A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico

April 30, 2013 Posted by: Tom Dewey, Librarian

Author Amy S. Greenberg's skilled storytelling and solidscholarship bring this American war to life with memorable characters,plotlines, and legacies. Often overlooked, the U.S.-Mexican War featured lotsof drama as it divided the nation, paved the way for the Civil War a generationlater, and virtually launched the career of Abraham Lincoln. A Wicked War brings all these elementsto life.

The word "wicked" in the book title comes from UlyssesS. Grant's own negative description of the manner in which the United Stateswaged war on Mexican military personnel and civilians, saying that as ayouthful soldier he should have had the courage to resign because of it. Butthere is some blame to be shared on both sides, as the author shows.When President James K. Polk compelled a divided Congress to support his warwith Mexico, it was the first time that the young American nation would engageanother republic in battle. Caught up in the war's conflict and the politicalfuror were Abraham Lincoln, then a new congressman; Polk, the presidentcommitted to territorial expansion at any cost; and Henry Clay, the agingstatesman.  A Wicked War alsofollows several fascinating and long-neglected characters: Lincoln's archrivalJohn Hardin, whose death opened the door to Lincoln's rise; Nicholas Trist,diplomat and secret negotiator, who broke with his president to negotiate afair peace; and Polk's wife, Sarah, whose shrewd politicking was crucial in theOval Office.This definitive history of the 1846 conflict paints an intimate portrait of themajor players and their world. It is a story of Indian fights, ManifestDestiny, secret military maneuvers, gunshot wounds, and political spin. Alongthe way it captures a young, emerging Lincoln, the lasting influence of theFounding Fathers, and America's first national anti-war movement. Greenberg hasdone an excellent job telling the story of a burgeoning nation and anunforgettable conflict that helped shape our American history.


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