be provoked by Lincoln Unmasked is, “What the hell did Abraham Lincoln ever do to Thomas J. DiLorenzo?”

With an antipathy bordering on pathological, author DiLorenzo flings accusations, criticisms, distortions and half-truths at Lincoln like a monkey throwing feces in a zoo. In DiLorenzo’s world, Lincoln is the Snidely Whiplash of American presidents, and to believe otherwise is nothing less than idiocy.

His “unmasking” consists of regurgitating unoriginal material that is often decades old. With the sophistication of a carnival barker, the author points to a collection of well-documented incidents and quotations about Lincoln’s racial attitudes, most of them taken wildly out of context, as “new” evidence of Lincoln’s evil.

DiLorenzo’s Lincoln is a combination of Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein, a petty, murderous tyrant whose sole goal was the accumulation of personal wealth and power.

DiLorenzo vomits his wrath on the heads of Lincoln’s lethal henchmen. Ulysses Grant is once again a butcher and a murderer, mindlessly throwing his brave soldiers into the Confederate meat grinder. William Sherman is the Adolf Eichmann of the American West, happily slaughtering Native Americans to make way for railroads.

DiLorenzo decries the sinister machinations of the “Lincoln cult” and the “gatekeepers” of Lincoln’s memory.

The author insists that these cultists are engaged in a conspiracy to keep the truth  — his truth — about Lincoln from the American public. The conspiracy is so vast and intricate, at least in DiLorenzo’s mind, that it rivals anything depicted in The Da Vinci Code.

He loses sight of his target several times, particularly when he froths righteously against the creation of “big government” and what he sees as the dismantling of the Constitution. The author’s paradigm of modern America is best revealed in his statement, “Patriotism really is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

What vibrates on every page of DiLorenzo’s book is the author’s savage desperation to make hamburger out of the sacred cow of Abraham Lincoln.

Unbalanced, unfocused, and at times irrational, Lincoln Unmasked is easily one of the worst books ever written about Lincoln, or any other president.


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