‘His Survival Is Basically The Nation’s Survival’: Ted Widmer On Book ‘Lincoln On The Verge: Thirteen Days To Washington’

(CBS Local)– Author and historian Ted Widmer has been fascinated by President Abraham Lincoln since he was a kid.

Widmer has spent his life in politics and academia as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton, a senior advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and now a professor at Macaulay Honors College in New York. Widmer recently published a book with Simon & Schuster called “Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington” where he goes into detail about an extremely important train ride Lincoln took before he became president.

“I feel like I got lucky. We pick these history topics and sometimes they’re fun and sometimes they’re not. I knew I wanted to do a Lincoln book and as I’ve gotten older, I read much more deeply into his speeches,” said Widmer in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “I found them beautiful and I wanted to do a book on Lincoln as a writer and speaker and where this incredible language comes from. I also like trains and I like Amtrak and I thought Lincoln moving on a train was an unusual situation. We think of him as frozen in place in a photograph or a sculpture and here he’s really moving along from one city to another.”

During his trip, Lincoln stopped and spoke in places like Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. The country was incredibly divided at this point and Widmer wanted to depict what kind of country Lincoln was getting ready to take over as president.

“Each city was divided, just like the country was divided,” said Widmer. “If I succeeded in bringing out some of the tension of this fascinating man moving through America, at a time when it’s deeply divided and he’s succeeding at all odds in uniting it, then I think I’ve done a pretty good job. All of these things were happening and it felt like a movie. He’s getting in deeper and deeper trouble in some ways and he’s hearing more and more information that there is a huge plot to kill him as he’s coming through Baltimore.”

Widmer hopes his book can shed more light on the man that Lincoln before and during his presidency.

“He’s under the most pressure as a writer as he’s trying to survive and make it 24 hours into Washington to become the president,” said Widmer. “I just wanted to build up the pressure and show him getting through. His survival is basically the nation’s survival.”

Widmer’s book is available wherever books are sold.