Smithsonian Associates Presents “Lincoln: The Months Before Sumter with Author Erik Larson”

April 15, 2024
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Credit Nina Subin.

Smithsonian Associates presents an evening with author Erik Larson Wednesday, May 1, at 6:45 p.m. at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History’s Baird Auditorium. Drawing on his new book The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War (Crown), Larson will discuss the pivotal period between the election of Abraham Lincoln and the start of the Civil War—a slow-burning crisis that finally tore a deeply divided nation in two.

On Nov. 6, 1860, Lincoln became the unlikely victor in a tight race for president. The country was bitterly at odds­—Southern extremists were moving closer to destroying the Union, with one state after another seceding and Lincoln powerless to stop them. Slavery fueled the conflict, but the passions of North and South came to focus on a federal fortress in Charleston Harbor: Fort Sumter.

Using information from diaries, secret communiques, slave ledgers and plantation records, Larson examines the chaotic months between Lincoln’s election and the Confederacy’s shelling of Sumter—a period marked by tragic errors and miscommunications, enflamed egos and craven ambitions, personal tragedies and betrayals. Lincoln himself wrote that the trials of these five months were “so great that, could I have anticipated them, I would not have believed it possible to survive them.”

Larson is a best-selling author known for The Devil in the White City (2003) and Dead Wake: The Crossing of the Lusitania (2015) among others.

Tickets for the Smithsonian Associates’ program are $50. A pre-signed copy of The Demon of Unrest is included in the ticket price. Registration is available on the Associates’ website or the public can call (202) 633-3030.

For nearly 60 years, Smithsonian Associates—the world’s largest museum-based education program—has produced innovative, engaging learning experiences that bring the Smithsonian to life. Inspired by the Smithsonian’s research, collections and exhibitions, nearly 1,000 livestreamed and in-person programs spark creativity and excite learning in people of all ages each year.

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Lauren Lyons


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