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Kent State University Press


Oliver P. Morton and the Politics of the Civil War and Reconstruction is an outstanding biography of a vital subject. Morton deserves the greater attention James Fuller gives him. Morton‘s career as Indiana’s Republican governor has always merited attention, but Fuller goes a step past this to show that his even longer career as a senator during Reconstruction was equally important. Civil War historians know Morton primarily as the wartime governor of Indiana (1861-1867). Famously, Morton did not call the state legislature into session when Democrats took control of it. Morton feared the Democrat’s Copperhead tendencies and tepid support for the war. Morton instituted one-man rule and raised funds on his own. Despite the technical illegality of some of Morton’s actions, Fuller convincingly documents the wisdom and effectiveness of Morton’s leadership. Fuller presents Morton as a consistent fighter for equality and nationalism who saw the power of the Republican Party as the best means of promoting both. The historiography of the Civil War leader has too often labelled Morton a ruthless opportunist. Partly due to caricatures and slanders against him, Morton has not been the subject of a full biography in over a hundred years. This biography updates and corrects scholarship by showing Morton as principled, judicious, and skilled in his use of governmental power to promote freedom.